Frying up a delicious meal over the cooktop or preparing a succulent dish in the oven are both great skills to have, but when it comes to nostalgia, nothing quite satisfies like roasting your food over an open flame.
Food cooked over a fire can be delicious when you’re outdoors, perhaps on a backpacking expedition or overnight hike. It can also be enjoyed right in your own backyard with just a few simple arrangements. Plus, it’s a good skill to have in case power grids go down and you need to go old-school. You’ll be surprised at the huge variety of things you can make. Here’s how to get started.
Build a Fire
Cooking over an open flame means you’ll have to do a little more work than just turning a dial or pressing a button to heat your food. You’d be wrong to assume that using a flame to prepare your meal means you have a lack of control over how it’s cooked, though. You can fine-tune your experience quite a bit.
If you’re cooking on the trail, you’ll need to find a flat location and gather some dry firewood. You will need to collect some tinder, or you can use something from your kit, such as cotton balls, dry paper or greasy corn chips. That’s a popular lightweight solution that can double as a snack in an emergency. Learn the best ways to arrange your firewood to promote good airflow. A log cabin shape makes for easy placement of your grill plate.
When you’re cooking at home, you’ll probably have the benefit of a constructed fire pit. This will help shape the heat, and you can build whatever type of fire you want because you probably have access to a hearty supply of firewood. It’s important to know that not all wood works the same for cooking. The wood you choose will impart flavor and burn hotter or cooler, depending on the type of wood. That’s why it’s important to choose wisely.
Gather Cooking Implements
It’s possible to cook a variety of meals just by holding things over the fire on a sharp stick, or even fashioning a simple spit out of some easy-to-find twigs. However, with minimal investment, you can do yourself a favor by adding a metal grill plate that will stack nicely on top of the fire. This ensures your food cooks evenly and sears those lovely grill marks into your tasty morsels.
Food that’s made on a grill plate is still quite hot, however. You’ll want to have a quality set of gloves, some tongs and a metal spatula around for manipulating your food as it cooks. A meat thermometer might be a good addition to your toolset as well, but we understand if you’re the type who doesn’t subscribe to that sort of thing.
When working at home, you have the benefit of building a dedicated cooking surface. You could even install a large wood fire oven, similar to what you may have seen in restaurants that make pizza, steak and other dishes in this type of ceramic cooking implement. Of course, you won’t get the social qualities of a fire pit with this type of setup, but that’s not to say you can’t have both.
Learning to cook over an open flame is slightly different from what you’ve gotten used to in the kitchen. That doesn’t mean it’s difficult, though. You might have to explore some new recipes. There are a host of ways to bring delicious meals to your fellow campers or survivalists by preparing your favorite recipes in tinfoil pouches ahead of time. Things like baked potatoes, burritos and muffins can be enjoyed on the trail over an open flame with just a little prep work.
Check out a few cookbooks on how to cook over an open flame. Adding a few extra pieces, such as a Dutch oven, can really expand what you can make. With a little practice, you won’t think of open-flame cooking as something esoteric and different, but will instead want to incorporate flame-grilled dishes into more elaborate meal plans. It can be addicting.
Becoming a proficient cook over an open flame will make you a most welcome addition to any expedition, and many dishes translate well across other culinary disciplines. That char you get when you cook over a fire just can’t be achieved any other way. If you’re tempted to try out open-flame cooking, you should. It’s unlike any other method and will be handy in emergencies.
If you’re an experienced open-fire cook with wisdom or favorite recipes to share with the group, please post them in the comments section below. You’ll be helping someone new learn how important this cooking discipline can be.
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