When Rob cooks over a fire, he builds it carefully, in a certain way. First, he starts a fire, using kindling, as normal, and then adds larger wood chunks. He lets that burn for a while, until coals start forming on the larger pieces of wood. Then, he carefully moves the coals under the grate, and pushes the larger (still burning) pieces to the end of the fire pit. He then feeds the coals with small pieces of wood he has cut down, a few at a time. He wants to keep the fire going, but he needs to keep the heat down where he is going to be cooking. As he also feeds fuel to the larger pieces of wood as well, they generate more coals, which can then be pushed under the grate as needed. This takes both time and patience. Starting your fire an hour before you want to cook would not be too early. You really want a good bed of coals to cook on so the food is cooked evenly and not burnt on the outside or raw in the middle.
He has an old rack from a discarded barbecue that he takes with us whenever he wants to do fire cooking. It has a smaller distance between the grates, and doesn’t let food fall through as easily as the larger, provided rack does. He also can raise and lower the rack to keep the heat even, using rocks and sticks.
We have even taken old cookie-cooling racks to use in the past, when we were backpacking. Rob propped them up on rocks out in the forest.
Rob puts the grill rack onto the fire and heats it up. Then, he cleans it off with newspaper.
Once everything is set up, and the coals are hot, you add the food. If you are using skewers, you do need to soak them in water first. Otherwise, they catch on fire. He also keeps some water nearby to pour onto the coals to keep the temperature down, if needed, and to put out any burning skewers, etc. If you have long-handled tongs to move the food around with, that is great. If not, 2 sticks will work. A pot holder is a handy thing to have on hand, as well. If you were far out in the wilderness, a shirt or other piece of clothing could be used. BUT, you do need to use something to protect hands and fingers, especially if you are showing kids how to do this. Clearly, fire cooking is done on a fire…….
There are several methods Rob likes to use in fire cooking. Kabobs can be cooked on skewers. He makes chicken and other meat straight on the grill. This chicken was marinated in a purchased marinade, then cooked over the fire. Tin foil is another favorite method. The potato that is shown was cooked in foil down in the coals the day before, and is just being warmed up for dinner. They can be put directly in the coals, but the skins are more edible when wrapped in foil. The foil packet is a good way to do foil dinners and vegetables. It holds cauliflower in this picture. He also uses foil to make a little “pan” when he wants to cook something delicate, like fish, that might fall apart into the fire. Last, but not least, is the time-honored method of simply poking the food with a stick and roasting it over the fire. That is the fastest, and most used method at our campfire!
Campfire cooking is a skill that takes patience and practice. But, for us, it is worth the time and energy to gather around a campfire and take a step back in time as we enjoy our dinner outside, while also enjoying the sights and sounds of nature around us, and each other’s company. You also can’t beat the clean-up!
What have you been cooking on a fire lately?