The cold months are coming, and you may be beginning to yearn for cozy nights next to roaring fires while you cradle a cup of hut cider in your hands. As rustic as this image seems, you can take your fireside daydreams one step further. Have you ever tried cooking over a woodfire outdoors?
Woodfire cooking is a tradition as old as America itself, practiced by both the Native Americans and the settlers who would eventually drive them out. If you want to have a very special twist on a small gathering or an evening meal, here’s why you should try woodfire cooking and a few tips on getting it right.
Why Cook Over Wood?
You may be wondering why you should go through the effort of laying down firewood, starting a fire and cooking outdoors when you have a perfectly good stove.
Here are some of the best reasons for cooking outdoors.
- For the Flavor
Dishes prepared in outdoor kitchens have a distinct flavor profile their indoor counterparts cannot match. Woodfires imbue meals with a smoky, earthy flavor that’s tough to beat, whether it’s a continental breakfast or a simple Neapolitan pizza. Even putting bell peppers of meat on a grill atop a woodfire is enough. This is called charring the food, a delightful method of sealing in flavor and highlighting textures.
- For the Fun
There’s something magical about cooking over a fire. If you like reading about fantasy adventurers or explorers in ages past, you’ll have a fun time cooking outdoors because it feels so authentic. Sure, you can probably whip up the food these types of heroes ate in a normal kitchen, but where would be the fun in that? After eating and cooking, you can also just stay by the flickering flames and cuddle up with a loved one, something you can’t do around an induction oven.
- For the Mental Benefits
Cooking with fire has been used by mental health experts to help patients recover. Unlike cooking over a stove or with a microwave, cooking outdoors with a woodfire is an involved affair. You have to lay down kindling, use the proper tools and be vigilant throughout the process. This means people eat their finished meals with a sense of control and accomplishment some of them sorely need to feel.
Tips for Cooking Over Wood
If you’re not convinced to put that firepit in your yard to good use, you’ll need some help getting a proper meal ready over it. When trying to cook food over a woodfire outdoors for the first time, here are some important tips that can help you accomplish your goal faster and more efficiently.
1. Kindling Under Wood
Starting a fire can be difficult if you’ve never done it before. Don’t just dump your firewood or coal into the pit and shove a match. When building a fire that will last a long time, first set down a bed of coals. Put kindling, which are materials that burn quickly, in a pile in the middle. Newspaper balls and corrugated cardboard, as well as small twigs or hay, make excellent kindling. Then form the logs into a tent around this kindling, helping you light the fire quicker and for much longer.
2. Plenty of Foil
Make sure you have plenty of foil on hand before you start cooking. Aluminum foil has plenty of uses around an outdoor flame. You can use it to make small cooking containers or wrap it around fish to cook them evenly. It can even form makeshift ovens for small treats as well as keep the food warm while you wait for the rest of the meal to finish cooking.
3. Tons of Tongs
Have at least three tongs ready around your outdoor cooking area. One tong should be used exclusively for food, which can be too hot to handle even from a distance. Another one can be used to stir the bed of coals or your fire to keep it burning hot. One tong should be kept as a spare in case your cooking multiple types of food and don’t want to mix their flavors.
4. The Right Coal
Some coal is treated with chemical additives to keep them burning longer. If you use this type of coal, it will invariably flavor your food. Choose coal made form hardwood lumps and check the label to ensure it doesn’t have any additives before using them for outdoor cooking.
5. A Steady Eye
When cooking outdoors, you’ll need to keep a close watch on anything you’re cooking, as well as the flames below. Unlike a regular over, the temperature of an outdoor fire needs a lot of work to keep steady and if you’re not vigilant, it may decrease or even go out completely. Your food can also go from a delightful char to a disgusting burnt if you don’t keep a close watch on it.
6. Safety First
Finally, as with all things involving fire, your safety should be the number one priority. Keep kids supervised if you have any and make sure they stay away from the roaring flames. Wear heat-proof mittens when handling pots suspended over the fire to avoid burns. And always keep a fire extinguisher nearby in case the fire needs to be put out quickly.
Outdoor cooking is a challenge, but the food you’ll enjoy at the end of it can be life-changing. So why not buy some firewood and set up a firepit today and enjoy rustic eating like never before?