Cooking over a fire has got to be one of my very favorite things to do. There is something primal about it. I dream of the day I will design and build my outdoor kitchen complete with a fire-cooking station. It’s an extremely rewarding way to cook because it takes time and patience, and these meals taste better for it. If you like cooking and have never tried cooking over a fire, I strongly encourage you to try it!
Now you won’t be using any of those fancy, non-stick pots and pans over an open flame, but with the right tools, there’s no reason you can’t cook over a fire the same way you cook over your stove. This isn’t turn-on-the-stove-and-boom-you’re-cooking kind of thing. There are quite a few more steps involved, like first collecting fire wood and then starting your fire. If you can find enjoyment in each step, it’ll be a lot more fun.
At home, you can set your burner knob on a specific heat and forget about it. With a fire, it takes a bit of practice to find the right heat and then maintain it. This is when a partner comes in handy. One person can maintain the fire and the other person can handle the food. Once you get the hang of it, it’s completely possible to do all by yourself.
THE SKILLET + UTENSILS
Invest in a cast iron skillet. I think mine cost a whopping $15 or something. These things are amazing. They can go in the oven, on a stove, over a fire. BUT. Their capabilities are directly related to the care they receive. If you don’t properly care for your beloved cast iron, then you can quickly kiss it goodbye. I never use soap and I never submerge it in water. Learn the proper way to care for your cast iron, including seasoning and cleaning. I am notorious, and I mean NOTORIOUS, for leaving my dirty dishes, well, dirty. I push off doing the dishes because I always know I can do them later. This is not the case with my skillet, and I always always always clean it up properly at the end of every cook sesh. Cast irons have been known to last for generations and they only get better with time.
In addition to a cast iron, make sure you have utensils that won’t scratch the pan, or burn or melt near the fire. I like my bamboo utensils for stirring. You’ll also want a chopping knife and something to chop on. Pick up a plastic cutting board from the dollar store.
Make whatever you want. My go-to dinner meal, even when cooking in a house, is a one-pan wonder. I have made dozens of variations of the same kind of meal by mixing up the ingredients. And it can all be done in the same skillet.
If you want to give it a try, this is what you will need:
A fat: Real butter or extra virgin olive oil are my picks.
A protein, if desired: chicken, black beans, garbanzos, steak, tofu, sausage, bacon, chorizo, fish, etc.
Garlic, always garlic.
An onion-y thing: sweet onions, red onions, green onions, leeks
A pepper: Red, green, yellow, orange. Hot or mild. One type or all types. Get creative.
Random veggies that sound good together: Mix and match. Mushrooms, asparagus, squash, zucchini, cabbage, tomatoes, yada yada.
A seasoning: italian seasoning, cumin, taco seasoning, salt and pepper, etc.
A “starch”: rice, pasta, quinoa, couscous (I like Israeli couscous), potatoes, etc.
An herb: basil, cilantro, parsley, etc.
A cheese: Choose one that fits the meal – feta, mozzarella, parmesan, cheddar, goat cheese, etc.
Extra Specials: Avocado, sour cream, cold tomatoes, salsa, whatevs. Did I say avocado? Mmm. Avocado.
Feel like something Italian? Make some pasta with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. In the mood for Mexican? Try this combo: rice, taco seasoning, peppers, avocado, cilantro and cheddar. Even add some carne. Get creative. Get cooking. And get campfiring! Hell, it’s summer! And don’t be surprised when Yogi Bear wants to come down for dinner.
What’s your favorite way to cook outside? Have a favorite meal idea?