Cooking over fire is easy. It can be even easier if you know these 2 fire cooking methods.
DO YOU NEED A GRILL TO COOK OVER FIRE?
Can you cook on a campfire without a grill? Yes. Is it easier to cook over a campfire with a grill? Definitively.
Some campsites and national parks have campfire rings or standing charcoal BBQs already equipped with a removable grill. So before leaving on your trip make sure to visit the campsites website to see if the fire pits have some sort of grill grate.
I always have a grill grate in the trailer. They are inexpensive and light. You can get them in any hardware store that sells BBQs.
Sidebar: Oil, clean, repeat. It is essential to clean and oil a BBQ grill or a campfire grill to prevent food from sticking or having an undesirable taste. I like to use a sauce mop to oil my grill.
While doing my own research on the different models of portable campfire grill grates, I realized that many come with a disclaimer (which few people read) that food should not be cooked directly on the grate…due to the (toxic!) paint used to make the grate pleasing to the eye. It is possible to burn the paint by letting the grill heat up several times on the campfire, but I still have my reservations.
HOW DO I COOK FOOD OVER FIRE?
Here is where I will explain the 3 fire cooking methods.
There is direct cooking, indirect cooking and a subcategory to the indirect cooking method; reverse cooking.
DIRECT COOKING METHOD
This is the most popular cooking method. It consists of grilling food directly above the flames/embers usually with no lid or cover. You can cook a piece of meat, fish or a vegetable usually something that requires very little time: hot dog, hamburger, salmon steak, pork chop, etc.
Take for example the most eaten meat in the world, chicken. And for direct cooking: the part I enjoy the most the chicken thighs without the bone
- Start you fire.
- Always remove meat from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking to temper. Season or marinate the chicken with your favorite flavours.
- Place your grill grate. Put the chicken on the grate directly above the fire (see image).
- When the chicken detaches from the grill, about 4 to 5 minutes turn over and cook another 4 to 5 minutes.
With direct cooking you always stay on top of the fire.
INDIRECT COOKING METHOD
Some foods require prolonged cooking, such as beef brisket, ribs, a bone-in ribeye or even chicken drumsticks. These types of pieces require a more delicate approach. If placed directly above the flame, they burn before they are fully cooked. This is where indirect cooking comes in.
Let’s go back to the chicken.
- Start the fire. Once it nice and hot move it to one side of the pit.
- Let the meat temper, then season it just like for direct cooking.
- Place the chicken on the grill above the fire and let grill (direct cooking).
- Once you have the coloring you want on the meat, move it over to the side of the pit that does not have any fire (see image below).
- Ideally you place a cover or lid on the chicken. Natural convection then takes place, creating a movement of hot air inside the pit comparable to that found in an oven.
A subcategory of indirect cooking, reverse cooking applies to very large pieces, such as a tomahawk steak or spatchcock (butterfly) chicken. In this case, we use an indirect cooking method but backwards: we first cook in indirect cooking and we color with direct cooking.
In the case of a butterfly chicken, reverse cooking allows the meat to be cooked with the skin. Once the chicken is cooked by long cooking, you can grill the skin for a tasty result.
Regardless of the cooking technique used, it is essential to give the meat a rest time on a rack, under aluminum foil. This makes it possible to redistribute the juices inside the meat.