Cooking on an open fire is one of life’s greatest joys – and it’s simple, too, according to fire pit chefs James and Adam Thomas of the Pit Kitchen.
The Thomas brothers believe that cooking over embers brings ultimate flavour to your food, whether you’re a meat-eater, vegetarian or vegan. And simple is always better; use the best-quality ingredients you can find in your local area and you can’t go wrong.
James and Adam have been open-fire cooking for years, learning a few useful tricks along the way for getting the most out of your cook. Here are some tips to get you started.
For more ideas on cooking delicious seasonal food – including hearty soups, great bakes and tasty salads – head over to our Countryfile recipes section.
What is the best wood to use?
Ideally kiln-dried, but a well-seasoned hardwood such as oak, ash or beech works best and adds to the flavour.
There needs to be less than 20% moisture content in the wood or you’ll lose too much heat because of the moisture. Pine logs will burn too fast and create a bitter-tasting smoke.
Mixing your wood with charcoal will also give you a great constant heat source. You’re after sustainable lumpwood and not briquettes from your local garage. The chunkier and more log-shaped your charcoal is the better.
Should you cook over embers or flames?
Embers. You’re aiming for slow, steady cooking, so be patient and wait for the wood to burn down to achieve a strong, constant heat to cook with. Once you have hot embers, it reduces the chance of flare ups and gives you more control of the grill.
How to cook vegetables on an open fire?
Try grilling vegetables over embers as the star of the show. Spring greens, halved peppers, courgettes, thickly sliced aubergines, halved little Gem lettuce, cauliflower steaks, radishes, broad beans, asparagus, and peas in the pod all work well.
You can also try throwing onions, potatoes and leeks straight onto the hot coals, cooking them in their skins for 45 mins. Vegetable skins create natural protection for the soft flesh within so don’t be put off by the charred outer layer. Once blackened, slice in half and remove the sweet, tender flesh from the outer layers, then toss it with parsley and butter.
How to cook meat on an open fire?
There are lots of variables when it comes to bbq cooking, making it difficult to rely on set cooking times. Instead, invest in a meat probe to keep an eye on the internal temperature of your food whilst it cooks.
Cook your meat until it’s a couple of degrees below your final cooking temperature, then set aside to rest; the internal temperature will continue to rise. Resting is just as important as the cooking, so be patient and you’ll be rewarded with beautiful melt-in-the-mouth meat.
Basting food on an open fire
To avoid your food drying out, remember to baste, glaze or mop with a tasty sauce or any leftover meat marinade, if used. You want your meat to be soft and moist inside with the beautiful charring and caramelisation from the bbq on the outside.
Find out more about open-fire cooking at www.pitkitchen.co.uk