How to cook over an open flame

As you will quickly learn, spending time outdoors is our absolute favourite thing to do. Anything that combines nature, adventure and travel - we are there. And surf, Jason loves surfing. We also really enjoy cooking. It’s something we have always loved, and even better – Jason is really, really good in the kitchen. His food knowledge and skills always amaze me, and every weekend he is in the kitchen rustling up something new and delicious.

One technique I have always wanted to master is cooking outdoors over an open flame; nothing beats that delicious smoky flavour a flame creates. I even love it when my clothes and hair smell smoky! The great thing about cooking over a flame, is that you can do it in your own backyard. We got our garden overhauled this year and it involved working with a landscape designer to bring our vision to life. We now have a dedicated firepit area with crushed granite and a 300kg sleeper for people to sit on. Not only did we want to enjoy a crackling fire in winter, we also wanted to use the fire pit throughout the year to cook over the open flame.

Speaking of backyards, during winter this year we flew down to visit friends at their property in Kyneton, which is in the Macedon Ranges in Victoria, Australia. It’s the most beautiful part of the world and is everything we dreamed of – quaint cafes, provincial antique shops, cows and sheep grazing in vast grassy fields, rustic vineyards and evenings spent drinking red wine by a fireplace. They have a seven-acre property with chickens, horses, a dog and a cat with views of wild rugged native eucalyptus trees. I knew this would be the perfect excuse to cook a delicious breakfast outdoors for our friends, so we’re doing to show you exactly how easy it was! 

 

Smor Store How to cook over an open flame 

 

MAKING A FIRE

The first thing to know with cooking outdoors is not to get intimidated by fire. Believe me, I was. What I learned is that with practice, comes confidence. So, it’s important just to get out there and give it a go. Here are my tips for making a fire:

  • If you’re new to cooking over a fire, start with an open fire pan so you don’t get overwhelmed. Cooking outdoors should be easy, fun and experimental. Later down the track if it interests you, you could try rigging up a tripod with a hook.
  • Not all wood is created equal. You want to make sure you use hardwood to fuel your fire. Hardwood creates coals, which you want to cook over as they radiate a sturdy, strong heat. 
  • To get your fire going, use cardboard, single sheets of newspaper scrunched up, gum leaves, twigs, hardwood kindling and matches. You can use a firestarter (those white chunks you get at most supermarkets) but we prefer the more traditional method of using what we had around us. Once the flames are up, you will need to add blocks of hardwood to make coals. 
  • From our experience, and depending on the hardwood you have, it can take anywhere between 30 minutes to one hour to burn hardwood down to coals. 
  • Measuring the heat is all done by hand and instinct, something you develop over time – and not by putting your hands directly onto the flame or coals, of course – ouch! If you can put your hands above the coals for more than six seconds, the heat is most likely to be around 100 degrees Celsius. Three seconds is about a medium heat and likely to be around 170 degrees Celsius. And one second is most likely to be around 200 degrees celsius. 
  • Ovens and gas stove work really similar to fires, to increase the heat, add more hardwood to create more coals. To decrease the heat, use less coals by removing hardwood or adding less hardwood.  
  • To move the heat around so you can cook different foods and different heats, use a stick or a shovel. 
  • Jason had a brilliant suggestion the other week. If you are planning on cooking a big meal, get two fires going – one to cook on, one to create coals on. When you need more heat, you can move the coals onto the fire you are cooking on.
  • When we cooked this breakfast, we probably got a bit excited and placed it over the flame too early. We should have waited for it to burn down to coals. Irrespective, an open pan is so easy to cook with and the food tasted delicious. The legs also screw onto the pan, so if you wanted to play around and put the pan straight onto the coals for extra heat intensity, this is also an option.
  • Lastly, wherever you are camping and or cooking, fire safety (especially with kids around) and fire restrictions need to be adhered to when cooking with flame outdoors.

 

As we mentioned above, to make the fire, we used cardboard, kindling and matches. It was a little bit windy, but we eventually got it started. Once the fire was firmly established, we placed the open pan over the flame.

As the pan was warming up, we prepped breakfast. We used speck from Hardwicks, a local family run abattoir that sells direct to the public through their butcher - it’s was incredible to say the least. We also used fresh eggs from the chooks on our friend’s property, broccolini, saffron milky cup mushrooms which we bought at the Kyneton Farmer’s Markets, and fresh bread from the local bakery on Piper St in Kyneton.

As the flame started to drop and kindling embers were beaming hot, we threw a dash of oil onto the large pan and started cooking the speck, broccolini and mushrooms. The caramelisation of the speck fat char grilled the speck and the vegetables. Later on, we moved the food around, fried some eggs and sat by the fire enjoying a hearty winter breakfast in the warm morning sun. It was heaven! And so easy. The main topic of conversation was what else we would cook on the pan; the options are limitless!

 

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