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How to Cook with Fire

Created January 26, 2017
Whether with a stovetop burner, a charcoal grill or a fire pit, when cooking over an open flame there are a few important points to keep in mind.

Cooking with fire is different than other cooking methods. But with a few key pointers, you can master cooking over an open flame.

Whether with a stovetop burner, a charcoal grill or a fire pit, when cooking over an open flame there are a few important points to keep in mind.

Fire Safety

First and foremost, certain safety precautions must always be taken when dealing with fire. Gas and electric have their own safety considerations, but fire safety involves a constant awareness of the flame, what's over it and what's near it.
    Never wear long dangling loose-fitting sleeves when cooking with fire, for example. Keep long hair tied back or bunched up under a hat. You don't want to risk catching part of your wardrobe or person on fire. The same goes for objects near the flame, namely other cookware (both implements and ingredients) and, most notably, children.

Cooking With Fire

The most important aspect of successively cooking with fire is watching your food. Leave food over an open flame unattended and it's bound to get burned. You can't just set a timer with fire and walk away, because unlike with other cooking methods like gas and electric, the temperature of fire is not easily regulated.

Fire does not cook evenly or consistently without your constant vigilance. You may have to lower or raise the heat several times to cook food thoroughly and completely. Differences obviously exist between the flame on a stovetop that you can just adjust with the turn of a knob and a wood or charcoal fire that you have to tend to. In either case, watch the food to know what it needs.

The most common culinary disasters cooked with fire?
  • Exteriors that are hard, dry and burned and
  • Interiors that are still somewhere between undercooked and raw.
Incidentally, to revisit the fire safety issue for a moment, if you are cooking over a grill, and you're cooking meat, be sure to trim off most or all of the fat. It can drop down through the grating into the flames and cause a sudden flare up, which could be bad for you and/or your food.

For best results cooking with fire, heat your cooking surface to the temperature you desire before adding the food. On a stovetop, that means heat the oiled pan or griddle first. On a grill that means building the fire to where you want it to be first. By adding the food to an already heated surface, you’ll have a much easier time regulating the cooking temperature and time for an even, consistent, and thoroughly cooked (but not overcooked) meal.

Open flame cooking is great for browning the outside of a dish or creating a crust that helps contain the juices and flavor of the food.

Remember, when you cook with fire,  always keep one eye on the fire and the other on your cooking!