HOW TO BUILD A TASTY FIRE (easy five-step guide)
Fire runs in our blood; it’s seared into our DNA. Before gas, electric, microwaves and George Foreman grills we ALL COOKED WITH FIRE. But life moves fast nowadays, and fire cooking has become something of a lost art. Time to reignite our spark for this ancient, red-hot skill!!
No two fires are ever the same, but the more you experiment and cook with fire the more confidence you'll have and the better you’ll get at adapting to all the outdoor kitchen variables.
To get started, here are 5 banging steps to building a fire and upping your grill game...
Wood and charcoal aren’t just fuel, they’re also ingredients. The quality of fuel is just as important as the quality of the food you’re cooking, you’d be surprised at how the flavour profiles of different wood complement different meat, fish and veg. ALWAYS use properly seasoned hardwoods. Fruit woods tend to give great smoky flavours! Damp logs give a bitter acrid smoke taste, and the smoke of softwoods will destroy your food - make sure they’re bone dry. Kiln-dried logs are amazing! I love the coals from burning good oak.
When starting a fire, I like to build a small tower of seasoned hardwood - six logs, Jenga style. Super-dry kindling at the bottom and scrunched up paper (or natural firelighters are cool). One flick of a match and you have fire! Start small and build it up gradually by adding more logs as the fire gets bigger. Build your fire away from overhanging branches, bushes, tents, buildings, driveways, patios or anything flammable!!!
Choose a flat, dry area that won’t damage. A ring of stones will help contain the fire, and always have water, sand or a fire extinguisher handy just in case! (A shovel is one of my best friends when cooking on wood fires for moving burning logs, embers and ash.)
When cooking with wood, you don’t want to cook with the flame - focus on the coals, embers, ash and smoke. This is why you need to start a fire at least a good hour or so before cooking, to get those beautiful red-glowing coals and embers.
As for setting up a BBQ, divide the grilling area into two zones: ‘direct and indirect’, with hot charcoal covering 50% of the grill for direct ‘sizzle-sizzle’ cooking, and a ‘cool zone’ with no coals for indirect cooking, smoking, or use this area to move anything that flares up from the hot zone so you have more control over the BBQ. A chimney starter is your best friend when barbecuing - scrunch some newspaper under the starter, fill with charcoal and in 10-15 minutes you’ll have cook-ready coals.
Check out my full guide in The Good Life Society handbook, written in 2020 when I was pining for my fierce festival pit! I cannot WAIT to bring some heat to the Good Life Experience again!