How to Cook with Fire

By Rose Langbein

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Cooking with Fire

Our favourite way to cook

Cooking over the coals of a fire delivers the most wonderful flavour to your food. It's the way humans have been cooking for thousands of years, and still offers an almost primal sense of satisfaction. We love to use this technique when grilling vegetables, meat, and seafood.

Ted, our resident fire-maker, gave us some tips on cooking with fire. There are two fuels we like to use — wood and charcoal.

If you are using wood, make sure you don’t use anything poisonous, such as oleander, or any treated timber. Any fruit wood, nut wood, or grape prunings are fabulous. Most importantly, your wood needs to be dry.

We like to start with something light and soft that burns easily. Once the fire is burning well, you can start to feed it hardwood, which will burn hotter and for a longer period of time. If you don’t have hardwood, you just need to feed your fire more frequently.

The best way to keep your fire going is to make sure the flame has a way to draw air — oxygen is critical. If you build a fire in a deep hole, it won’t be able to breathe.

Never cook directly over the flame, only over the coals. Ideally, we will build the fire on one side, let it burn down, then shuffle the coals across to where we want to cook, as we have done on the opposite page. If you’re cooking something for a long time, make sure you keep your fire burning so you can keep pushing fresh embers over.

If you’re cooking with charcoal, start a fire first, then add a small amount of charcoal and let it ignite. Add more charcoal (you need quite a lot) and let that ignite too. Once the charcoal is alight and covered in a white layer of ash, it is ready to cook on.

To check if your fire is hot enough to cook on, hold your hand about 12cm/5in over the flame — you shouldn’t be able to keep it there longer than a second or two if it’s hot, and about 5 seconds if it’s medium. Be careful not to light your fire in a windy spot and follow local guidelines to ensure you practice fire safety.


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