With England out of the World Cup, there’s no excuse for staying indoors as this spell of hot weather continues. It’s time to move outside – even when it comes to cooking. Food always seems to taste better prepared and eaten outdoors and it also stops your kitchen getting unpleasantly warm.
Of course, we’re probably a little biased here at Certainly Wood when it comes to the differences between charcoal and wood for cooking. However, we really think logs give a better flavour to food if you follow a few tips. And there’s also something primal and satisfying about cooking on wood.
Our logs are definitely the best choice for cooking - they have less moisture content, thanks to our kiln-drying process – which results in more intense heat and a lot less smoke when used in a fire pit or even barbeque. You can’t grill on wet logs as the food will be steamed or smoked rather than grilled as it’s impossible to achieve a high-enough temperature. Our logs have less oil content too, thanks to kiln-drying, meaning the only thing spitting will be your sausages.
Certainly Wood logs don’t have any chemicals added to them either, unlike most traditional charcoal found in garden centres or garage forecourts. This means when cooking with wood, your food with taste of nothing but the subtleties of wood smoke.
We prefer a fire pit for cooking, but you can use a larger charcoal barbecue, such a kettle barbecue too. Begin by building a tepee of kindling and smaller logs to one side of your fire pit, as if you were creating a camp fire. Try to use a natural firefighter like our Flamers – as well as working more effectively than a paraffin firelighter, you’ll avoid imparting a strong smell of paraffin to your food. Add more logs once a strong flame has got hold.Light your fire approximately 45 mins to an hour prior to cooking to ensure you have glowing, smouldering embers rather than leaping flames to cook over. Remember, the deeper your pile of logs, the more intense the heat and the longer it will take to be ready to cook with.
Logs burn faster than charcoal, so if you’re cooking lots of food or more than one course, you’ll need to replenish your fire. Add new logs to the clear side of your fire pit after 20-30 minutes, making sure they’ve caught light from your existing fire. Add more logs when the fire dies down and starts to lose heat. Continue adding logs every 30 minutes or so until you’ve finished cooking or using the fire pit as a heat source.
Gadgets can be a good investment – most fire pits don’t come with a lid, but this can help the cooking process so worth considering. Likewise, a rotisserie fitted to your fire pit will ensure a consistent cook, especially for something like a whole chicken or joint of meat. A meat thermometer is worth buying too – it will mean food that looks blackened and cooked on the outside doesn’t end up being raw on the inside. And if you’re a family of pizza lovers, a pizza stone is another thing to consider.
A great tip to avoid burning your food is to create a salt crust. This will help the likes of grilled fish to feature a nice crispy skin whilst stopping it from charring. The salt can be wiped off prior to serving or eating. This also works with steaks and other cuts of meat.
We’d suggest cooking on a grill over your embers rather than directly on the coals themselves. Jacket potatoes and other foil wrapped veggies are the exception, but we still recommend putting them on the grill after giving them a head start on a direct heat. The temperatures can get so high, they can burn through foil (we’ve discovered).
When cooking with wood, some people cook directly on their fire pit grill as you would on a barbecue. However, because we don’t always use our fire pit for cooking and want to maintain its looks, we use cast iron skillets, griddles or foil on top of the grill. This also stops oil from dripping into the fire pit and feeding the flames.
Each fire pit or grill is different, and it takes time to get to know yours & its various hot spots. You’ll discover you need to constantly move food about during the cooking process, allowing it to sear initially and then cook throughout over a less intense heat.
Don’t limit cooking to sausages and burgers – if you think of your fire pit as an outdoor stove & have invested in a lid, you can cook pretty much anything outdoors. We’ve known people do their entire Christmas lunch on a fire pit!