How do I cook on a fire?

Cooking on a fire is like flying a plane. It seems like it would be amazing, but if you don’t know what you’re doing it can end in disaster. Here are a few tips:

Create a stable platform for your grill:

One of the most dangerous problems with cooking on a fire is that the grill can move or fall over. In the best-case scenario, some food is lost to the fire, but if you have hot liquid or oil on the grill, it can be a disaster. The main reason for grill collapse is that people tend to prop up their grill on logs, rather than rocks. The obvious problem with using logs is that logs burn, and when they burn, they disintegrate.

Use rocks to prop up your grill, and make sure the rocks are stable and can handle some movement. You’ll be touching and moving the grill constantly for the next hour, so make sure it is secure.

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Cook with the heat, not the flames:

Flames burn things. This is fairly basic knowledge of fire, but many people seem to forget this when cooking over a fire. If you want to cook your food, you need heat – not flames. To get the heat without the actual fire, let the fire burn down to a hot bed of embers, and cook over the embers. This creates a much more even distribution of heat, and will prevent the black charcoal burn marks all over your food.  When you need to add more heat, put small dry logs over the bed of embers. They will ignite, but the flames should be small enough to avoid burning your food.

Use a headlamp:

Cooking meat, especially chicken, requires you to see the food in order to know if the meat is cooked or raw. Although fire gives off light, it also creates shadows and makes seeing your food fairly difficult at night. Use a headlamp to see how cooked your meat is, and make sure it’s done before eating. A stomach issue on a camping trip is far worse than one at home.

Stand back when moving containers with liquid:

No matter how stable your grill is, always be careful when moving containers of hot liquid. It is hard to gauge the temperature of pots and pans near a fire, and I’ve seen people drop pots more than once while camping. When moving liquid, be sure no one will get splashed if it falls, including you!