Tips: Cooking on an Open Flame

There really are few things as rewarding as cooking on an open fire. It of course taps into some deep deep ancient human instinct, but practically, it just makes a ton of sense too as well. It keeps you warm while you cook, and because you’ll likely use just one or two cast iron pans, there’s the added benefit of not having a lot to clean up. You’ll also have a fire going to eat next to when dinner is ready, and of course, the food is delicious. 

Here are some tips. 

Make the Right Coals
Goes without saying but a good bed of coals is critical. Achieving coals with just wood, no charcoal, takes longer but is worth it. Hard woods work best. Pine and is sooty and releases a lot of sooty smoke. You’ll want to have a fire raging pretty strong then let it die down. Resist the urge to keep adding to it. 


Once you have a good bed of coals and the fire has died down a bit, it’s go time. The window to cook on a good wood fire bed is narrower than with charcoal. Recognizing the moment to put the food on is critical.

Control the Flame

While a bed of coals made from just wood will die down more quickly than charcoal, there are a few tricks you can use to control the flame. Keep pieces of kindling of different sizes ready in case you need to feed the fire a bit. Keep some water ready in case the fire gets too big as well. Don’t be afraid to douse it a little to turn down the flame.


A grill is of course key, but a cast iron pan is just as important too. You can cook pretty much anything in one cast iron pan. Clean a cast iron pan when it’s warm or by heating it up with water on the fire. Avoid soap and steel wool. If you need to rub cooked food off of it, use some coarse salt and elbow grease.

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