From The Hot Seat Editor’s Desk
By Stephanie Burt, The Southern Fork
By any estimate, 2020 has been a challenging year. But as we round the corner into cooler temps, we’re primed to up the cozy-quotient on home. A well-tended fire at home brings much more than the comfort of warmth, but actually goes deeper into connecting us with something old and primal -- the hearth -- and the idea of a home fire as a center. Throughout almost the entirety of human existence, the tended fire has been the true center of the home, prized for its comfort, community, and cooking. And, as David Carrier of Certified Burgers & Beverage puts it, “There is something about watching a flame dance off a piece of wood that is ‘babbling brook’ calming.”
For many of us, our homes don’t afford an easy way to cook over open flame. A lot of us don’t even have fireplaces -- modern heating systems have removed the need for them -- and so outdoors is best, and your outdoors is where the Sea Island Forge Kettle shines, creating a community center for your home and neighbors and providing a useful cooking tool to boot.
We’re setting you up for success with some fire building and tending tips from cooks featured on our Hot Seat. That way, you can concentrate on those s’mores and smiles as the nights begin to call for a warm blanket.
- Know your wood, no matter the type. “You need to understand the relationship between wood, oxygen, and fire. Know your wood -- wet equals smoky, dry will burn hot,” says Chris Hastings of Ovenbird in Birmingham, AL.
- Start early. “You have to start it two hours before you want to cook. So in general, there’s more planning, and if you don’t start the fire enough ahead, it won’t be right, says Anya Fernald of Belcampo Meat Co. in Oakland, CA. “It has to burn down to coals.”
- If you’re cooking meat, remember fat is fuel. Bob Cook of Edmund’s Oast in Charleston, SC says, “Take under consideration the fat is usually still on the meat. Fat is fuel, and it will render out, so you can either move the grill around, or take a shovel and scoot the coals to one side … That fat will flame up, and you have to work with it if you want that nice char (such as on a steak) or not.”
- Don’t “set it and forget it.” Open-fire cooking is active cooking. “When you cook something over flame, you are the thermostat. It’s a much more sensual way of cooking than closing the door on an oven,” says Rob McDaniel of Helen also in Birmingham.