THE HOT SEAT: Isaac Morton of Smithey Ironware

By Stephanie Burt

Cooking is an art and a craft, and while Isaac Morton might not call himself a chef, he is most certainly a craftsman. He began as many craftsmen do, through study of the classics.  In his case it was vintage cast iron, which is highly collectible for both beauty and function. He developed an expertise in restoring those old cookware pieces and he would then gift them to friends and family. After years of studying collector’s books and bird-dogging rusty old pieces to restore to their 1890’s glory, the prospect of creating something new piqued his curiosity, and Smithey Ironware was born. Isaac has always been at home in the outdoors, and that means he’s always been at home with campfires, and especially campfire cooking. It just made sense to add a Sea Island Forge Kettle to his outdoor living area to bring a little of the elemental appeal of the fireside home to his family.  He’s especially at home when there’s a cast iron skillet sizzling away on top of it.

Smithey Dutch Oven Sea Island Forge Kettle

Do you have a grilling or campfire memory that started your love of outdoor cooking?

Yes, I had gotten my first job and was working in Atlanta and purchased a new grill. I was experimenting one evening with charcoal and lighter fluid, and suddenly my eyebrows and eyelashes were gone. I also had singed bangs, and the next day I wore a suit and walked into a big meeting looking like that. I had singed my own face and had been working at this place only a couple of weeks, and I know many of those folks in the meeting -- many of whom I was meeting for the first time -- were left wondering, to say the least.   

What’s one meal that really shines on your SIF Kettle?

Oysters shine because you’re involved. I enjoy the steaming process, getting the fire warm but not too hot. I’ll have a damp towel handy to keep some of the heat in [place it over the oysters on the Grill], and the Sea Island Forge Heat Dome really works well along with that to keep some heat in too. It’s a lot of fun just shoveling the oysters on and off.  

Smithey Cast Iron Sea Island Forge Kettle

What is something that you’ve cooked on the SIF Kettle that surprised you?

Those lamb skewers from Lexi at Harvest Catering at our event during Charleston Wine + Food were off the charts. 

Lamb Skewers Sea Island Forge Kettle

How would you describe your style of cooking?

Improvisational, definitely. I don’t tend to stick to a recipe, but I like simple preps with good ingredients. 

What type of wood do you like for your SIF Kettle and why?

Hardwoods and I really like Alder with salmon. I like to catch Silver Salmon, but I’m more of a trout angler, and smoked trout is about the best meal you can have from open fire cooking. A little salt, dill, and some aluminum foil and you can adjust the Grill to get that smoke on there.

What’s something tricky about open fire that the average cook needs to know?

Temperature can vary a lot by the heat of the fire and the height of the SIF Grill. Getting those two elements married is important, so you just need to stay with it, practice. [Grill Adjustment Video]

What is your favorite element of the SIF Kettle?

The Grill. I love how it raises and lowers. The whole unit is functional and well made, and at my house, we’ll convert the Kettle to a tabletop too. We have a round piece of wood cut for it, and it keeps water out, so you’re always ready to cook, and the kettle is a piece of furniture when you’re not. (SIF also offers a Copper and a Metal-Clad Table Top)

Smithey Skillet Scallops Sea Island Forge Kettle

Fireside Bacon-Wrapped Scallops

A version of the classic from Isaac Morton, inspired by Harvest Catering, Charleston, SC

½ lb. large (20-30 count) “dry” sea scallops

6-8 slices of bacon, cut in half (thin or regular cut)

3 tbsp. butter

Salt and pepper to taste 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Outside, get the fire hot, then place Smithey skillet on Sea Island Forge Grill grate to pre-heat. 
  3. Back inside, cut the bacon lengthwise, then place on baking sheet and bake for approximately 5 minutes just to get the bacon cooking – you don’t want it crispy -- then remove from oven and off of the pan to cool. 
  4. Rinse and pat dry each scallop, then wrap each in a piece of bacon, securing with toothpick. 
  5. Take butter and bacon-wrapped scallops outside (and a potholder and tongs!), add butter to skillet and swirl until melted and just beginning to bubble.
  6. Place each scallop in skillet, being careful not to crowd, and sear the scallops 3-5 minutes per side. If you have a 14-inch skillet you might achieve this in one batch; otherwise, this will take a couple of batches.
  7. Serve immediately.

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