Few things are as enjoyable as grilling over a natural wood burning fire in the great outdoors. There are a few differences between your standard campfire, and a great cook fire. Here are a few tips to help you do your best grillin’ right over a wood burning fire.
- Plan ahead. Start the fire before you start prepping your food. This will be your first step, but start it earlier than you think necessary. Ideally you’ll have enough time to let it burn down to a bed of embers that will serve as the foundation of your cook fire.
- Protect your fire. Build up your fire ring with rocks as necessary to protect your fire from the wind. This will help your fire burn well, but also will let that smoke linger a little longer to add the flavor you're looking for.
- Wood selection. Feed your fire slowly with hardwoods once you’re about ready to put food on. The wood you start with isn’t as important, but be sure to use a nice hardwood once the foods about to go on. Adding pieces as you go will add smoke and flavor to your meal.
- Not all smoke is created equal. The fire must be hot enough to support adding wood to it. If not, you'll create a lot of thick, ashy smoke. A little bit is inevitable as a piece catches and lights. Once it's going your goal is thin, almost transparent smoke, often called blue smoke. It may not look as impressive as the thick stuff, but it's a much cleaner, and better tasting smoke.
- Create heat zones. Have separate tongs or a tool to move wood as needed. While you can’t turn a knob to control the fire, you can still control how much heat there is, and where it’s directed. Use this to your advantage to create different heat zones for different foods on the grill.
- Go out with a bang! Finish with a flaming sear. Not only does it add great texture, but remove your grill and you get to enjoy a nice campfire with your meal. A great way to get a night at camp started right!
Armed with these tools you'll be better equipped to grill and cook right over an awesome wood burning fire. Remember that burn bans and fire restrictions are becoming more and more prevalent. Stay safe and compliant, and do your grilling over propane when necessary.
Stacked put out a great resource to check fire restrictions in your area, or the area you plan on visiting.