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The 10 Commandments of Campfire Cooking

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We asked Alton Brown to share a few essential tips for cooking on an open fire. He agreed. Prepare thine ears as Alton Brown bestows his Campfire Cooking Commandments upon ye!

10 commandments of campfire cooking

That’s because a hardwood fire that’s about half-burned down puts out more even heat, and since most of the volatile substances have had a chance to burn off, it’s a cleaner heat as well.

10 commandments of campfire cooking

That’s because you can make just about anything out of it. And in the campfire environment, that goes triple. Hobo packs, cooking utensils, wind blocks — the uses are limitless, and without it, you’re pretty much, well…screwed.

10 commandments of campfire cooking

That’s because it burns hotter and cleaner than other charcoals, and the uneven pieces actually create a more even heat over the life of the fire as smaller pieces burn quickly, and large ones more slowly.

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10 commandments of campfire cooking

I always keep an old, metal bowl around to “cloche” items I’m grilling (that is, cover them to trap in heat). You don’t need to cover the entire grill area, just the food and a few inches around it. This is especially useful for roasting larger or irregular pieces of meat that need to cook off direct heat. I also use it for eggplant and squash — oh, and sweet potatoes.

10 commandments of campfire cooking

Because nothing is better for handling foods in, on, and around the fire.

10 commandments of campfire cooking

After cooking on the fire, give meats such as steaks and chops a rest by wrapping them loosely in foil (see above) and placing them on a rock just outside the fire. Even a mere three-minute rest can make a heap of difference.

10 commandments of campfire cooking

Sure, you can bring fancy grates and grills, but as long as you blow or fan off most of the ash, most meats (and whole fish) can cook right on the coals.

10 commandments of campfire cooking

Let’s face it: Cleaning up at a campsite can be a pain. That’s why, before I leave home, I wet a bunch of paper towels with a 10-percent bleach solution (the rest being water) and place them in a big freezer-style zip-top bag. I use these to wipe up where I can’t necessarily wash up.

10 commandments of campfire cooking

Whether you’re flame roasting hot dogs, or marshmallows for s’mores, or the little brook trout you just caught with your fly rig, look for a stick that forks at the end — it will always provide more stability and reliability than one that doesn’t. Oh! And make sure you whittle off the bark first — you don’t know where it’s been.

10 commandments of campfire cooking

Fires that look like they’ve died are often smoldering away under the surface of ash. All it takes is a bit of wind or a few falling leaves, and suddenly you’ve got the very kind of forest fire Smokey Bear has always been warning us about. I always camp with a small entrenchment tool or folding camp shovel which I use to cover the burn zone with dirt. I tamp it down, then I add more dirt and tamp it again. If you’re not going to be able to responsibly put out a fire, don’t light one to begin with.

Originally published on BuzzFeed.

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9 Comments

9 Comments

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  6. d

    April 20, 2018 at 11:59 AM

    I only know two rules:
    1. Don’t burn it.
    2. Don’t undercook it.

    • Julius Nadas

      April 21, 2018 at 8:33 AM

      Mostly I agree with you, except I would add a rule to make sure the fire is totally out. But my wife who is more into the quality of food than I am says I am wrong. These ten commandments give you a “better tasting meal” than what you or I would normally prepare and eat.

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