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Fire Away: Live Fire Cooking with Mark Driskill
We welcome Mark Driskill as our guest blogger for Fire & Flavor. Mark has a passion for cooking, especially when it comes to the outdoors. We love his perspective on cooking with live fire and he shows us just how easy it is. Currently Mark helps lead the Time Inc. Food Studios in Birmingham, Alabama. Time Inc. is the publishing hub that represents iconic brands such as Southern Living, Real Simple, and Cooking Light Magazines to name a few. Prior to his current role, he spent time in some of the South’s best kitchens, helping manage James Beard award winning restaurants under chef Frank Stitt. Mark lives in Birmingham with his wife, Ashley and their son, Henry. He has a passion for cooking, all things food, and the outdoors, combining all three whenever possible.
Repeat after me, “I am not afraid of fire, fire is my friend.”
Not to make light of any danger, be respectful and careful when playing with fire, but please play. Whenever you are starting something new or unfamiliar, accurate expectations are important.That statement to say, this is not a “how to” but more of a “why do.” Don’t worry, I will probably give little tips, tricks, and ideas but I have to get you outside and committed before anything else.
Fall is here, and while most places in the South are confused about what season it is, it is time to get outside. You can cook outside anytime of the year but there is something exciting, dare I say sexy, about the contrast of the cooler air, the warmth of a fire, and the sultry mingled aromas of smoke and food. Perhaps no other company is more aptly named than Fire & Flavor, people underestimate the importance of heat when cooking. Most houses are not equipped with the most stellar ventilation for cooking, and the fact is, the higher the temperature the more flavor. If you have ever tried to get a pan hot enough to perfectly sear a steak then you have also set off your fire alarm. Go outside!
If you have a fire pit set up then great, if you have a grill that will do too, or if you want to clear out a spot in your yard, go for it. You do not need fancy equipment to get started cooking over fire. To further calm your fears, you can think of all this as another way to grill. Instead of being bound by the way the manufacturer made your grill, this is breaking free and cooking right on top of the coals. I want to emphasize where I said, “getting started,” because I can promise once you begin having fun with this way of cooking you will be hooked. It will most likely trigger some primordial sensations that make you dream about the next time you can hear the hypnotic sizzle of meat touching flame.
Hopefully your heart is beating a little faster and you’re getting ready to do this.
All you need is a grate, a few bricks, tongs, and fuel. This list is not exhaustive and it is also not set in stone. There have been people for a long time and all over the world that cook with even less, but I digress. You simply place the bricks where the grate or grates can sit level and will be about 4-6 inches above the coals.Which brings us to fuel selection. Fuel is important, maybe the most important. Fire & Flavor uses only the best hickory, oak, and mesquite to make their charcoal. These proven hardwoods have the unique ability to burn hotter and impart an earthy, smoky, rich, and natural flavor to anything honored enough to be cooked in this manner. A great trick as well is to throw some Fire & Flavor smoking chips on the coals right before you add whatever you are going to cook; this gives you a burst of extra heat and smokiness.
The longest length of time in any of this is waiting for the fire to get ready, but while you wait any prep needed can be done. When it is go time, things move quickly, much faster than most cooking methods and much cleaner. Bring everything out on one baking pan with foil, as soon as your meat and veggies hit the grate, wad the foil up and stand ready. You will need to move the food around a little more than typical grilling to keep it from burning but color and char are your friends. When it is ready, put it back on the baking sheet and go back inside or eat outside. No scrubbing pots and pans, no opening all the windows to let smoke out, no loading up the dishwasher with a ton of utensils; you eat and relax.
Be careful, have fun, play with your food and with fire.
This is hobby cooking at its finest and what a great hobby to have. Fire & Flavor has everything you need from fuel, to seasonings, even recipe ideas to get you started on this journey. I promise you will have a blast, make some amazing food, and a hopefully a few memories.