There’s something about a backyard fire. It’s the perfect place to gather and share stories, laughs and, of course, some amazing, delicious, flame-cooked food.
It’s also a great break from the ordinary. If your family craves a change in routine, a meal served by the glow of hot embers will definitely mix things up in all the right ways. Looking for tips? Here’s what the Certified Angus Beef ® brand’s Test Kitchen chefs recommend.
Build a better fire
It starts with a great fire. You’ll need dry wood—kindling and some larger logs—and some patience. While you can cook over crackling flames, many outdoor cooks prefer to wait for glowing red embers. Not only do they burn hotter, but also offer a more controlled temperature. It’s also smart to create different temperature zones within your fire pit, with some areas burning hotter than others.
Consider experimenting with different types of wood, which can impart different flavors. If you have wood chips for a backyard smoker, toss a handful into your fire. Or, look for the same type of wood your local barbecue pitmasters use. These can range from fruit woods, like cherry or apple, to nuts, like pecan or hickory, or even maple, oak or mesquite.
Techniques and tips
Chef Gavin Pinto repurposed an inexpensive folding campfire grill as a stand, on which he placed the cast iron grates from his outdoor grill. That’s the surface on which he often cooks steaks.
Cast iron pans, griddles and planchas are really useful tools, too. Not only can they withstand and hold a campfire’s intense heat, but they can also be used to corral smaller items, like cut-up vegetables. Or, if you prefer, cook steaks in a cast iron pan to give them an all-over seared crust.
Pinto recommends cooking ears of corn directly on the embers. And, there’s no need to take them out of the husk or remove the silk first—a time-tested Native American technique. The husks and silk come cleanly away after cooking.
Cook every course, including dessert, on the fire. Pinto likes to take fresh fruit, especially peaches when in season, and cut them in large pieces. Sprinkle with some brown sugar and some cinnamon, if you like, then fold them into tightly sealed aluminum foil pouches. Place them directly in the embers as you enjoy your main course, then serve the fruit with the juices from the packet with some whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. (Foil packets can also be a great way to cook veggies, too.)
Any steak that you’d cook on your grill can be cooked over flame, Pinto says. His favorites include ribeyes and strip steaks. As always, lots of marbling ensures the best natural flavor.
Looking for further inspiration? Start with one of these recipes and adjust according to your family’s tastes.