How to Cook Outdoors

How to cook outdoors over an open flame 

Spending time outdoors is our absolute favourite thing to do here at ZONE. Anything that combines road tripping, adventure and cooking, and we are there. 

If one technique you have always wanted to master is cooking outdoors over an open flame, we don’t blame you. Nothing beats that delicious smoky flavour a flame creates. 

The first thing to know with cooking outdoors is not to get intimidated by fire. Confidence comes with practice. So, it’s important just to get out there and give it a go. Here are our tips:

  • If you’re new to cooking over a fire, start with an open fire pan so you don’t get overwhelmed. Cooking outdoors should be easy, fun and experimental. Later down the track if it interests you, you could try rigging up a tripod with a hook.
  • Not all wood is created equal. You want to make sure you use hardwood to fuel your fire. Hardwood creates coals, which you want to cook over as they radiate a sturdy, strong heat. 
  • To get your fire going, use scrap cardboard, single sheets of newspaper scrunched up, gum leaves, twigs, hardwood kindling and matches. You can use a fire starter (those white chunks you can pick up at most supermarkets) but we prefer the more traditional method of using what we had around us. Once the flames are up, you will need to add blocks of hardwood to make coals. 
  • From our experience, and depending on the hardwood you have, it can take anywhere between 30 minutes to one hour to burn hardwood down to coals. 
  • Measuring the heat is all done by hand and instinct, something you develop over time – and not by putting your hands directly onto the flame or coals, of course. If you can put your hands above the coals for more than six seconds, the heat is most likely to be around 100 degrees Celsius. Three seconds is about a medium heat and likely to be around 170 degrees Celsius. And one second is most likely to be around 200 degrees Celsius. 
  • Ovens and gas stove work really similar to fires, to increase the heat, add more hardwood to create more coals. To decrease the heat, use less coal by removing hardwood or adding less hardwood.
  • To move the heat around so you can cook different foods and different heats, use a stick or a shovel.
  • If you are planning on cooking a big meal, get two fires going – one to cook on, one to create coals on. When you need more heat, you can move the coals onto the fire you are cooking on.
  • Lastly, wherever you are camping and or cooking, fire safety (especially with kids around) and fire restrictions need to be adhered to when cooking with flame outdoors.

We used cardboard, kindling and matches to make the fire in these photos. It was a little bit windy, but we eventually got it started. Once the fire was firmly established, we placed the open pan over the flame. As the pan was warming up, we prepped breakfast.

We used speck, eggs, broccolini, saffron milky cup mushrooms, and fresh bread. 

As the flame started to drop and kindling embers were beaming hot, we threw a dash of oil onto the large pan and started cooking the speck, broccolini and mushrooms. The caramelisation of the speck fat chargrilled the speck and the vegetables. Later on, we moved the food around, fried the eggs and sat by the fire enjoying a hearty breakfast in the warm morning sun.