Author Topic: The Cook Fire  (Read 10885 times)

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Offline Old Philosopher

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The Cook Fire
« on: March 01, 2012, 04:31:18 PM »
I'm sure everyone has their favorite setup for campfire cooking. I'm thinking more of the ways we build fires when we're out and about, and have to feed ourselves for the day, or week.

I didn't have a photo of my favorite design, but I found this illustration. I really favor this arraingement, because you can have your heat fire, and still prepare a decent meal without singing your eyebrows! I find it allows me much more control over the cooking temperatures when I'm cooking over low coals. Heat distribution is a lot more uniform, too. I find it frustrating to be cooking in a pot and have one side boiling, and the other side cold. I don't like flames licking up the sides of my cookware, either!



So what is your favorite cooking fire?  Pictures would be nice!
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Offline Moe M.

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Re: The Cook Fire
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2012, 04:37:08 PM »

  I'm not even going there, you likely wouldn't believe me if I told you anyway, then again, you might.
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Offline WoodsWoman

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Re: The Cook Fire
« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2012, 04:39:10 PM »
OP.. is this the design they call the "Keyhole" ? 

I'm going to be building a fire area this spring.   But, Its so windy up here on the hill I've been wondering if I need something with a higher back wall to protect the fire and my yard.    If so..  the walls going away from the main fire..can they be deeper and still keep coals burning do you think?


MOE... go there....  come on now... share...  :)


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Offline Old Philosopher

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Re: The Cook Fire
« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2012, 05:54:34 PM »

  I'm not even going there, you likely wouldn't believe me if I told you anyway, then again, you might.
What's up with that?  Go on, test my credulity!  ;D



OP.. is this the design they call the "Keyhole" ? 

I'm going to be building a fire area this spring.   But, Its so windy up here on the hill I've been wondering if I need something with a higher back wall to protect the fire and my yard.    If so..  the walls going away from the main fire..can they be deeper and still keep coals burning do you think?


MOE... go there....  come on now... share...  :)


WW.
Yeah, the Key Hole Fire. I'm not sure I'm visualizing what you're talking about. A deeper fire pit would be fine, as long as there was enough air circulation to keep the fire going. The cooking trench is usually low, and you're only scraping coals into it, anyway.
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Offline Professor

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Re: The Cook Fire
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2012, 06:13:32 PM »
I agree that the "key hole" fire is about the best way to cook.  That is exactly the way folks cooked in the fireplace for hundreds of years.  The main fire is to heat water or to produce the coals for cooking.  In my cabin, I take shovelfuls of coals out of the fire and essentially create "burners" by making little mounds of coals on the hearth.  On these "burners" I have two or three pans, skillets or Dutch ovens going at the same time. Dutch ovens have their own legs to keep them just above the coals, but for skillets and pans without their own legs, I simulate the effect by making "trivets" or hearthside tripods with 2-inch legs.

Coals start at their hottest and gradually cool down.  This is often exactly what you need; start cooking on high heat and gradually reduce the heat as the food is getting done.  Of course if you need more sustained heat, shovel more coals out of the fire and freshen the coals.

Outdoors, I cook the same way.  I don't always use rocks, but I set up my fire the same way.  I rake some coals away from the flames and use a trivet to set my skillet on for a bacon and egg feast or to fry up some 'taters'n'onions.

Heat management is the real key to successful cooking at home or in the woods.  A mature fire with plenty of coals takes some time to prepare, but it is worth it when it is time to eat.


« Last Edit: March 01, 2012, 06:48:20 PM by Professor »
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Offline Old Philosopher

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Re: The Cook Fire
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2012, 06:20:33 PM »
I agree that the "key hole" fire is about the best way to cook.  That is exactly the way folks cooked in the fireplace for hundreds of years.  The main fire is to heat water or to produce the coals for cooking.  In my cabin, I take shovelfuls of coals out of the fire and essentially create "burners" by making little mounds of coals on the hearth.  On these "burners" I have two or three pans, skillets or Dutch ovens going at the same time. Dutch ovens have their own legs to keep them just above the coals, but for skillets and pans without their own legs, I simulate the effect by making "trivets" or hearthside tripods with 2-inch legs.

Coals start at their hottest and gradually cool down.  This is often exactly what you need; start cooking on high heat and gradually reduce the heat as the food is getting done.  Of course if you need more sustained heat, shovel more coals out of the fire and freshen the coals.

Outdoors, I cook the same way.  I don't always use rocks, but I set up my fire the same way.  I rake some coals away from the flames and use a trivet to set my skillet on for a bacon and egg feast or to fry up some 'taters'n'onions.

Heat management is the real key to successful cooking at home or in the woods.  A mature fire with plenty of coals takes some time to prepare, but it is worth it when it is time to eat.
What HE said, +1! Nowadays, people think of trivets as 'hot plates' to keep hot dishes from damaging a table. But they were originally designed for just what the Professor describes, heat management while cooking.
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Offline Gurthy

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Re: The Cook Fire
« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2012, 06:50:21 PM »
Yep, I also like the keyhole type of fire. I don't always use the keyhole shape, especially if I have my folding grate, but I usually will have a hot side (flame) for boiling and a warm side (hot coals) for controlled cooking.

Offline Professor

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Re: The Cook Fire
« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2012, 07:00:11 PM »
Yep, I also like the keyhole type of fire. I don't always use the keyhole shape, especially if I have my folding grate, but I usually will have a hot side (flame) for boiling and a warm side (hot coals) for controlled cooking.

The true keyhole would be ok if the wind would blow fom the same direction; but since it shifts all the time, your "warm" side has to move too.  That's why I just grab my trivet and move with it.  A shovel and a fire rake ( or a stick) are useful tools for managing coals.


« Last Edit: March 01, 2012, 07:05:46 PM by Professor »
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Offline Old Philosopher

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Re: The Cook Fire
« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2012, 07:07:24 PM »
...  A shovel and a fire rake ( or a stick) are useful tools for managing coals.
Funny you mention that. My favorite "fire rake" (until someone liberated it on a camping trip) was a child's toy garden rake, an old one with metal teeth, naturally. It was about 18" long, and lasted a crazy number of years just used to spread out the cooking coals.
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Offline PetrifiedWood

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Re: The Cook Fire
« Reply #9 on: March 01, 2012, 07:13:13 PM »
I have considered buying one of these:

https://secure.lodgemfg.com/storefront/product1_new.asp?menu=gear&idProduct=4021

...to raise up my dutch oven since it's a stove top model without the legs, and maybe getting one of the lids with the rims to keep the coals in place. I know you can just invert the conventional lid and put the coals in there, but then you can just use a hook in the top to lift the lid.

As for the fire... I've got one of those round steel above surface fire pits. It's great for warming yourself and just sitting by a fire, but there really isn't any place to cook in it unless you use charcoal instead of wood. I think these keyhole fires are a great idea. So simple!

Offline Professor

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Re: The Cook Fire
« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2012, 07:15:56 PM »
...  A shovel and a fire rake ( or a stick) are useful tools for managing coals.
Funny you mention that. My favorite "fire rake" (until someone liberated it on a camping trip) was a child's toy garden rake, an old one with metal teeth, naturally. It was about 18" long, and lasted a crazy number of years just used to spread out the cooking coals.

The idea for mine came from a tool my old blacksmith friend made me to use in the forge: a curved  piece of inch-wide  steel welded to an 18 inch handle.  A tool like this is great for raking coals into a shovel or for raking coals on or off the lid of a Dutch oven. I just posted my first photos, so now I need to take more!
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Offline Professor

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Re: The Cook Fire
« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2012, 07:22:12 PM »
I have considered buying one of these:

https://secure.lodgemfg.com/storefront/product1_new.asp?menu=gear&idProduct=4021

...to raise up my dutch oven since it's a stove top model without the legs, and maybe getting one of the lids with the rims to keep the coals in place. I know you can just invert the conventional lid and put the coals in there, but then you can just use a hook in the top to lift the lid.

As for the fire... I've got one of those round steel above surface fire pits. It's great for warming yourself and just sitting by a fire, but there really isn't any place to cook in it unless you use charcoal instead of wood. I think these keyhole fires are a great idea. So simple!

I have a YouTube video that shows a simple mod to use the dome-lidded Dutch ovens to hold coals on the top.  Essentially it is just a ring of hardware cloth that sits on top of the lid.  It holds the coals, and when you're done, just lift it off and the coals are easier to get off than from the other kind.  Can video links be posted to threads?  I see the YouTube icon above.
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Offline Old Philosopher

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Re: The Cook Fire
« Reply #12 on: March 01, 2012, 07:22:55 PM »

The idea for mine came from a tool my old blacksmith friend made me to use in the forge: a curved  piece of inch-wide  steel welded to an 18 inch handle.  A tool like this is great for raking coals into a shovel or for raking coals on or off the lid of a Dutch oven. I just posted my first photos, so now I need to take more!
Along with the cooking rack system my son made for our fire pit, he made a "fire hoe" out of flatiron and rebar. Mounted on a wooden handle, it's about 5' long. Not exactly camping gear, but it's great for wrangling logs in the pit.
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Offline Old Philosopher

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Re: The Cook Fire
« Reply #13 on: March 01, 2012, 07:24:37 PM »
  Can video links be posted to threads?  I see the YouTube icon above.
Yes, they can. Copy the video url link, and then click on the YouTube icon and past the link like you would an image, or regular link.
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Offline PetrifiedWood

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Re: The Cook Fire
« Reply #14 on: March 01, 2012, 07:25:24 PM »
I have considered buying one of these:

https://secure.lodgemfg.com/storefront/product1_new.asp?menu=gear&idProduct=4021

...to raise up my dutch oven since it's a stove top model without the legs, and maybe getting one of the lids with the rims to keep the coals in place. I know you can just invert the conventional lid and put the coals in there, but then you can just use a hook in the top to lift the lid.

As for the fire... I've got one of those round steel above surface fire pits. It's great for warming yourself and just sitting by a fire, but there really isn't any place to cook in it unless you use charcoal instead of wood. I think these keyhole fires are a great idea. So simple!

I have a YouTube video that shows a simple mod to use the dome-lidded Dutch ovens to hold coals on the top.  Essentially it is just a ring of hardware cloth that sits on top of the lid.  It holds the coals, and when you're done, just lift it off and the coals are easier to get off than from the other kind.  Can video links be posted to threads?  I see the YouTube icon above.

Yes sir! You can post youtube videos by clicking the youtube button in the editor and then posting the video's URL between the code tags the button generates.

Offline PetrifiedWood

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Re: The Cook Fire
« Reply #15 on: March 01, 2012, 07:28:21 PM »
Can you get non-galvanized hardware cloth? I'd thought of just getting some flat 1/8"X1" steel and bending it into a ring and riveting it together. I suppose a smaller diameter ring with holes drilled around it's circumference would be a decent trivet substitute as well.

Might be a fun project some day.

Offline Professor

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Re: The Cook Fire
« Reply #16 on: March 01, 2012, 07:28:51 PM »


Here is my video of modifying a stove-type Dutch oven for campfire or fireplace use.

Thanks for telling me how to post this; it worked the first time!
« Last Edit: March 01, 2012, 07:38:41 PM by Professor »
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Offline Old Philosopher

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Re: The Cook Fire
« Reply #17 on: March 01, 2012, 07:34:05 PM »
Can you get non-galvanized hardware cloth? I'd thought of just getting some flat 1/8"X1" steel and bending it into a ring and riveting it together. I suppose a smaller diameter ring with holes drilled around it's circumference would be a decent trivet substitute as well.

Might be a fun project some day.
Aluminum flashing? You could cut a strip what ever width you wanted. It's not galvanized.
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Offline Professor

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Re: The Cook Fire
« Reply #18 on: March 01, 2012, 07:35:36 PM »
Can you get non-galvanized hardware cloth? I'd thought of just getting some flat 1/8"X1" steel and bending it into a ring and riveting it together. I suppose a smaller diameter ring with holes drilled around it's circumference would be a decent trivet substitute as well.

Might be a fun project some day.

I just used what hardware cloth I had.  If noxious zinc fumes burned off the hardware cloth, they went up the chimney.  I thought of bending a hoop of steel, but the wire was a lot easier.  Trivet substitutes include bricks or rocks about 2 inches in diameter. Aluminum flashing would be good as well; probably better than the zinc fumes!
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Offline PetrifiedWood

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Re: The Cook Fire
« Reply #19 on: March 01, 2012, 10:09:47 PM »
You don't think aluminum would melt in contact with the coals? I've seen soda cans shrivel up in a good fire before.

I like the idea of DIY'ing this though. I'm sure I could find something, or even bend some rebar into a useful shape. There's a 3 foot piece of rebar sticking up in our yard that needs to be removed anyway...

Offline Old Philosopher

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Re: The Cook Fire
« Reply #20 on: March 01, 2012, 10:19:31 PM »
You don't think aluminum would melt in contact with the coals? I've seen soda cans shrivel up in a good fire before.
...
Roof/construction flashing is a far cry from aluminum pop cans. The heavier gauge stuff you're lucky if you can bend.
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Offline Moe M.

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Re: The Cook Fire
« Reply #21 on: March 02, 2012, 10:22:20 AM »
OP.. is this the design they call the "Keyhole" ? 

I'm going to be building a fire area this spring.   But, Its so windy up here on the hill I've been wondering if I need something with a higher back wall to protect the fire and my yard.    If so..  the walls going away from the main fire..can they be deeper and still keep coals burning do you think?


MOE... go there....  come on now... share...  :)


WW.

  Well OP and I seem to have this Daja-vue thing going on,  and I don't want to push it to the point that it gets old and looses it humor value.

  But his fire design is one that I use all the time in my camps,  for me it's been kind of a modified long fire,  where I make a long fire with a fire ring on the end of it,  when I want to heat water of cook something I just use my small folding shovel (more like trowel) to rake some coals into the ring,  I usually have a couple of well placed rocks in place to hold my small grill for resting a pot or frying pan on, or for roasting or grilling a piece of meat.
  That way I always have a campfire going,  but have the benefit of a small coal fire for cooking in no more time than it takes to turn the dial on my stove top at home.

  Pretty neat way to have the best of both.
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