Cooking with fire has been around longer than we’ve had language to write about it. But why does it still appeal? Why, when we’ve evolved kitchens, gas rings, microwaves and induction hobs, do we still drag out the BBQ every summer and scorch proteins like Neanderthals?
For some, it’s the appeal of flame and meat. The thrill of controlling fire seemingly never gets old and there can be few things so deeply satisfying as an afternoon building up a good layer of char on a great cut of pork.
But there’s something else much more exciting going on. As we become more fascinated by diverse global food ways, and as the technology of fire cooking develops, we are more able to pursue subtleties of flavour. Today, cooking outdoors with fire doesn’t have to be about blackening the outside of a steak or incinerating some cheap sausages. It’s everything from the authentic ‘bark’ on a BBQ hog butt to a Korean bossam, from the delicacy of a Japanese yakitori to a Galician, slow-grilled turbot.
If you are lighting your Egg, try to extend the cooking as much as possible. Just heating the ceramics takes a lot of energy, and good charcoal isn’t cheap. To get the most out of each load, try to combine cooks. For example, light the Egg for a low and slow cook. Once that is done, increase the temperature and have something ready to grill, then when you shut the Egg down, throw in an afterburner. Three cooks from a single lighting. You don’t have to do this, of course, but it’s a nice thing to keep in mind.