LEARNING TO COOK OUTSIDE
To learn to cook outside, first learn to cook inside. I know; I know; you want to go right outside, build a fire or fire up the ol’ charcoal grill and get to cookin’ something exotic. Well it isn’t that simple but then again, maybe it is if you do some comparison. We’ll eliminate microwave ovens and solar cooking here to begin with and stick to the basics of just plain cooking/baking your conventional foods both inside and out.
IC (inside cooking) – heat source is an electric stove or a gas stove.
OC (outside cooking) – heat source is a camp stove – (which we won’t discuss because it’s almost like cooking inside) – or hot coals (never cook over an open wood burning flame).
IC – adjust heat by turning knob up or down.
OC – adjust heat by moving pan closer to or farther away from heat source or adding more hot coals or taking some away – here it’s best to remind you to keep your source fire or hot charcoal away from your cooking spot – use only to replenish the coals under where you are cooking be it on a charcoal grill or on an old refrigerator rack or oven rack between a couple of logs or bricks.
IC – use cover or lid according to food cooked.
OC – always have a lid handy and use to keep ashes and bugs from getting into food.
IC – Baking is done in a protected kitchen oven with a built in thermostat.
OC – Baking is done in aluminum foil over a source of heat (no flames), in a reflector oven in front of a source of heat, or in Dutch ovens (with covers). Outside it’s best to build windbreaks to conserve heat – (I use old cookie sheets that I buy at garage sales to deflect the wind and to put my Dutch ovens on to keep the ground from sucking the heat from the charcoal briquets).
IC – Recipes usually tell you to bake at certain temperatures for a specific amount of time.
OC – Here you will have to learn to ‘judge’ cooking temperatures and cooking times – this will come with experience.
NOTE: My advice is to practice, practice, practice both inside the house and outside the house in the yard – make your mistakes at home and not when you’re camping with friends; good luck. More about cooking outside in future columns.