You’re going to have a record number of people at the house for the holidays this year. You’re carefully planning what has to be cooked the night before and then refrigerated, so you’ll have enough room in the oven for other food that must be cooked. Wouldn’t it be great if you had four ovens, two cooktops and a brick oven for keeping the food warm? Actually, you do have the brick oven. It’s just outside in the outdoor kitchen. Usually used for ambiance when guests are over, the outdoor fireplace presents the perfect “appliance” for helping cook holiday meals. Seriously, you don’t have to be a pioneer to make good use of the outdoor kitchen fireplace. Haven’t you noticed that only around the holidays do the kids decide to become helpful, as long as there is food to be tasted? Let them keep an eye on what’s cooking indoors while you create magic outdoors. You’ll need the right wood for flavoring the foods, a cast iron grate for resting pans over the coals, cooking utensils for stirring and turning as well as sturdy kitchen twine for rotisserie-cooking meats.
You’ll need enough wood to make a respectable bed of coals over which to cook the food. Quick-burning woods like pine and a decent pile of sticks and branches for keeping it burning are good. Once that’s done, it will be time to place the wood for flavoring the foods. Fruit woods are best for this such as apple but many chefs (yes, chefs) use oak and hickory as well. You’ll also need tools with which to rake the coals onto and around the cooking pot or pan such as a small shovel and rake. Make sure if the tools have wooden shafts that they don’t catch fire.
Although there are blacksmiths in the Virginia/DC area that can whip up a cast iron cooking grate, it might be easier to go to a sportsman’s store for cast iron Dutch ovens, legged iron grates, fireplace arms upon which to hang cast iron pots and even legged cooking pots and pans. You can always use bricks and concrete blocks as platforms on which to place the cooking pots and pans, all the while keeping the coals raked up and around the pans. Have plenty of hot holders and towels at hand for handling hot pans as they are turned to evenly cook the foods inside.
Since we told you that you didn’t have to be pioneer woman to cook outdoors, we’ll let you off the hook with the rotisserie skewer. However, if you need to cook meats over the fire, then affix something to the mantel on the fireplace. It should be strong enough to hold some weight. To this affix the kitchen twine and make it long enough to dangle the meat before the fire and coals. Now truss up your meat, fowl or roast so that it is compact. Tie the trussed meat to the twine hanging by the fire. The weight of the meat, fowl or roast will make itself slowly turn by the fire, evenly cooking both outside and inside. When the meat is crisp and brown, you have yourself a fine dinner!
Into the Coals
Instead of putting the kids to oven duty in the house, grab some tin foil, some ears of corn, potatoes, carrots, onions and celery as well as any other veggie you put into your recipes. Dice, slice or leave them whole, but wrap them in tin foil, season them and then place them directly into the hot coals. In no time you will have either ingredients for other dishes or stand-alone veggies to complement your meal. Apples for the pie can be cooked this way as well.
A Word about Cross-Contamination
Nothing looks prettier than a roast bird on a platter surrounded by smoking dishes of aromatic foods. However, nothing is uglier than the emergency room full of people suffering food contamination. When that beautiful bird was placed back on the platter on which its raw self came to the fireplace, then cross-contamination happened. Make very sure dishes on which raw meats were placed are washed thoroughly before placing other foods on them for a happy and healthy holiday season.
For over 30 years, Lawn and Leisure has witnessed some marvelous cooking in the Virginia and D. C. area. Well known for our integrity and customer service, we make very sure our products are serviced regularly for your comfort and convenience. Contact us today for more information on our wares and how we can help you this holiday season.