I enjoy experimenting with different types of camp and cooking fires. When I make a bonfire in the garden after it has destroyed my garden rubbish that isn’t compostable, I will often use it to cook or host a gathering or small party around the fire.
So I want to use this blog article on bonfires to host a record of different styles of campfire made for different purposes.
1. Starburst Fire
I have seen this used by South American tribes. It makes feeding the fire extremely organized and easy as you just feed-in the logs from the outside. You can vary the flame and light by using different log types and pushing them in closer to the centre of the fire. It is also very easy to balance a cooking pot of some kind in the middle of the fire although its best to introduce a couple more bits of wood to levitate the pot up and allow for good airflow. From my wood in Cornwall, mature gorse wood on this type of fire gives a really good light and mixed with oak branches emits a good heat too.
2. Swedish Log Fire
I found this idea on the internet and wanted to try it out. The example I saw used a chainsaw to cut down into a log and then start a cooking fire in the sawn spaces. I don’t use a chainsaw and handsaw all my firewood. It also looked very difficult to start a cooking fire in such a confined space. So I split a log into 4 pieces and snuggled it down onto an existing fire bed, nailing a couple of bits of random wood and a griddle across the top to supply airflow and stop the pieces falling over.
A bit of feeding into the gaps and the fire took hold pretty easily, boiling a kettle of water very quickly, lasting for a considerable time afterwards. This is a neat solution to cooking on a campfire but works best on an established, eg, ‘hot’ fire pit.
3. Rocket Stove
This is such a simple structure and if I need hot water outside I will use it to heat up a gallon or so quite quickly just using found bits of wood. We hardly ever use the water heater in our house, preferring to boil and save water in thermoses from the wood stove, so this is a useful addition. It is also a great way to cook organic, short-grain rice as the fire seems to make it taste even nicer. I have published full instructions on how to make a rocket stove here:
4. Cooking in ashes
I often cook in the garden after having a bonfire. It seems mad to not use the free energy being released. Everybody knows about cooking baked potatoes in a bit of foil but just yesterday I made a surprise discovery. I had planned making baked potatoes outside and scheduled my fire to be hot ashes at about 4pm in the afternoon to allow 2 hours baking time. Now I had a crap potato harvest this year, but there were a few bakable ones – but all of the aluminium foil had gone. Its not really worth doing them without it since they burn. What I did notice in the kitchen was a few dog food tins that I had washed out, ready for recycling. I dropped potatoes into 4 of them, topped them off with some sawdust and poured some water over them to damp the sawdust down. I buried them in the ashes. 2 hours later I had the most delicious baked potatoes. This is a technique I hope to experiment with more.
5. Barbecue cooking
This technique uses a barbecue or an old oven shelf or the like over a fire, which burns down to embers providing the heat. It doesn’t need much wood or charcoal and is easily purpose-made depending on the size of meal. The flat shelf allows the use of pans or you can cook many things straight over the fire. One of my favourite uses for this type of fire is cooking fresh Mackerel, the ones in the picture had hardly been out of the sea for an hour by the time I got them cooking over a barbecue on a bed of fresh fennel. They are indescribably delicious cooked like this – much more like river trout because the fennel seems to leech the oily flavours out.
To be continued…