Icon - Arrow LeftAn icon we use to indicate a rightwards action. Icon - Arrow RightAn icon we use to indicate a leftwards action. Icon - External LinkAn icon we use to indicate a button link is external. Icon - MessageThe icon we use to represent an email action. Icon - Down ChevronUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - CloseUsed to indicate a close action. Icon - Dropdown ArrowUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - Location PinUsed to showcase a location on a map. Icon - Zoom OutUsed to indicate a zoom out action on a map. Icon - Zoom InUsed to indicate a zoom in action on a map. Icon - SearchUsed to indicate a search action. Icon - EmailUsed to indicate an emai action. Icon - FacebookFacebooks brand mark for use in social sharing icons. flipboard Icon - InstagramInstagrams brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - PinterestPinterests brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - TwitterTwitters brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - Check MarkA check mark for checkbox buttons.
You are reading

Cooking with Fire: If You’re Not Grilling Over a Real Fire, What Even Is the Point?

Search

Cooking with Fire: If You’re Not Grilling Over a Real Fire, What Even Is the Point?

August 4, 2023

Editor’s note: Sally Kohn— journalist and CNN political commentator, TED talk giver, and design aficionado—has been chronicling her adventures in remodeling for our sister site Remodelista (e.g., The Case for Unstained Wood Floors from a Stealth Design Nerd). Recently, she shared her DIY wisdom on outdoor lighting here on Gardenista. Today, she sings the joys of cooking with real fire. 

I’m going to start with a potentially controversial assertion: If you’re not grilling over real fire, what even is the point?

I guess I understand gas grills in theory. They’re easy. Turn them on and you’re good to go. But that’s also how your stove works. It does the same thing. I get that the stove makes your kitchen hot, and when you’re having friends over, it’s fun to hang out around the grill. But still . . . you’re not really doing anything dazzling as a host—you’re just holding a spatula.

Photographer and cook Heidi Swanson likes to use a clay donabe and steel pan to cook vegan dishes over an open fire while on the road. Cooking with fire is usually reserved for campsites with firepits, but you can also do it safely at home with the right tools. Photograph by Heidi Swanson, from On the Go in an Airstream: Outdoor Living with Heidi Swanson of \10\1 Cookbooks.
Above: Photographer and cook Heidi Swanson likes to use a clay donabe and steel pan to cook vegan dishes over an open fire while on the road. Cooking with fire is usually reserved for campsites with firepits, but you can also do it safely at home with the right tools. Photograph by Heidi Swanson, from On the Go in an Airstream: Outdoor Living with Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks.

Charcoal bedevils me. It takes forever to light. I’m never sure I lit them correctly. And it’s hard to figure out when I need more, how to heat it up more while I’m actively grilling, etc.  Also charcoal is literally just a stand-in for real fire. So why not use real fire?

I became obsessed with live-fire grilling when I vacationed for a few weeks at a rental home that had a full-fledged outdoor kitchen, including multiple rustic grilling stations.  I quickly bought the book On Fire by the famous fire-based Argentinian chef Francis Mallmann. And my childhood friend Ian Knauer—chef, cookbook author and frequent open fire cook and caterer spent countless hours on Facetime walking me through the basics of banking fire for coals and how to rig up spits or place bricks to raise or lower cooking grates. That was fun, but a little too DIY for every single time I wanted to grill.  So when I moved to the country, literally the first thing I got was a Ñuke Delta Argentinian-style live fire grill. It is, by far, my favorite thing about living in the country.

My beloved Ñuke Delta. Tiled concrete pavers provide a flat surface on which to sit the grill.
Above: My beloved Ñuke Delta. Tiled concrete pavers provide a flat surface on which to sit the grill.

This puppy has everything.  It’s an Argentine-style grill, meaning it’s meant to use with live fire and has a grill rack that you can raise up or down to adjust the cooking temperature. There’s a firebox on the side where you build and continue to feed your fire throughout cooking; the coals fall through slots in the basket and you can then move them over to under the grill rack. There’s even a warming drawer. It’s quite the marvel.  

Yes, you can use the Ñuke Delta with charcoal—but again, why? Yes, burning wood is bad for the planet, but I’m not cooking that often.  nd as the daughter of a fire protection engineer, I’m very careful about creating any house fire or wildfire risks. I won’t grill if the conditions are too dry or windy, I have a garden hose nearby, and my grill is placed away from the house and away from low trees and shrubs. I even created a little platform on some cement pavers onto which I mortared and grouted some cement tiles from Lili Tiles. The effect, if I do say so myself, is a little grilling oasis—and, more important, a level grilling surface. I probably will expand the footprint of the pavers/tiles and maybe add more of a prep station setup down the road. (Let me know if you have ideas!)

I like to use a carbon steel grill pan to cook veggies or fish over fire.
Above: I like to use a carbon steel grill pan to cook veggies or fish over fire.

You can just grill straight-up on the Ñuke Delta’s grates; I do that a lot, especially with steaks. For more delicate endeavors—think fish or vegetables—I use Made In’s carbon steel grill pan a ton, which makes it easy to stir-fry or sauté anything right over the firebox. I also have Made In’s half grill griddle, which is great if I want, for instance, the fire to lick the burgers I’m grilling but not the vegetables. And incidentally, if you are intrigued by fire cooking but can’t make the full Argentine grill plunge, Made In has a very cool rack system so you can build a fire under it and make your own live-fire cooking set up, at home or on the road.

Lest I forget to say, food tastes better when it’s cooked over real fire. Plus, I look like a total rock star when we entertain; the fire keeps away the mosquitos; and I’ve realized that when the food is all cooked but I still have a log or two burning, I can carry it over (wearing my fireproof gloves and using tongs, of course) to my Solo Stove and instantly get a fire going in there for everyone to hang out around during or after dinner.  

The Pi Fire pizza oven attachment sitting pretty atop my Solo Stove.
Above: The Pi Fire pizza oven attachment sitting pretty atop my Solo Stove.

And are you ready for this? I recently discovered that there’s a pizza oven attachment that can rest above the giant Yukon Solo Stove, which is what I have: The Pi Fire sits on top of the Solo Stove so you can make pizza. Solo makes a free-standing pizza oven that looks great, too, but I love the versatility of the Pi Fire. It’s so smart and seamless, and again, pizza cooked in, over, or around fire just tastes better. Don’t take my word for it. Try it yourself! Fire. Is. Better.

See also:

(Visited 4,321 times, 1 visits today)
You need to login or register to view and manage your bookmarks.

Frequently asked questions

What is the Solo Stove Nuke Delta Grill?

The Solo Stove Nuke Delta Grill is a cooking fire pit and grill designed for outdoor use. It is compact, portable, and uses wood as fuel to create a smokeless fire.

How does the Solo Stove Nuke Delta Grill work?

The Solo Stove Nuke Delta Grill uses a unique airflow system to create a more efficient burn. It has double-wall construction and features vent holes that draw in air from the bottom, creating a hot and clean-burning fire.

Can I use charcoal or propane with the Solo Stove Nuke Delta Grill?

No, the Solo Stove Nuke Delta Grill is designed to be used with wood as fuel. It is not compatible with charcoal or propane. It utilizes a patented design to optimize the use of wood and create a smokeless fire.

Is the Solo Stove Nuke Delta Grill easy to clean?

Yes, the Solo Stove Nuke Delta Grill is designed to be easy to clean. The ash and debris can be easily removed from the burn chamber, and the stainless steel construction makes it resistant to staining and rust.

Can I adjust the heat on the Solo Stove Nuke Delta Grill?

Yes, you can adjust the heat on the Solo Stove Nuke Delta Grill by adding or removing wood from the burn chamber. By controlling the amount of fuel, you can increase or decrease the intensity of the fire.

Is the Solo Stove Nuke Delta Grill safe to use in parks or campsites?

Before using the Solo Stove Nuke Delta Grill in parks or campsites, it is essential to check the local regulations. Some areas may have restrictions on open fires, and you may need to obtain a permit or use designated fire pits.

Can I use the Solo Stove Nuke Delta Grill indoors?

No, it is not recommended to use the Solo Stove Nuke Delta Grill indoors. It is designed for outdoor use only due to the potential for carbon monoxide buildup and the risk of fire hazards.

Can I purchase additional accessories for the Solo Stove Nuke Delta Grill?

Yes, Solo Stove offers additional accessories for the Nuke Delta Grill, such as a stand, grill grates, carrying case, and windscreen. These accessories can enhance your cooking experience and make it more convenient to transport.

What is the cooking capacity of the Solo Stove Nuke Delta Grill?

The Solo Stove Nuke Delta Grill has a cooking area of approximately 13.75 inches in diameter, which is suitable for cooking meals for 2-4 people.

How long does it take for the Solo Stove Nuke Delta Grill to cool down after use?

The Solo Stove Nuke Delta Grill will cool down relatively quickly after use. It is recommended to allow it to cool for at least 30 minutes before handling or storing.

Product summary  

Have a Question or Comment About This Post?

Join the conversation

v5.0