For thousands of years, humans have been using wood fires to cook their food. It’s a tradition that has persisted through time and across cultures, and for good reason. Cooking with wood fires isn’t just a matter of convenience; it’s an essential part of the human experience.
You might be wondering why I’m bringing this up today. No? Oh…well, I’m going to tell you anyway. A few years ago, we bought a smoker. At first, it was probably nothing more than an impulse purchase to get us through COVID – a fun little project that we would probably get bored of eventually. The key component of the smoker is that it uses wood pellets, and we can adjust the temperature for either smoking or grilling. Truth be told, we haven’t touched the propane grill since, and we use our smoker at least three times a week, on average. We also love cooking using fire pits when camping; there’s nothing quite like it. I really believe we were always meant to cook with wood fires.
Cooking with wood fires connects us to our past. For most of human history, cooking over an open flame was the norm. Our ancestors cooked their food over wood fires, and that tradition has been passed down through the generations. When we cook with wood and flame, we’re participating in a timeless ritual that connects us to our ancestors, and to our shared human history. The hands-on approach – the smells, the light, the skill. The gentle pops and crackles as the flames dance back and forth across each piece of wood. As a history student myself, I can’t help but feel that it brings us closer to those that came before us. Our past – our family. Maybe I’m a bit of a romantic when it comes to cooking, but there’s a far greater benefit than just that.
If you’re looking for a more natural and sustainable way of cooking, wood fires are the way to go. Unlike gas or electric stoves, wood fires don’t rely on non-renewable resources. Wood is a renewable resource, and if harvested sustainably, it can be used for cooking without harming the environment. Also, cooking with wood fires produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions than other cooking methods, making it a more eco-friendly option. The smoker I referred to earlier uses electricity as well, which makes this a little more complicated. However, as I’ve mentioned before, I also like cooking over a simple open fire. There’s nothing quite like slowly cooking something over a fire while you sip on a beer surrounded by nature. It doesn’t always have to be complicated to be good.
Cooking with wood fires also adds flavour to food that can’t be replicated by other cooking methods. The smoky, earthy flavour that comes from cooking over a wood fire is one of the reasons why barbecue and other grilled foods are so popular. Wood-fired ovens are also prized for the unique flavour they impart to bread, pizza, and other baked goods.
Beyond the taste, cooking with wood fires requires more attention and skill than other cooking methods. When cooking over an open flame, you need to be constantly aware of the heat, the fuel, and the food you’re cooking. This requires a level of engagement and focus that’s often lacking when cooking with gas or electricity. Cooking with wood fires is a more immersive experience that requires you to be present and engaged in the cooking process.
Of course, cooking with wood fires isn’t always practical or feasible. It can be time-consuming and messy, and it’s not always possible to have a fire pit or wood-fired oven. I won’t sit here and tell you to throw out your oven or propane grill. That’s pretty unrealistic. But when the opportunity arises, cooking with wood fires is an experience that is well worth the effort. It connects us to our past, environment, and food in a way that no other cooking method can replicate.