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The Holy Grail of Fire Starters
Posted by Sven on 02/24/2017 (238 reads)

 Boy Scouts Solid Fuel Egg Carton Sawdust Fire StarterYou've probably seen a homemade fire starter or two in your day, but the Holy Grail of portable starters may originate with the Boy Scouts themselves.

Scouts are not actually allowed to carry things like butane cylinders or lighter fluid. Any fire starting aid in their possession needs to be dry, such as a flint striker or a magnesium rod. Back in 1982, instructions were published for a "Solid-Fuel Fire Starter" in The Official Boy Scout Handbook. The starter is simply a combination of melted paraffin mixed with sawdust in the compartments of a paper egg carton. Genius.

Click on the illustration (from the original handbook) and follow the instructions. When your paraffin is cool, store the carton in a relatively dry place and break off one section at a time. Place it beneath some dry wood (twigs, kindling or whatever you get your fire going with) and light the carton section. In a few minutes you'll have roaring fire, with no messy paper and no blowing incessantly at barely lit twigs.


Source: The Official Boy Scout Handbook, BSA, 1982. Tracked down based on the tales of its discovery and many years of handy presents from brother Bjorn.

   
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Controlling the Temperature of Wood
Posted by Sven on 07/08/2008 (1982 reads)

 Cooking with WoodCooking with wood is wonderful. You 'll discover that you can add flavor to your meal just by choosing a different wood as fuel. But it 's not as easy as it looks. Here are some key things to remember about using wood as your fuel versus charcoal or gas:

Cook Indirectly to Avoid Casualties

Cooking indirectly is an effective way to cook meat all the way through while still maintaining its tenderness and not causing the fire to flare-up. When you first start cooking with wood, you really need to cook most meats this way simply because a wood fire can get away from you if you don 't have a lot of experience. Remember, meat drips fat on the fire. Fat is concentrated fuel. It creates flavor, but it also generates large flames. Steaks are great with a good grill mark, but I 've never had black and crusty steak that I enjoyed.

Gas is easy to control. If the fire gets too hot, you simply turn down your burners. Charcoal works quite well when an even bed of coals is spread across the ash pan. When using wood, however, you need to place your heat source in a side fire-box or off to the side of the grill (see the GOTW section) so that you can move meat away from the fire when it gets too hot. Wood flares up like charcoal, but not just from grease dripping on the fire. It 's just the nature of how wood burns. You CAN of course create a nice bed of wood coals, but that 's another article.

Controlling the Temperature of the Grill


Your grill WILL get too hot at times. A good gas grill gets up to about 600 degrees Fahrenheit; and most gas grills can 't even come close to this. ANY grill burning wood or charcoal can get up to 700 degrees quickly, and you won 't necessarily have to try to make this happen. I 've seen the steel on my smoker turn blue from being so hot. Lower the temperature by opening the grill to let internal heat escape, and then close it and close the dampers a little to lower the flow of air to the fire.

While the temperature of wood can get too high very rapidly, it can also do just the opposite. Have more wood at the ready to raise the temperature of the grill. Wood burns at relatively the same temperature as lump charcoal (look for an article about lump and briquette charcoal soon). The problem is that once wood reaches its optimum temperature it won 't stay there as long as charcoal (yes, there is actual COAL in charcoal). You 'll need to feed the fire without flare-ups burning your food.

Searing to Lock in the Juices

If you 're cooking a steak, chop, burger or some other fairly flat piece of carnage, sear it on both sides and then move the item off to the side of the grill and start the SLOW cooking process! Yes, I know. You 've been told not flip your meat too much, but trust me on this. Generally the more fatty a cut or chop is, the more tender it will be when cooked, but at the same time you can make a low fat cut like sirloin very tender by locking in the moisture and cooking it slowly!

   
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Lighting a Wood Fire
Posted by Sven on 06/24/2008 (1859 reads)
Cooking with Wood

When cooking with wood, one of the biggest obstacles you'll face is actually getting the fire going. Most novices will immediately turn to good ol' American lighter fluid. That's great if you're using charcoal and you actually know how to use the fluid, but most people don't and wood is much less forgiving than charcoal. Not to mention the fact that lighter fluid can make you quite ill if you begin cooking before the fluid has completely burned off.

One of the best ways to get a wood fire going quickly without any hazardous chemicals is to use paraffin. That's the base in everyday candles for you laymen. You can pick it up at any craft or hobby store.

Start by placing strips of paper or cardboard in the ash pan of the grill. Brown paper and non-corrugated cardboard work best because they burn cleaner without a lot of floating scraps and embers. Use a sharp knife to shave off chunks of paraffin and place them near the outside perimeter of your paper.

Next take some small pieces of wood like dried twigs or smaller branches from your wood source and place them on top of the paper, stacking it very loosely.

Light the paper near the paraffin in several places. In a few minutes your wood will be lit and you can place larger pieces on top of the fire. Remember to stack the wood so as to allow good airflow or you'll have just wasted a lot of time.

When the paper is burned off and the wood is blackened and producing a steady flame you'll be good to go!

   
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Choosing a Wood
Posted by Sven on 06/22/2008 (1397 reads)

Cooking on wood is not difficult, but it does take some common sense and a lot of patience. Here are some key things to keep in mind when choosing a wood.

The most important thing to remember, is not to cook on wood that has a high sap content like pine, spruce or cedar-evergreens. These kinds of wood also contain high levels of tannin, which is used primarily in curing animal hides. Cooking with these woods leave soot on the food and also can create hazardous smoke. Oak and maple also contain significant levels of sap and tannin, but when seasoned for 6 to 12 months they can generally be used with great results.

Hands down, the most desirable woods are fruit and nut tree woods. Hickory, pecan, cherry and apple work burn clean, produce an incredible flavor and can be used for smoking and grilling. One thing to remember is that fruit woods burn quickly, so blending with another hardwood like oak will create a nice flavor and prevent you from having to add wood or stoke the fire quite as often.

Happy grilling!

   
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