As we begin to publish recipes, we thought it might be a good idea to outline some notes on cooking over wood fire, like we do at Eden, vs cooking over a gas fire as most people do at home. Most, if not all, of the recipes we plan to share are suitable for either method, but there are some important distinctions and definitions that are worth pointing out before we proceed.
"Cooking over a wood fire is like going on a first date. It is something that you look for to with great anticipation and a little anxiety. You can never know exactly what the conditions will be". -Francis Mallmann.
Those words are true whether you are cooking in a well regulated, controlled environment like we have at Eden, or just outdoors with friends and family. It is important to realize that your heat source is ever changing. To cook well over a wood fire it is important to understand and anticipate how a fire changes and reacts to the way you care for it. We will go into far greater detail in later posts about the specifics regarding this.
A gas range and oven offer a much more consistent source to cook with. Having a dial to be able to control the heat of your cooking surface is a powerful tool that is a fairly recent development in human history. A gas oven, too, has the wonderful ability to hold a temperature within a few degrees for long periods of time without needing to adjust or manipulate its heat source.
All of these wonderful advancements in the technology of cooking equipment have made sharing recipes incredibly easy. Instructions like "bake at 350 degrees fahrenheit for 10 minutes", provide very straight forward instruction that leave little room for error.
The place where these directions lack, however, is on the stove top. Many recipes call for turning your burner to medium high heat, but what does that actually mean? Burners on ranges vary, as do the amount of heat they put out. Medium high on the commercial ranges most professional chefs have access to is much different than medium high on your stove at home. Wood fires, too, change with time, and those differences are something that make many home cooks unsure when they are first starting out.
To help give you more confidence in cooking some of the recipes we love, and hopefully create some great recipes of your own, we are going to provide a basic definition of how hot a flame should be, and what varying levels of heat mean to us. They are not a gold standard, and like everything else about cooking, a lot of it is about "feel", but we thought this would be a useful tool for you to gauge the most important part of actually cooking something, heat.
Whether cooking over a wood fire, or a gas range we will define heat by this scale. Hold your hand over the heat source about the same distance as what you are about to cook will be from it. How many seconds you can hold it there before you have to pull it away will determine how hot it is for our purposes.
2 Seconds. - High Heat
3-4 Seconds - Medium High Heat
5-6 Seconds - Meduim Heat
7-8 Seconds - Low Heat
We hope this gives you a little more confidence if you are a home cook to maybe try to cook something over a wood fire in your back yard, or maybe just a better understanding of how hot medium high really is. Either way, it is something to keep in mind next time you are making dinner.