Cooking Over Fire May Be The Best Move Your Restaurant
Chefs love experimenting with new ingredients and cooking techniques. Lately, however, they have been using a cooking technique that is as old as time itself – cooking over fire – especially with kiln dried firewood.
Wood fire cooking is appealing to chefs because it allows them to have a better connection to the ingredients and dishes they are preparing. Cooking over fire gives chefs more control over the ingredients and allows them to cook simple food with more flavor. Chefs are revisiting their ancestral roots to remaster this cooking style and making it feel fresh again. Chefs can incorporate smoke into their dishes or play with the flavor by choosing whole logs over a glowing coal ember, adding aromatic flavors using herbs, grape vines and hay, or by cooking different ingredients over different types of wood.
Unlike traditional grills, chefs are using custom-built grills in their kitchens that can be anywhere from 3 feet to 20 feet long. These grills feature multiple cooking surfaces, racks, shelves and hanging rods for smoking vegetables and meats, and grates to cook directly over the flames or coals.
Ben Eisendrath, the owner of Grillworks, a manufacturer of high-end, hand-built stainless steel grills has become a favorite among chefs. He has worked with many clients, including multiple restaurants in New York City as well as across the country.
Chef Sean Brock of Husk Nashville in Nashville, Tennessee worked with the Grillworks team to create the hearth for his restaurant. He directed the design of the hearth specifically with how to prepare vegetables in mind. Though most people associate grilling with meats, Brock loves what the open flame does to vegetables.
“We have two grills that are adjustable to different heights, allowing us to temper proteins and slow cook vegetables,” Brock says. “It gives foods like cabbage and mushrooms an incredible depth of flavor.”
Though cooking over a fire may be appealing to a lot of chefs, mastering the technique isn’t easy, and cooking schools aren’t adding it to their curriculums. Chefs have to learn to control the heat and work with varying temperatures of heat while grilling. Variables also include the humidity, time of year and the moisture level of the wood – all which can affect the way the dish cooks and tastes.
Brock admits, “It’s surprisingly easy once you get over the initial nervousness. It’s one of the most primal forms of cooking. If a caveman can do it, you can do it.”
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