That steak right off of a wood-burning fire. There’s nothing else quite like it, with all that flavor from the flame, smoke and coals. Whether you’re camping for the weekend or want an out-of-the-ordinary way to use your backyard fire pit, get ready to end a cool fall evening with a juicy, fire-cooked, 100% grass-fed steak.
Here’s our primer on how to do it:
Collect the following items:
- A grill rack or camping grill plate
- A cast-iron skillet (optional)
- Tongs with long handles
- A meat thermometer
- Sturdy work gloves to protect your hands
- Fire stoker
Steak and Seasoning
While you can certainly choose your favorite cut of grass-fed steak to throw on the fire, we recommend ribeye. The rich fat from this marbled cut takes in the natural aroma of the hardwood fire and is also more forgiving when you’re cooking over a sometimes inconsistent heat source.
Season your beef with salt and pepper. And then leave it to rest and come to room temperature while you build your fire.
Hardwood All the Way
The wood you choose for your fire affects the flavor of the steak, so think about that beforehand. Hardwood — including mesquite, oak, and maple — are all great options for flavor and fiery coals.
Cooking over an open fire is a lot different than typical grilling. The key is to grill your steak over white-hot coals. That allows for more even cooking and makes it much less likely that you’ll burn your beef. Another good rule of thumb is creating a bed of coals that is around two inches deep.
You also want to keep a small fire that’s active close to where you’re grilling, so you can move coals in or out to adjust the temperature.
Setting Up for Cooking
If your grill rack has legs, set it up over your fire. If you have a grill rack without legs, make sure to set it up in a way that keeps in level, on some rocks. If you don’t have a grill rack, you can use two large skewers to hold the steak in the fire, and you’ll ideally want a nice flat stone where you can rest the steak while it’s cooking.
A cast-iron skillet is a nice addition to your fire cooking experience. Cast iron makes it easier to ensure an even pan-sear.
Whatever you use to hold the steak, place it so that you can feel the heat of the fire with your hand (without your protective gloves on!). While you’re cooking, with or without a skillet, you’ll definitely need your gloves on to protect your hands.
When you’re grilling on a hot fire, sear the steak on one side until it has a golden brown sear. Then flip it to sear on the other side. We suggest trying 3-4 minutes per side for medium-rare.
When you’re cooking over a wood fire, be sure to use a meat thermometer. The cooking time is variable due to the fire, the wood, and the size of your steak. So a thermometer can really help you know when it’s done to your liking.
If you usually test for doneness by the way the steak feels, you’ll need to adjust a bit because steak cooked over an open flame is firmer to the touch.
Keep close watch of the fire while you’re cooking. If there is a flare from the fat dripping down to the hot coals, move your steaks to another area of the grill until the flames get back under control. That way you won’t char your steak too much.
Also, if one half of the steak is cooking and the other half isn’t, be ready to adjust the grill grate or move the steak for even doneness.
Rest and Eat
When the steak is at your desired temperature, take it off the fire. Let it rest for 5-7 minutes. Slice and serve!