The art of cooking with fire, and why it’s easier than ever to do it at home - Lifestyle NZ
The art of cooking with fire, and why it’s easier than ever to do it at home

The art of cooking with fire, and why it’s easier than ever to do it at home

Relatively unchanged for centuries, the Kamado BBQ is an ancient, Asian-style grill with thick ceramic walls that imparts rich, smoky flavour to meats, fish, and vegetables; and this is what the Kamado Joe grill excels at from restaurant to backyard

Words by ArchiPro Editorial Team

Between 500,000 and one million years ago, our human ancestors, the Homo erectus, learned to tame fire. This in itself was a giant leap forward in anthropological history, but the ways in which the early human utilised fire was much more important — chiefly, the practice of placing food over open flames. This marked the invention of cooking.

Cooking with fire became widespread among humans around 250,000 years ago, when hearths began to appear in shelters. In the hundreds of thousands of years since, we as Homo sapiens have cooked over fire throughout our history.

And while hundreds of different methods of cooking have emerged during the last thousand years — especially from the beginning of the industrial revolution — this ancient, primitive means of cooking has endured, and is still practised the world over in the 21st century.

Today, there are several methods of cooking with fire: over an open spitfire, directly on hot embers, smoking. But the most common and widespread method is direct grilling with charcoal.

As the head chef of one of Auckland’s most recognisable fine dining restaurants, the Grove, Ryan Moore is familiar with this form of cooking. Using the Kamado Joe ceramic grill, Ryan and his team use the charcoal grill as a utensil to bring different elements and flavours into their restaurant’s tasting menu.

“If you’re in love with food, it’s definitely worth the extra effort,” Ryan says of cooking with fire instead of using conventional methods. Besides being a different way of cooking, using the Kamado Joe also brings out completely new flavour profiles that many diners aren’t used to.

“If you’re cooking a piece of meat, it brings together the sugars and the amino acids to create an amazing caramelisation,” says Ryan. “It also traps in the flavour of the wood as well, which you obviously can’t get from your standard oven or frying pan.”

Ryan uses the Kamado Joe to cook some of his choicest cuts of meat.

Not just for the experts

It’s not just the commercial kitchen that Ryan uses the charcoal grill — it’s also great for use in the home. Distributed by Aber Living, the Kamado Joe comes in many different sizes and applications: some are suited to the demands of a high-pace restaurant kitchen, some to the home cook.

“I cook a lot with it at home too,” says Ryan. “It’s ready to go in about 20 minutes.”

He says he uses the Kamado Joe to cook some of his choicest cuts of meat.

“Last week, I cooked a picanha steak for my partner, with a nice bit of wagyu. I started off by smoking it first, then took the barbecue temperature to about 110°C until the meat was at an internal temperature of 48°C.

“Then I removed all the plates from the inside, and then flashed cooked it on the fire, really hard and fast, to create this amazing crust on the outside — and it ended up beautifully cooked.”

In his commercial kitchen at the Grove, the Kamado Joe charcoal grill is a key tool in the cooking of a potato dish. Once the potatoes are marinated in oils, herbs and garlic, and have finished their first phase of cooking using the sous vide method, they are finished on barbecue’s embers — giving them a meaty flavour and a unique crisp.

“This cooking on the embers can help take a bog standard potato and elevate it to the next level,” says Ryan. “It completely changes people’s perception of how much flavour you can pack into something so small and well-known as a potato.”

Cooking methods evolved throughout the centuries, and once conventional cooking (using ovens, pots and pans) became widespread, cooking with fire as a method took a backseat role.

The Kamado Joe is a great choice for anyone interested in exploring cooking with fire.

Celebrating local produce

But Ryan says he’s seeing a resurgence, as different sub-methods for flame cooking have emerged in the past decades — many of them chiefly marked by their celebration of local ingredients.

“I recently did a pop-up restaurant up in Northland, and we bought an entire cow from a local farm with the intention to use all the different cuts of animal — and we cooked it primarily in a wood-fired oven,” says Ryan. “We cooked the beef over that fire, finished it with rosemary and garlic from a local garden, and then we cooked some bread in the oven too.

“Then we used the juice from the beef, the garlic and rosemary and beef-fat infused juices to rub over the bread, and it was like nothing else,” he says. “It’s next level flavour that you get from cooking over fire — and you don’t get that from conventional methods.”

The Kamado Joe is a great choice for anyone interested in exploring cooking with fire, Ryan says. The ceramic grill’s versatility, its vast number of choices in size and application, and its ease of use are what makes it stand out. Even beginners can get the hang of it easily, he says.

“As long as you know the basics of starting a fire, the rest is easy,” says Ryan. “It's kind of foolproof, which is really good.

“And it means you can get restaurant-quality dishes at home really easily.”

Learn more about Aber Living’s offering of Kamado Joe products.

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