The (d)evolution of cooking
We might live in the Contemporary Age, but we seem to hold on to some things from the Stone Age for dear life. In a time dominated by advancements in technology and information, we still crave certain traditions that stem back millions of years.
It is estimated that our ancestors discovered the fire about 2 million years ago. Well, at least the ability to start a fire and use it to their advantage. This discovery is still as appreciated today as it was millions of years ago.
Our ancestors continued developing tools, and we still do that today, although they are not necessarily made of rock anymore. We came a long way from rubbing sticks together to create fire to flipping a switch and letting electromagnetic microwaves magically cook our food. But a part of us still yearns for how we did things in the good old days.
What is outdoor cooking?
Unlike our hairy ancestors, we don't need to rub sticks or bang rocks together to start a fire to cook our food. We have developed many different ways to prepare various meals outdoors. From the convenience of our patio to the unexplored wilderness, we have multiple means to prepare our food.
As long as you prepare food outside, regardless of the method and location, it is defined as outdoor cooking. The techniques we use are dictated by the food we want to prepare and the resources at our disposal.
What are the different methods for outdoor cooking?
Barbeque, BBQ, barbie, and braai
If you are from the USA, you are probably wondering what the heck is going on in the title of this section. All the words in the title refer to the same thing. In the United Kingdom, people commonly refer to barbeque as BBQ. In Australia, you would hear people speak of barbie, and in South Africa, barbecue is referred to as a braai.
These words refer to the various cooking methods that use live fire (wood, glass, coal, etc.) and smoke to cook food (meat, vegetables, bread, etc.). In short, they refer to exactly the same thing.
Sometimes, people also use the word grilling interchangeably with barbecuing, but did you know there is a difference?
Barbeque vs. Grilling vs. Roasting
As explained above, barbequing entails various methods of cooking food on a heat source outside. Grilling, however, refers to a specific method of cooking food. Grilling is a fast cooking method that leaves charred brown color to the meat.
Roasting is a slow cooking method. It is the method of cooking food over a more extended period and is best suited for preparing thicker pieces.
Wood vs. Gas
There is a fierce ongoing battle raging between outdoor cooking connoisseurs. Outdoor cooking enthusiasts have firm opinions regarding which is the best source to use to cook food.
In our article, Gas vs. Wood BBQ: The vicious ancient debate amongst men, we discuss this topic in detail. Feel free to click on the link above after reading this article to see which is best and which team you side with.
No, we are not referring to what you want to do after your fourth beer next to the barbeque. Smoking is another method of preparing food by exposing it to smoldering materials such as wood. Many patrons of this method would consider it to be art instead of a method.
Smoking of meats is prevalent in North America and Europe. There are various styles and techniques to get different flavors from meat. To summarise the technicalities in a few short sentenced could be regarded as heresy by some.
To avoid a backlash from smoke-fanatics, we would prefer to discuss it later in a more detailed article. Watch this space for the upcoming article on smoking as means of outdoor cooking.
Also known as ground ovens or cooking pits, these are some of the most primitive forms of cooking food. Evidence of this method dates back millennia, but it is still a trendy method worldwide, especially in the Pacific Region.
The method consists of digging a hole in the ground, making a fire in it, and then covering it up to create an oven effect. This method is used for baking, smoking, or steaming food.
To bake food, the fire is made and left to burn down to a smolder. The food is then placed in the hole and covered up to trap the heat and create the right temperature for baking.
To steam food requires a similar process to the baking method mentioned above. Instead, vegetation is used to cover up the food, releasing moisture that steams the food. Water is also added in small quantities to create more steam in the hole.
For both the dry and wet methods, a layer of soil is added on top to trap the heat. The process could take a couple of hours or even a whole day. Therefore we do not suggest this method if you have to prepare food for your starving crew after a long day of hiking.
Using the sun to cook food might sound like something only possible in the Sahara. Alternatively, some might think this is some ultra-modern, high-tech way of cooking, but it is not. The idea of using the sun for cooking food has been around for millennia.
The idea expanded over the centuries. Since Horace-Bénédict de Saussure developed the first solar oven in 1767, different designs or methods for using the sun's energy have emerged to cook food.
Today, there are solar ovens (also known as box ovens), panel cookers, vacuum tubes, and parabolic solar cookers. These cookers could be used to pan, deep fry, boil, bake, grill, and even pressure cook. This method is becoming more attractive for hikers and campers in areas with fire restrictions, wet areas where dry wood is scarce, or landscapes with very little wood.
Another benefit of solar cookers is the fact that they are 'green'. Smoke and other harmful gasses aren't omitted from these devices like gas, wood, or charcoal.
What do you need for outdoor cooking?
It all depends on the method of cooking that you prefer and the location. If you are only planning to camp out a night in the woods, then maybe all you need to take with you are matches, firestarters, and a knife.
If you are staying for a more extended period, maybe you want to mix things up from time to time. Then you'll need a pot, pan, cooking utensils, and a knife.Whether cooking on your patio or in the middle of Siberia, a reliable knife is essential for every outdoor cooking occasion. Sikkina is extremely popular amongst outdoor cooking experts and indoor chefs alike. Their durability and sharpness make them the perfect companions for outdoor activities.