Cooking Over Fire: Master the Art of Choosing Wood

Just because it will be winter soon doesn’t mean our grilling days are over. For most barbie enthusiasts, the drop in temperature signals the start of the classic BBQ experience: cooking over fire.

There’s nothing quite like the warmth and comfort an open flame brings, but mastering this art requires nailing the basics first – including choosing the right kind of fuel for your cook. To help get you started, here’s our foolproof guide to choosing the best firewood for your next barbecue.

What Fuel Should I Use When Cooking Over Fire?

You might think typical servo firewood sold in bulk will cut it, but high quality wood is actually key to successful campfire cooking. Because it will infuse special and smoky flavours into your cook, they are great to use depending on your recipe. Here are some options:

    • Oak: Many prefer this as it has a neutral flavour that will not overpower the taste of your food. It burns hot and can last a long time, which makes it preferable for slow cooking, roasting and smoking.
    • Hardwood: Hardwoods like birch, hickory and maple are ideal for cooking over fire. They are dense and slow burning, so you can expect consistent heat throughout while avoiding hot spots that can burn your food.
    • Fruitwood: Fruitwoods like apples and cherries impart fruity and sweet smoke to your cooks. 
    • Hickory: Like apples and cherries, hickory provides complex and sweet flavours to your food. They are ideal for rich tasting protein and side veggies.
    • Mesquite: This type of wood imparts a very strong and intense spicy smoke flavour to your protein. It is best paired with game meats, beef, and poultry.

Selecting wood to heat in a firepit or stove is very different from selecting wood for cooking. Servo firewood will indeed keep you warm, but because it is usually left outside in stacks, it is impacted by weather elements and is not seasoned or dried out. This means it can’t truly be safe for cooking. 

If you’re looking for versatile firewood that can be used in most applications, the Firebrand Vintage QLD Ironbark is your top choice. It is ethically sourced and organically seasoned in its natural habitat before being stored, so you can be assured that it is dried properly and retains its dense quality for a cleaner and longer burn. With sustainable firewood, there’s also no need to worry about strange odours or nasty chemicals going into your food.

Types of Wood to Avoid for Cooking

Not all firewood is created equally. Some types, like softwoods and treated or stained wood, should not be used for cooking.

Softwoods, which are rich in resin, can produce thick black smoke and lots of sparks that can become a fire hazard. They can also impart strange, bitter, and unpleasant flavours to your cook. Types of softwoods include pine, fir, and spruce. To identify softwoods, look for needle shaped leaves and trees that do not bear fruit or nuts. These also stay green year round.

Treated or stained woods should also be avoided for cooking as they contain chemicals that prevent decomposition and termite infestations. These are mainly used for construction and can be toxic when burnt. 

How to Cook Over Fire

For a smooth, barbecue experience, the Firebrand Vintage QLD Ironbark is conveniently double split, so you won’t have to worry about chopping each piece to the right size to fit your grill. It can be used for various outdoor cooking units, including smokers (except pellet smokers), wood fired pizza ovens and firepit units with grill and rotisserie attachments. It can also be mixed with charcoal in open grilling applications to provide an extra smoky profile to your food.

To get started, first focus on building your fire. A small, hot fire – not huge flames – is best for cooking. Be patient and wait for the wood to burn down to embers to get a strong, consistent heat. Then, add logs as needed, especially when you want to maintain the heat of your fire.

Firebrand’s vintage Ironbark provides an authentic yet robust smoke profile, which means you’ll get that true smokehouse aroma that pairs well with any protein or veggie. If you’re using an offset smoker, you can use it to impart delicious flavours to your meat during low ‘n’ slow smoking sessions. Think of it as a do it all wood – cook everything from fish, poultry, meat, burgers and more!

You can also mix the Ironbark with Firebrand Briquette Charcoal to get a consistent high heat from the briquettes and a smokey flavour profile from the wood. If you’re mostly using charcoal for grilling, you can pick out a smaller split piece and use it in your kettle when smoking meat or lay it flat on the base of your charcoal grill (next to the charcoal) to draw out those juicy, mouthwatering flavours and aroma.

Cooking over fire and using firewood may seem challenging and intimidating in the beginning, but it provides an exciting culinary experience that is different to charcoal grilling. Nothing compares to perfecting your pairings of the right wood with your chosen protein and discovering the complex flavours it imparts to your cook.

For the most memorable barbecue, check out our Firebrand Vintage QLD Ironbark Bulk Deals so that you can cook up a feast throughout winter. Choose only the best Ironbark cooking wood, the highest restaurant grade quality wood on the market and the fuel choice of chefs and cooks around Australia.

Want to learn how to light charcoal for your barble like a pro? Read out our guide here. Check out our blog or sign up for our newsletter for more BBQ guides!