Master Live-Fire Cooking: Your A-Z Guide

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When enjoying your outdoor kitchen, there’s nothing quite like the aroma of a meal cooked over a wood fire (ask any Pitmaster or Pizzaiolo).



It can sometimes seem overwhelming if you’re new to cooking with fire. But don’t worry—the Engel Master is easy to master! It’s so simple that you will never go back to gas grilling.



Today, we’ve covered everything you need to know about charcoal & wood-fired cooking from A to Z. With this knowledge, you can create delicious and unique meals that will impress your guests. So, let’s dive in.




Airflow is crucial for starting and maintaining a fire. Begin by building your fire with the flue fully open (handle positioned horizontally) and leaving the bi-fold doors open. This will allow your fire to get all the oxygen it needs. Remember, the more oxygen, the bigger the fire.



Building the Fire

Start with small pieces of dry kindling and gradually add larger pieces. Slowly add more fuel; you don’t want to smother your flames. To cook with charcoal, you can put your chimney inside the fire basket and light it up.



Cooking with Cast Iron

The Engel Master grill grate is perfect for cast iron cooking, as it has ample space and is height-adjustable. You can sear, bake, and simmer directly or indirectly on the pizza stone bottom. Don’t forget to season your skillet once per month.



Dialing in the Heat

The key to successful live-fire cooking is mastering heat control. Properly adjusting your flue, grill height, and fire basket position can help you achieve the perfect cooking temperature. Due to the size of the Engel Master, you can easily create hot and cold grilling zones.



Embers for Searing

Allow the fire to burn until you have a bed of glowing embers that deliver intense heat. These embers give you a perfectly caramelized crust on steaks, fish, or vegetables.



Food Safety

Always ensure the safety of your food by using a reliable meat thermometer to ensure that your grilled meats reach the proper internal temperature.




Grilling a steak or rib eye on high direct heat from your embers adds a lovely flavor. Be sure to rest your meat afterward. You can heat it quickly just before serving.



Hot Spots and Avoiding Them

When starting your fire, have a cold and hot spot by dividing your embers. This will allow you to move your meat around when possible flare-ups happen.



Indirect Heat

Utilize indirect heat for low and slow cooking. Arrange coals on one side of the firebox, placing your food on the opposite side for gentle heat and smoke. The flue and doors allow you to control the amount of smoke you want.



Judging Doneness by Touch

Practice the “finger test” to judge the doneness of meats. As muscles tighten during cooking, the meat becomes firmer to the touch. Learn more about this technique here.



Keeping Food Moist

Low and slow cooking can dry out food. Occasionally spritz your food with a spray bottle filled with water or your favorite broth to add moisture.



Long and Slow Smoking

Low temperatures and wood smoke infuse the meat with incredible flavor and tenderness, but good things require time. Use small chunks of wood to keep the temperature steady at around 225–275°F. Your built-in thermometer will guide you. 



Maintaining the Fire

Live-fire cooking requires some hands-on attention. Make your fire/charcoal on one side of the fire basket and move embers across to the cooking zone as needed.



Natural Firelighters

Skip the chemical-laden lighter fluid. Use natural firelighters like rolled-up paper towels with vegetable oil or commercially available eco-friendly options for a safe and sustainable fire start. 



One-Pot Wonders

The Engel Master’s versatility shines with one-pot meals. Dutch ovens and cast iron pots are perfect for creating hearty stews, soups, and chilis over an open fire.



Patience is Key

Low and slow cooking requires patience. Embrace the relaxed pace and enjoy creating delicious dishes with live fire. You will never look back!



Quick Searing

Use direct heat over a bed of glowing embers or live fire for quick searing. Sear steaks, fish, or vegetables for a flavorful crust while keeping the interior juicy.



Reverse Sear

Reverse searing is an excellent technique for thick cuts of meat. First, slow cook the meat indirectly to achieve perfect internal temperature, then finish with a quick sear for a beautiful crust.



Selecting the Right Wood

Wood selection plays a vital role in live-fire cooking. Different woods impart unique smoke flavors. Experiment with fruitwood for a sweet touch or hickory for a bolder flavor. And remember, you can always go right with oak.



Tenting with Aluminum Foil

Tenting food with foil during low and slow cooking helps retain moisture. This is especially useful for larger cuts of meat or preventing excessive drying.



Using a Chimney Starter

A chimney starter makes firing up charcoal a breeze. Fill it with charcoal, light the bottom, and let it burn until the coals are mostly ashen. This ensures evenly heated coals for optimal cooking.



Vent Your Knowledge

Explore online resources and cookbooks dedicated to live-fire cooking. Learn from experienced Pitmasters and expand your grilling repertoire.



Watching the Fire

Live fire cooking requires attentiveness. Observe the flames and glowing embers to understand the heat intensity and adjust airflow or add fuel as needed.



Xtra Flavor with Smoke

Smoke is a crucial element of live-fire cooking. To add smoky flavor to your food, utilize wood chips or chunks. Experiment with different soaking times for the wood to achieve smoky or subtle results.



You’re the Master Chef

The Engel Master empowers you to take control of the cooking experience. Embrace the freedom and creativity that live fire offers. Use your imagination.



Zest Up Your Skills

Don’t be afraid to experiment! Live fire cooking is a journey of discovery. Discover new flavors by experimenting with techniques and ingredients to create unique recipes that reflect your taste.



Bonus Tip: Clean your Engel Master after each use to ensure longevity and optimal performance. For proper cleaning instructions, refer to the owner’s manual.

With The Exceptional Chimney System You Can Add The Engel Master Inside Your Home
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