According to Rob, food that has the “right kind of charr” is better.
It all started back in April of 2016. He had just broken his wrist during a bike accident and was bedridden for three days after surgery. He had always loved charred food, and in this time, he stumbled across a Netflix series that forever changed his thoughts on cooking.
“I started watching cooking shows and saw Francis Mallman’s ‘Chef’s Table’ episode and became in love with the idea.”
That idea was fire cooking.
However, contrary to popular believe, fire cooking does not take place by cooking over open flame.
“Fire cooking starts with the notion that you’re not cooking over flame. When you cook over flame, you’re oxidizing the meat. You’re burning the outside but not cooking through the inside. It’s a dance of keeping the fire going to make enough coals so that you can position the food over those coals properly.”
And there are numerous methods. Apparently many cultures have their own ways of doing it—but two of the main ones are from Argentina and Scandinavia. The vast array of options can include everything from digging a hole in the ground and laying down coals and canvas on top (to hold in heat), to directly cooking meat over the coals from a fire. The key is to cook it high (up away from the coals) and slow.
“One popular method is planking, which is where you take a fish, put it on a plank, and turn it up vertically above the coals.”
And while Rob just personally believes that the fire cooking method is better, he thinks the reason for why we are attracted to this type of food goes much deeper than that.
“It’s crazy because I think it’s something in our subconscious where food cooked this way just tastes better. It’s in our DNA.” Rob frequently references how open fire cooking goes back to our origin as a species, and in turn what makes us human.
But the beauty of fire cooking in modern times is that we’re using primitive methods to make contemporary food. And Rob has quite a few examples of delicious dishes to do it with.
“So on my birthday in 2016, I probably cooked the best steak I’ve ever had in my life using the high and slow method, which runs counter-orthodox to how you would typically cook a bone-in ribeye.”
Instead of cooking it quickly by searing it on both sides in a cast iron skillet and then sticking it in the oven for a bit, he cooked it over an open fire. This method causes the juices of the steak to slowly melt off and drip into the fire—then they burn and cook back into the steak. He also had success with oysters, where he put them on the coals with a lemon until they started spitting. Then, he cracked them open and squeezed the charred lemon on top. Rob mentioned that the smoke takes away a lot of the acidity.
And as you can imagine, there is a definite technique to this age-old method of cooking. Which is why Rob offered a few resources:
“I have some recommended reading for people that are into it. Two of the first books I would recommend are ‘Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way’ and ‘Mallman on Fire’ by Francis Mallman. Then, a few other good ones are: ‘Taming the Feast’ by Ben Ford, ‘Cooking with Fire’ by Paula Marcoux, and ‘Food from the Fire’ by Niklas Ekstedt.”
If you couldn’t tell, Rob happens to be one of the most well-read people in the studio—and it is not limited to only the topics he’s interested in.
In the end, Rob is one of the many curious people at Uncorked who is exploring interesting things in his free time. To hear more stories like this, continue to follow our blog and check out the People Series posts once-a-month.
About Robinson Eaton: Rob is a producer at Uncorked Studios who has a profound reverence for human-centered design. His goal is to use design-thinking to solve real world problems, while leading teams by asking insightful questions throughout the development of a project.
More about the Uncorked People Series: The Uncorked People Series features the stories of Uncorked folks and what makes them who they are. It tells the tales of the insatiably curious and multifaceted people that make the company what it is. The blogs are published on the first Friday of each month. Stay tuned for more.