High-end chefs and home cooks alike are forsaking gas and charcoal for the intense heat and fragrant smoke of a traditional wood fire. While there’s nothing novel about wood-burning grills in restaurants, what is new is the zeal of the chefs using them, the variety of equipment now available, and the growing number of American home cooks who are forsaking gas and charcoal to master the ancient art of grilling over a wood fire in their backyards.
By the time wood becomes charcoal, 99 percent of those compounds are lost. That’s why a wood fire delivers so much more flavor than charcoal. Wood grilling is very different from traditional barbecue, although both start with burning logs. In a barbecue pit, the food smokes at a low heat away from the fire for intervals measured in half-days. Grilling is a rapid process in which the food sizzles directly over the fire.
Lightbulb Moment: This throwback has come about in part due to the Stall (emotional, not economic driven). A Stall pattern slides trends backward towards a recessionary pattern, but not back to full-blown comfort food. There is comfort in wood fire cooking while still maintaining the thrill of setting something on fire. Flavors can be more complex depending on the wood and what is added to the fire to build flavor such as herb and spices that penetrate the food as smoke. An even more extreme positioning would be a wood fire form of clinching, also called “dirty grilling”, where you lay the food directly onto the fire.