My entire kitchen-consciousness shifts in the summertime. And I wouldn't have it any other way.
The mindset moves from something that is predominantly focused on the oven and range to one that is all about live fires, crackling wood, and smoke. This usually leads me to the meat and hard veggies side of my pantry and fridge. After all, it can be difficult to cook rice, quinoa, or other grains on the grill without special equipment, and I've yet to find a way to manage cheese over charcoal. But an underrated grill item may be one that coincides with the best that summer has to offer: the explosion
It's impossible not to love the grill, especially in summertime. And at ManMade, there's enough of that love for grills of all kinds: gas grills, kamado cookers, offset cookers, vertical smokers, hibachis, and whatever else helps bring your food that flame kissed flavor.
But for all-around versatility, our vote goes to the charcoal kettle grill. This design has remained basically unchanged for nearly seventy years, and it has stood the test of time as an affordable, adaptable, and portable way to make dinnertime that much more enjoyable. Kettle grills such as the ubiquitous Weber are, as much as a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers or the Eames Lounge, a classic.
Apple pie. For my money, it's the best dessert to grace our tables and slide down our gullets in the past bazillion years. Sweet, tart, warm, gooey, and crumbly... it's no wonder it's an American icon. But why limit this goodness to your oven? Let's take a journey with the recipe, step out of the kitchen, and head into the great outdoors (or your backyard) to create a rustic cast iron apple pie cooked over an open flame.
Fall means many things. Most important among them: firewood season. Whether building a campfire in a stone ring for cooking, heating your space via a woodstove, or just setting your indoor fireplace ablaze for some warmth, these next six months are all about the cheer that can only come from the presence of an open flame.
So, as we settle into the new half of the year, let's take a moment to address humankind's most primitive tool: the axe. Whether your splitting whole tree rounds, dividing logs into kindling, or getting creative with woodcarving, the process is simple, and only needs to happen once a year for the average non-lumberjack. Here's how to sharpen an axe.
Knowing how to start a campfire is an essential life skill, for sure, and most of us have our preferred technique: the lean-to, the tepee, the log cabin. But, even though most fires aren't started in emergency, or even in one-match situations, that's part of the fun. Once you've learned how to do it without turning a gas knob or lighting one of those Duralast logs, lighting a fire with one match (or spark from a starter) becomes part of the game, even if you have a whole box at your side.
Among the true believers, there's a fair consensus that when it comes to grilling: charcoal simply tastes better than propane. No disrespect to the gas grill; it can turn out great results. But when the true taste of summer is the priority, nothing can beat the smoky, open-flame flavor of food grilled over hardwood coals.
Well, except for food cooked over an actual hardwood fire, with coals freshly made from whole logs that you just ember-ed down yourself. This is easy enough to do in a backyard firepit, or even in the same kettle grill you likely use with your charcoal.
Even if you don't know it by name, you likely already know paracord. Chances are very good that you've seen it, either in the aisles at your local craft store or knotted into a survival bracelet.
It's a classic example of how a military-specific product found new life as a civilian utility item. Originally designed with airborne units (the name is portmanteau of "parachute" + "cord"), its strength, durability, and versatility lend well to all sorts of other functions. It's especially useful for survival and adventure situations, which means that enterprising outdoor gear companies have begun including other materials in the core of the cord besides the standard separate nylon yarns: in the case of ParaTinder, a waxed thread meant to be used as a firestarter.
I got a package of this as a stocking stuffer last Christmas and wanted to give it a whirl—it's important to test out your survival gear when the stakes are low rather than trying it out for the first time in an emergency.
Have you noticed? It's summer! It's the time of year when we dust off the backyard with friends and linger late into the night. There are so many great conversations I remember around a flickering fire, and I'm looking forward to more this year. But good conversations don't always come easy, so here are a few tips to get into the kind of convos you'll remember for years.
In the normal research/note-taking/formatting process of working on a upcoming gear roundup post this morning, I went to check the price and availability of one of my favorite tools: the cast iron skillet. I've always known cast iron is a pretty amazing value, performing nearly perfectly for generations if you follow a few simple rules. At $30, an American-made Lodge skillet is a great buy-it-for-life piece of cookware that works for nearly everything.
Your kitchen stove is a recent development in human cultural evolution. For millenia, all cooking was live fire cooking. From traveling groups building beds of coals in the wilderness, to stone and earth homes centered around the hearth, the use of wood as fuel for food represented what it meant to be human for tens of thousands of years.
These days, cooking over an open flame makes a meal an event. Live fire cooking is portable, sure, but more importantly, it adds flavor and ambience your electric oven can never achieve. Whether grilling over glowing hardwood or slow roasting in a cast iron pan, cooking with real fire makes the meal the point of the evening.
During summer, it's my goal to bust out the charcoal and chimney starter as much as possible. Call it a masculine stereotype if you must, but I never miss an opportunity to take advantage of extended daylight to cook dinner outside. It avoids heating up the house with the oven, and, of course, makes everything taste amazing.
And, if you want you grilled food to taste even better, here's my tip. It takes all of five seconds to set up, and takes your meal up to the next level:
There is nothing like a long day of hiking or horseback riding to get you in the mood for some good, hearty eating. And so the American West's roving cattlemen and cross-country venturers created a long tradition of fantastic, simple meals meant to fill you up on the trail. So bust out that cast iron skillet and prepare yourself for some authentic cowboy eating.
I love s'mores. I hate getting sticky.* Which I mention only to point out how much I truly love s'mores since they nearly always get your hands/face/everything sticky. It's the perfect smoky and sweet desert to finish off any night's worth of camping and hiking or simply sitting around the campfire with friends. But here's a suggestion that takes the s'mores game to a whole new level...
What's a Swedish flame? Something you can buy at IKEA? No sir.
If you haven't seen one of these Swedish Flame logs lately, they definitely need to be the star of your next outdoor fire. Its genius design allows the fire to burn from the inside out which means little to no tending from you!
Need another drink to warm you up like you're sitting by a campfire, but you're actually stuck inside cause it's freaking freezing out? Check out ManMade's very own rosemary and smoke infused cocktail!
Fall means many things: the return of wearing layers, trees a-changin', and that tenuous day when you have to make the decision to finally turn the furnace back on. But for me, it's not fall unless I'm getting away to spend weekends in the woods.
Not the ultra-light, no-other-human-around treks of summer, but some honest to goodness, old fashioned camping trip. I'm talking cast iron skillets, flannel shirts and wool blankets, ice-filled Coleman coolers, and all-night campfires.
And while I love the day hikes and card games and guitar-strumming, my no doubt favorite part of car camping is:
If you're a fan of salt and vinegar potato chips then you're gonna love this recipe for pan fried sea salt and basalmic potatoes.
I've personally been a slow convert to the idea of using fire-starters. As a boy I thought they always burned in a kinda cool way, but as I got older for whatever reason I thought of them as a way of cheating somehow. Like a real man just found a way to light things on fire on the first go-round or something. However, I've come to see the proverbial light and ease of comfort that a fire-starter can bring to adverse conditions...