You may be one of the unlucky families faced with the task of social distancing or voluntary/involuntary quarantine. Without question, this will test the limits of each family member’s patience, flexibility, and cooperation.
Not only are you responsible for ensuring everyone’s safety, you’re tasked with keeping them entertained and fed. Right now, with internet and utilities intact, you have the option to stream programs, movies, videos, etc., as well as use electrical and gas appliances. This helps to keep our sanity. But have you paused to plan for when those items become interrupted or permanently halted?
I’m going to list for you some ways of ensuring you can remain comfortably fed while also enjoying some foods that you consume when you’re not quarantined.
#1 Wood Fired Treats:
Part of the reason we go out to eat is we order items that wouldn’t be commonly prepared at home. Often, this includes foods that are live fired such as grilling over charcoal and/or wood or smoked with hardwood. This is where those larger cuts of meat come in handy. You can fire up the grill with a two-zone set up and some hardwood for added flavor, cooking enormous quantities of meat that can be used for many meals. Think pork shoulder, full racks of pork ribs, whole chicken and turkey, beef roasts and brisket. There are so many options including whole fish. Obviously, if we lose gas and electric services, you’ll need an alternative grill like a charcoal unit, fire pit, wood burning fireplace, or butane-using equipment. Or, you can make your own using bricks or rocks and a grate from another unit or simply place cast iron right in the coal bed. Even a charcoal chimney starter can be used in a pinch as a grill.
#2 Foods That Never Expire:
Powdered milk, dried beans, Spam, whole grains, honey, dried pasta. These are the items you’ll want to have on hand for the “when it happens” scenario as they last forever. Powdered milk can easily be mixed with other ingredients to make sauces, milk, and treats. Spam is one of those canned meats that can be a go to for emergency needs but what likely isn’t know is just how versatile it can be in recipes. This is a perfect item to grill or even smoke as substitute for fresh meats like sausage, bacon, ground meats. It can be sliced for making sandwiches and sliders, cubed and diced to be used with eggs, rice, quinoa, and pasta. Dried beans and pasta are also perfect for cooking on a grill even though they need a longer time in water to cook tender. Use grill-safe cookware on your grill, fire pit, or wood burning fireplace and you’re on your way to a great meal.
#3 Hot Smoking:
Preserving meat can be a challenge if you don’t have refrigeration for storing. That’s where hot smoking becomes a skill set that could possibly save you from going without animal protein. You need to make a hot coal bed that produces a lot of smoke not flames. That means you’ll need green hardwood to produce the smoke, which is wood containing about 20% moisture. Collect hardwoods like maple, oak, hickory, cherry, etc., and make a racking or hook system that will allow the meat to hang in an enclosure (a wood clothes drying rack works great for this purpose). A modified smokehouse made from a tarp that is anchored to the ground works just fine, if the enclosure can hold the smoke around the meat and maintain a temperature of 150°F. The better your enclosure the better it will retain heat and will require far less wood. Meat smoked for 12 hours will be preserved for about 1 week, while meat smoked for two days can last 14–28 days depending on the type and cut.
One benefit of getting to be home is the option to engage in outdoor cooking. Take advantage of doing as much as you can in the outdoors, whether on a standard LP/Gas grill, charcoal grill, fire pit, outdoor fireplace, or other outdoor equipment. It provides an opportunity to enjoy the air and feel less like a prisoner. Also, keep in mind that the more options you give yourself for cooking, the more food you can produce. For instance, you might have a pork shoulder smoking with wood on one grill, while doing a sheet pan of vegetables on another unit, while making a sauce or flavored butter in a saucepan on the side burner or a butane cooker. Just remember, if you are using wood and/or charcoal, once the heat is reduced to hot embers, use that to do additional foods like potatoes, peppers, onions, or even put a covered Dutch oven in the hot bed to cook another day’s meal. You can cook any meal on outdoor equipment so begin to experiment and get a comfort zone, and you will be a survivor in any situation.
If you’re quarantined, what type of cooking are you doing? Leave us a comment and subscribe to get our latest tips, techniques, recipes and the science behind the fire and smoke, for all live fire cooking methods. That’s SmokinLicious!