Rediscover the Joy of “Fireplace Cooking”

You have mastered the art and science of grilling fireplace cooking. Before you could put down your tongs and go for the season, you had already mastered the art of grilling.

You then enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner, surrounded by “ahhs”, as your guests applauded your 15-pound turkey, which you smoked using charcoal and hickory chip. Now, if you have a wood-burning fireplace in your home, you can become a Mistress or Master of Fireplace Cooking. You can prepare family meals or just a few treats. If you’re a Pennsylvania farmhouse from the 19th century, you might have succumbed to the temptation of a fireplace that almost looks like a walk-in, with an extended hearth.

Alex Kaplan smiles as I tell him the story, while he shows me around his Chadds Ford Fireside Shop at Route 202. He says, “We used to sell more fireside cooking tools at our old store.” He says, “But today everyone is interested in an automated fireplace.” However, he also points out some items that could be useful for people who are just starting to cook with fire.

  • Multi-pronged fork that can roast fireplace cooking marshmallows or hot dogs.
  • These fireplace cooking shovels are large enough to be used for making raclette and roasting chestnuts.
  • For making grilled cheese sandwiches, a wire holder is attached to the end of a long handle.
  • A cooking “crane” is a rotating metal bar that can be attached to a fireplace cooking wall and swing out above the fire, holding a cast-iron pot. It can cook everything from soups to stews.
  • Trivets made of sturdy material that can be used as a base to hold skillets or other pots for cooking meats and vegetables.

Suzanne Goldenson, in her preface to her revised edition The Open-Hearth Cookbook : Recapturing Early American Flavors states that food cooked in a fireplace is a wonderful way to cook. With a few exceptions, large cakes, souffles, and other delicate confections can all be prepared in a fireplace cooking.

Brian Shaw, local chef and university instructor, gives succinct advice about cooking temperatures: “Slow, low, for stews and braising; hot as hell, for searing; indirect, controlled flame, for a roast.” In fact, fireplace cooking is done alongside, not over, the fire.

Spitjack is an online fireplace supply company founded by Bruce Frankel in New England. It offers specialty items to suit more sophisticated cuisines. The horizontal rotisserie, which is a combination of a tripod and a base, allows large cuts of meat to be cooked and then rotated so that each side faces the fire. A Tuscan grill that can be adjusted to cook flat can be easily set up above the flames. There are spits that can roast legs or pigs in large fireplace cooking.