Monday, 15 September 2008

A Charcoal Roasting Fire


Part of our family routine is a roast dinner every Sunday (or a barbeque during the warmer months). The forecast was warm and dry, perfect for firing up the Weber. I bought a 2kg rolled shoulder of pork at my local butcher on the Saturday morning in anticipation. I always roast pork outside. This saves the oven (and kitchen) from filling up with smoke from all that spitting in the baking dish.

Good quality lumpwood charcoal is my fuel of choice. I try to avoid petrochemical firelighters as I just can't align them with the idea of cooking quality food. I'd rather a bit of proper wood smoke at the start using paper and tinder as a base to start the charcoal fire. A few small softwood offcuts in the garage were split into pencil thick pieces using my favourite hatchet. Note the tongs holding the wood, just this spring this little axe gave me seven stitches in my left index finger when splitting kindling. Or was it the bottle of red I had consumed beforehand? I'm not sure.

Pile the tinder over the top of one tightly screwed up piece of newspaper per side in the barbeque and set alight. Just a minute or two later you can start to place pieces of charcoal over the small fires, about 2 litres each side (I measure it out in an ice cream container and use tongs to create a mound).

In about 30-40 minutes, there will be two white hot mounds of charcoal. Spread each one out and then place a further 5 or 6 pieces of fuel on top of each side to extend the life of the fire. This fire will be good for up to 3 hours, or even longer if extra fuel is added during cooking time (for cooking a turkey for example). The temperature will relax towards the end which is good for a tender roast.

I roasted the pork in a pyrex dish to retain the juices for basting. Separating the crackling about 3/4 way through the cooking time helps it to become soft and crunchy, and also makes sure the pork cooks all the way through.

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