Tag: Asado

At this time of year, lots of us are taking every opportunity that we can to cook outside, over fire.  Unlike in your kitchen, where you turn on the stove and easily controllable heat just happens, cooking over fire involves you creating and managing your heat source, as well as cooking.  That means selecting fuel, lighting a fire and tending it until it is at the right temperature to cook over.  Most people barbecue over charcoal, although you may also use firewood to start or feed your fire.  But not all charcoal is created equal.  What’s the difference between different charcoals, and which is best?

What Is Charcoal?

Charcoal is wood that has been burned (or cooked) slowly in a kiln in the absence of oxygen, burning off the water and volatile compounds and leaving black carbonised material.  Artists draw and sketch with it, and chefs cook over it.  When you burn it again it burns as embers do, hot and pure, and holds an even heat for a long time.  This makes it easier and more predictable to cook over than flames from a live fire.

cornish lumpwood charcoal

Lumpwood Charcoal vs Briquettes

There are two types of charcoal that you can buy to barbecue with: lumpwood charcoal, and charcoal briquettes.  Lumpwood looks like black and broken up bits of branches – it is still recognisable as something that was once wood.  It is made from hardwoods (such as oak, ash or beech) and you can still recognise it as something that was once wood.  It is pure, however less uniform in size and shape and it can burn faster and hotter.  It can impart a woodsmoke flavour so you can treat it like an ingredient when cooking with it.  Charcoal briquettes are manufactured using compacted charcoal sawdust, but made into uniform shapes (like small cakes).  They often have other material or additives included to bind them together, to help them catch and burn, and to make sure that they burn at a steady rate.  They are more predictable and can provide cooking heat for longer, but many chefs don’t like the fact that they have other ingredients that could potentially taint the flavour of their food.  If you need predictable heat over a long period (if you’re cooking large cuts or joints of meat, for example) they can be a good option, and they’re a cheaper option too.

Where To Buy Charcoal

You can buy charcoal from supermarkets or even your nearest garage, but this will almost certainly be briquettes.  Try to avoid the “ready to go” disposable barbecues or pre-pack bags, as most of these have additives to help them catch fire and burn faster and will almost certainly taint your food.  Good quality briquettes will provide a reliable and even cooking temperature, and the heat will persist for long enough for you to cook over.

Restaurant quality lumpwood charcoal can be ordered directly from producers, and is well worth it if you’re serious about cooking over fire.  I use Cornish Charcoal but you should be able to find a good producer local to you.  Reputable producers will be using hardwood from well managed forests, and you can be confident in the provenance and quality of the product.  None of us want to be cooking over the remains of virgin rainforest.

How To Cook With Charcoal

A hand-held charcoal chimney is a great bit of kit.  Rather than starting your fire in your barbecue, you start it in the chimney and add charcoal.  The chimney is designed to get a fire burning incredibly hot and incredibly quickly, and once your charcoal is glowing red hot you can tip it out into your barbecue or cooking base.  If you need to add more coals later to prolong your cooking time or to expand your cooking area, use the chimney again so that you’re adding red hot embers to your cooking fire rather than messing with it by directly adding more fuel and introducing flames.

I won’t go into specifics like offset cooking or using specific hardwoods to smoke or flavour your food here – each of those warrant detailed articles of their own, and we cover these sorts of things in our woodfired cooking and asado cookery courses.  Hopefully though, you’re now a little more knowledgeable about fuel for cooking outside and will be able to make an informed decision next time you’re preparing for a barbecue.  Which will probably be this weekend, right?

It’s barbecue season (in fact, at the time of publishing, it’s the middle of National BBQ Week) and this is a must-make sauce for next time you’re cooking meat over a fire. Forget ketchup. This is the original. Chimichurri is an oil-based condiment from Argentina and Uruguay that is traditionally served with barbecued or grilled meats. It’s an essential element of our full-day Asado experience, but is a great sauce to make for any outdoor cooking occasion.


  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 fresh chilli, finely chopped
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt (plus more)
  • 1tsp sugar
  • ½ cup finely chopped coriander
  • ¼ cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped oregano
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil


Finely dice the shallot and garlic and add to a bowl. Season, and pour over half of the vinegar and let it sit for 10 minutes.
Stir in the rest of the ingredients, using a fork to whisk in the oil.

Asado is an incredible Argentinian all-day outdoor cooking experience that is a real feast for the senses, and we’re excited to be welcoming chef Tim Gibb of Asado Fire Kitchen to Philleigh Way on Sunday August 2nd for a special asado course.  To get an idea of what attendees can expect from the day, and to find out more about the art of asado, we fired Tim a few questions. 

chef tim gibb of asado fire kitchen cooking a whole side of lamb

For those who aren’t familiar with it, what is asado?
Asado is not just the act of cooking over fire it’s the ambience created by the whole event. Its about the food, the party, the drinks and the good vibes. Similar to what we term BBQ, just taken up a few levels. Generally it’s a whole day and night event and nothing is rushed.

So there’s more to it than cooking a whole lamb over fire on a cross?
The lamb on the cross is one of the most iconic asado images and it really does do the meat justice, but the whole day/event is a feast. Vegetables cooked over fire is a whole world of new flavours and things to play with.

vegetables cooked in the embers of a fire asado style

Your Dad ran a smokery where you live in Dorset so you grew up surrounded by smokey flavours, but how did you then discover asado and develop your skills?
Working with Dad from a young age led me into kitchens, with a particular passion for seafood. I also spent a lot of time around the Jurassic coast of Dorset fishing as a nipper, and we all know that you also spend a lot of time not catching fish! During these times fires were usually a go to and if/when the fish did turn up we were rolling. Cooking preparation back then was never our strong point – it usually centered around a fire, a dirty knife and a pokey stick thing trying to avoid the exploding pebbles, but it possessed a beautiful simplicity. One thing has led to another over the years skills wise, and having travelled, but I was consistently drawn back to cooking over and around fire. Then I just put the two together and started discovering where things could go. I don’t think you ever stop learning.

smoking meat asado style

From where do you find your inspiration?
Like any chef (I imagine) it comes from the excitement of eating and having a good time. We live in an incredible time where local produce is going from strength to strength and finding new ways of doing it the justice that it deserves is an exciting prospect. I don’t profess to adhering strictly to the South American rules of asado, its more that I’ve taken the style and the ethos and I’m giving it an English twist. Fire cooking is huge now so one of the joys of social media is seeing what others are up to and how they are doing it. Not only for new ingredients, but for cooking methods and techniques.

herbs used to baste meat whilst cooking over fire

Where’s the most memorable place you’ve lit your fire?
For me it has to be the beach – I’m a huge fan. Chesil Beach is incredible and even though it’s right on my doorstep it never grows old. Every venue provides new challenges, its one of the joys of outdoor cooking and because you’re always on the move it stays exciting. 2020 had some stunning venues lined up: the shore of Lake Windemere, a back drop of the historic ruins of Corfe Castle here in Dorset, Penn Castle over looking the Portland race towards Durdle Door to name a few, but unfortunately Covid-19 put a stop to all these for the time being. 2021 will be an awesome year.

tim gibb of asado fire kitchen cooking fish and shellfish over a fire on the beach

What’s your favourite thing to cook over fire and why? Any surprises?
I’m a huge fan of cooking seafood. It really takes the flavor of the fire so well and there is a heap of different ways to cook things that keeps it exhilarating. Dirty lobsters, planked fillets, grilling prawns, scallops in there shells, fire basket mussels, the list is endless. The fire looks so cool when it’s packed with a seafood feast and a lot of it is amazingly simple to do.
Watermelon is one of the more unusual items to put around a fire I suppose you could say, although nothing is off limits anymore. The flesh absorbs a beautiful sweet smokey flavor, not too dissimilar to tuna – but it’s watermelon!! Reserve the sweet juice that you collect during cooking and you have a watermelon consommé. A bit of smoked feta, mint dressing and you have a vegetarian alternative that will stun the most hardened carnivores.

cooking meat, fish, fruit and vegetables over fire asado style

And your favourite bit of kit?
Not so much an individual bit of kit but I’ve been converting a 1964 Bedford fire engine for a few years now and although we keep hitting road blocks, when I get everything that I have planned in my head on board she really will be a fire cooking mecca. It’s going to be an Argentine grill, hot smoker and wood fire kitchen all in one. It’s been a challenge, but during lockdown we have made positive progress with her and I’m optimistic that things are now moving in the right direction.
Kit-wise it has to be the pit and frame from Tom at Country Fire Kitchen. Its incredibly well made and versatile so has endless possibilities.

portico outdoor kitchen by country fire kitchen

What will attendees on your course learn, and what will they be able to repeat at home after the course?
Attendees will learn a host of different cooking areas surrounding a fire and how to utilize the energy and flavor in all manner of ways. They will learn how to adapt equipment they may have at home to cook in ways they never thought possible. We will cook some things fast, some slow, some dirty and discuss the benefits of the best way to cook particular things and why. We will get the lamb on the cross, veggies in the embers and showcase how you can do smaller versions for smaller parties.

cooking meat asado style

If you could give aspiring backyard asadors one piece of advice, what would it be?
If you think something is possible and like the idea of it there is only one way to find out: Do it! The rules are consistently being re-written so don’t be put off by the fact you haven’t seen it done before. Also, get rid of your watch. It’s ready when it’s ready and until then enjoy the company, drink and conversation.

Click here to find out more about the asado course on Sunday August 2nd and to book one of the few remaining spaces.

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