Tag: Cooking Over Fire

Smoking has been used as a means of preserving and flavouring food, particularly meat and fish, for thousands of years. These days, few people smoke their own ingredients at home and instead buy ready smoked products (mackerel, salmon, and bacon are the most common), however the process is incredibly easy and accessible.

We’re going to share a few different smoking techniques with you over the course of a small series of articles, ranging from the simplest DIY hot-smoking techniques, through to larger scale cold-smoking which can be more involved or require some additional equipment. Hot smoking (which we’ll cover in this article) is a method of medium temperature cooking using smoke, whereas cold smoking is a drying process at a lower temperature that flavours the ingredients but doesn’t cook them. We cover some of these techniques in our Better Barbecuing course, or keep your eye out for specialist smoking courses and feasts with our friends from Pro-Q.

If you want to experiment with hot smoking fish fillets, garlic, cheese or other smaller items, then a home-made biscuit tin smoker is a great place to start. You can buy a special hot smoker, but the principle is exactly the same.

Biscuit Tin Smoker Materials and Ingredients

  • An old metal sweet, biscuit or cake tin, or a metal bread bin
  • A wire cooling rack or wire mesh
  • A pair of pliers
  • Hacksaw (optional)
  • A drill with a metal drill bit or a screwdriver/centre-punch and hammer
  • Piece of scrap wood
  • Wood chips (hardwood such as apple, cherry, beech, or oak – not softwood)
  • Salt flakes or coarse salt for curing
how to make a biscuit tin smoker

How To Make A Biscuit Tin Smoker

If your wire rack doesn’t fit inside the tin, then use a hacksaw to cut it down to slightly larger than the tin and then with your pliers bend the cut ends down to make legs. You rack should sit about 10cm or so off the bottom of the tin.

wire rack in a biscuit tin smoker

Take the lid of your tin and make a couple of holes in it. To do this, place the scrap wood underneath and then either drill two holes or punch them in with the screwdriver and hammer.

biscuit tin smoker filled with wood chips

Place a layer of woodchips or shavings in the base of the tin, a centimeter or so deep, and then set your rack in place.

Hot Smoking Method

To prepare fish or meat for smoking, you need to cure it using salt, to draw out the moisture. Sprinkle a layer of salt flakes, or very coarse salt (fine salt is too aggressive and will leave an overly salty flavour) on a plate, then lay your fillet on top and sprinkle another layer over the top. You can create a curing mix with brown sugar, or citrus zest and spices added if you wish. Place it in the fridge and leave it. For a fillet of mackerel that is quite thin then five to ten minutes will do, but a thicker piece of meat might require an hour. You want a pellicle to form, which is a slightly sticky surface. Once cured, rinse the fillet quickly under cold running water to remove the salt and pat dry with kitchen paper.

mackerel fillets

Place your biscuit tin onto your barbecue or gas burner (be aware, if you are doing this inside over a gas hob your kitchen will get very smoky, and likely set off your smoke alarm so be sure to open all the windows and doors) and heat until the wood chips start to smoulder. Place your mackerel fillets, or whatever it is that you’re smoking, on the rack and place the lid on securely. Turn the heat down or move the tin slightly to a lower heat are of your barbecue, and leave it to do its thing! If you are hot smoking mackerel then check it after ten minutes – if the flesh is opaque and flakey, then it’s done! Thicker cuts of fish or meat will take longer, depending upon how thick it is.

biscuit tin smoker on a barbecue

Once you’ve made your biscuit tin smoker it will last you for ages. Every time you fire up your barbecue or fire pit, or take a bucket barbecue to the beach, you can take your hot smoker with you as well and smoke fish for yourself and your family or friends. If you’re a fisherman or angler then you can cook your catch right there and then, and enjoy freshly caught and smoked fish with thinly sliced and buttered brown bread, and a squeeze of lemon juice, or make mackerel pate by flaking the fish and mixing it with crème fraiche.

smoked mackerel in a biscuit tin hot smoker

A Guide to Different Wood Chips For Smoking

  • Apple – Mild and fruity flavour – amazing if you can get hold of some!
  • Oak – a classic and heavier flavour, it is usually used for smoking meat or game but it goes really well with salmon, although you need to be careful not to overdo it.
  • Beech – a subtle smoke flavour – beech is a great all-round option
  • Alder – a classic option for smoked salmon, alder produces a delicate and slightly sweet flavour.

Mechouia salad (also known as slata mechouia in Tunisian Arabic) is a simple grilled vegetable salad that ticks every box for Mediterranean food. As with so many of these classic regional dishes, recipes vary from village to village and family to family. Mechouia has a base of char-grilled tomatoes, onions, peppers, chillis and garlic, which are coarsely chopped and seasoned before being dressed with olive oil. Traditionally the salad is often then topped with fresh herbs, olives, hard-boiled eggs or tuna. This is an amazing summer dish, and whilst it can be made in the kitchen it really comes into its own if you char grill your vegetables over the coals of your barbecue. It makes a great side (pictured below served with pork tenderloin that was offset grilled over the coals and then seasoned with smoked paprika and fennel from our Better Barbecuing course) or can be enjoyed as a stand-alone meal with crusty bread.

mechouia salad with grilled pork


  • 4 Medium Tomatoes
  • 2 Red Peppers
  • 2 Large Jalapeno Peppers
  • 2 Small Onions, the outer paper leaves removed
  • 1 Teaspoon Caraway Seeds
  • ½ Teaspoon Coriander Seeds
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, finely minced
  • ¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon red wine Vinegar
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
cooking veg on coals


  • Using either a grill or BBQ fire, char the outsides of the tomato, peppers, and onions until they’re completely blackened and blistered, turning frequently to char all sides. You can put the onions directly into the coals of the fire. Place the vegetables in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap to allow them to steam in their own heat for 15 minutes.
  • Peel the char off of the vegetables, coarsely chop them and place them in a bowl.
  • Toast the caraway and coriander seeds in a dry pan for a few minutes until they become fragrant. Grind them into a powder in a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle.
  • Add the spices with the olive oil and vinegar to the chopped vegetables and stir well. Salt and pepper to taste.
mechouia salad

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.

As summer hits and the evenings draw out, many of us are spending more time cooking and eating outside. Whether that means barbecuing in your backyard or (as lockdown measures ease) a day trip to a beach, here are a few of my top tips for eating well outside and making sure that cooking and clearing up after yourself is as easy as possible.

The One Essential Bit of BBQ Kit

A fish clamp or grill basket is the only piece of kit that you need to cook over fire at the beach, or over your bbq at home. Use it for grilling veg, sausages or meat as well as fish over a fire or bbq, and simply flip it over – no more chasing sausages around a grill with tongs, or dropping them on the coals!

Cracking Crab

Buy cooked crab from a fishmonger – lots of fisherman and fish merchants have been selling direct or online (for delivery) during lockdown. You can find a comprehensive list of Cornish fish and shellfish options for local collection and nationwide delivery here. Then either cook some chips or French fries at home and take them with you, or stop off to pick up some chips from a takeaway (many of them are now re-opening with physical distancing policies in place) on your way to the beach for an amazing, messy, seafood feast on the sand. Don’t forget some crab cracking and picking tools, though! I’d recommend a small pin hammer to crack the shell and then use the handle of a teaspoon to remove the white meat.

How To Barbecue at The Beach

If you want to barbecue at the beach, then get yourself a bucket bbq, wood and charcoal, rather than a disposable bbq. Light a fire in it, add charcoal, then cook over it, thus avoiding the flavour taint of firelighters. It’s also tidier and better value for money because you can reuse it. Just be sure to clear up after yourselves and leave only your footprints on the sand!

Other ways that we might be able to help…

Philleigh Way BBQ Packs

If you’re in Cornwall then let us help shoulder some of your BBQ burden with one of our BBQ packs – everything that you need for a classic, Middle Eastern inspired or luxury BBQ including meats, spice mixes, steak rubs, artisan breads and salads.

Outside Cookery Courses

If you’re interested in improving your outside cooking skills, then as soon as it’s safe, sensible and permitted for us to start teaching our courses again we’ll likely be starting with our outside cookery courses (with physical distancing and appropriate health and hygiene measures in place). Choose from Better Barbecuing or an Argentian Asado Masterclass. Dates have yet to be updated, and as yet we’re unsure when we will be phasing some of our courses back in, but e-mail to express an interest and we’ll get in touch to let you know.

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