Wilderness Cooking in Our Backyard


Sometimes culinary adventure is waiting for us right in our own backyard.

When we were at the Western Fair Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market here in London on the weekend, the Culinary Enthusiast mentioned that he wanted to pick up some steaks to grill over the fire pit out back. I admit, I was skeptical about the possible sacrifice of two quality strip loins to this endeavour. I’m glad I kept my reservations to myself (uncharacteristically, perhaps?), because as it turns out the CE knew exactly what he was doing.

Sunday evening, in unseasonably mild temperatures but with snow still on the ground, he started a fire using the collection of twigs and sticks that serves as kindling. He then added larger pieces of wood from our woodpile, and soon a roaring fire was blazing and we were treated to the unmistakable and somehow stirring smell of woodsmoke. It felt like we were  having a wilderness adventure right in our backyard.

As darkness fell so did the flames, until the embers were were hot and glowing. He then built a cooking surface using bricks and one of the stainless steel grills from the barbecue. Once that was hot, he set about about grilling the steaks, which he’d already treated to a spice and herb rub. The CE likes his beef well-done and I like mine medium to medium-well so he started his first, ensuring both would be done to our liking at the same time.

I’m sure the smell of beef sizzling over a fire pit caught the attention of any neighbours who had cracked their windows open, and certainly most of the dogs in the vicinity too.

The result? The meat was cooked to perfection. And that taste! I don’t know why the wonderful hint of smokiness came as such a surprise to me — probably because I’m so used to grilling over gas heat — but the wood smoke added real character to the flavour.

The next time the Culinary Enthusiast says he wants to cook something in the backyard, I will most enthusiastically jump on board. In fact it just might be me suggesting it!



  1. This is awesome!! We totally do wilderness cooking in our backyard, too (see ‘biscuit on a stick’); and the smokiness and feeling of adventure lend that extra wonderful flavor to your dinner.

    • This was a wonderful way to jazz up an otherwise routine dinner. Now I totally need to learn about ‘biscuit on a stick’ – you’ve got me intrigued!

  2. Looks brilliant, impossible to resist outdoor cooking at anytime of year, especially steaks. We often have impromptu winter barbecues (over peat smoke – wood is hard to get). Fortunately, we live too far from neighbours for them to see, otherwise, I suspect they might think us eccentric 🙂 great post, thanks!

    • Thank you for your feedback. I can’t imagine the quality that peat smoke would add to grilled meat, but I bet it’s good! I don’t know if your neighbours would think you eccentric for grilling outdoors, but I imagine they’d like to share!

      • Peat is great, I use it to hot smoke pollack at the end of a barbecue. Ironically, my nearest neighbour is vegetarian, although I’m sure she would enjoy some chargrilled veg 🙂 As for barbecues, they are rare here even in summer- it’s a bit too bracing most of the time. Not to be deterred, we do barbecue all year and take food inside to eat nonetheless.

  3. I love your wilderness with the pretty chairs and fire blazing in the pit. The wonderful atmosphere and woodsmoke together had to have greatly contributed to the outcome of your meal.

  4. I’ve a gas grill and just about anything gives more flavor than it does. Charcoal is good but wood, going back to my camping days, was so much better. Look at that steak in the last photo. It sure does look good!

    • That was my steak, John, and it was good! So nice to have a meal prepared by the CE and in a way I wouldn’t have thought of! I was amazed at how much more flavourful it was than from using a gas barbecue.

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