Fireplace Equipment - Cranes, Dutch Ovens & Hearth Grill
We cover the serious extras
There is a wide variety of fireplace equipment that could change the way the fireplace is viewed and used. The modern day fireplace tends to be used as a decorative feature and a supplemental heat source but in the past it was a fundamental part of living. It provided light, heat and was used for cooking. There is a range of fireplace equipment used for cooking over the open fire from popcorn poppers to fireplace cranes and grills.
Fireplace cranes were an integral part of American colonial life and were used to hang Dutch ovens and kettles over the flames for cooking, baking and boiling water. Theoretically these are not the most effective way of cooking over an open fire, unless the food is largely a liquid based meal such as soup, and it does require some practice to master the necessary skills. They do, however, make very enchanting fireplace adornments which would be ideal in a traditional wood burning fireplace.
Fireplace cranes consist of two iron arms that are positioned adjacent to one another. One arm is attached to the masonry on one side of the fireplace while the other protrudes out over the hearth. It is on a pivot so that it can swing outwards into the room making it easy to retrieve a pot or kettle. This pivot can also be used to adjust the temperature by swinging the pot or kettle closer to or further away from the flames.
Dutch ovens are large cast iron cooking pots that have been used to cook over an open fire for centuries. They can be used to cook just about any meal imaginable from baking cakes and bread to slow cooking stews and soups. Nowadays coals are used rather than an open fire because they are far more effective in keeping the heat even and ensuring the food doesn't burn. There are Dutch oven recipe books as well as outdoor cooking guides available on online but a good place to start is the papadutch.home.comcast.net website. This is a personal website developed by a Dutch oven enthusiast and is packed with recipes and advice.
Other fireplace equipment worth mentioning is the hearth grill and the fireplace spit. Hearth grills can be used just as an ordinary flame grill barbeque and are normally made from stainless steel with 'legs' that attach to the grate and position the grill above the flames. The height of the grill can usually be changed by adjusting the length of the 'legs'. There are a multitude of spits that will fit over the hearth of a wood burning fireplace and can be an excellent way to cook meat. These can range from simple models to more complicated mechanical spitjacks that will rotate themselves.
William Rubel, a cook specializing in traditional methods of cooking, has a website with some useful information and resources for anyone interested in further investigating outdoor cooking: www.williamrubel.com.