Grilling meat over an open fire is a common challenge in wilderness survival situations because we don’t always have the right equipment on hand. However, we really don’t need grills or barbecues to get the job done, and people have been cooking meat for centuries using little more than some wood. Let’s take a look at how to put this time-honored technique to work for you, because chances are that you will never look at bushcraft cooking the same way again.
Making the Grill
The first step is to find 4 branches, about 3 feet long, that have forks on one end. These will be legs for the grill. Whittle down the non-forked ends into points. Drive each one about 8 inches into the ground, and position them so that you end up with a square. Make sure that the tops of the legs are level and that each stick is secure.
Next, take 2-4 green and fresh branches that are at least an inch thick, and place them atop the forks. Using four branches will provide you with a grill base that is more-secure, but two should be sufficient for most fires. All you need to do now is place some fresh and green branches that are at least ½ inch thick atop the frame to make the grill. You can lash them with some metal wire or bark to secure them in place, but the weight of the meat that you cook should be enough to keep the grates from moving around too much.
You want to use fresh, green wood for the grill, because the moisture will prevent them from being burned up while cooking. It’s also important that you replace the wood as it starts to dry out before making future meals as well. The last thing that you want is to lose all of that meat as the grate crumbles and everything crashes down into the fire.
Working With Fire
The trick is to build a fire that will produce enough heat to reach the grill and cook the meat, but you don’t want it hot enough to burn the food before it cooks all the way through. Consequently, you may need to experiment with different-sized fires or adjust the height of the grill for maximum effect.
The most-effective fires are those that have been reduced to hot coals, as these produce the greatest amount of radiant heat. Feed the fires with some branches or small logs of hardwoods, and feel free to add in some birch or mesquite when possible to give your food a nice smoky flavor.
Consider placing some stones around the base of the legs in order to prevent them from burning up if they’re too close to the fire. It’s also important to avoid using branches for the grill that come from trees that contain a lot of resin or sap.
Finally, keep an eye on where the smoke from the fire is going, because this will direct you to where the heat is concentrated. You can position your meat on the grill accordingly, and this will help to give you a finished product that is more evenly-cooked.
Now that you have a basic idea about how this type of grill works, build one yourself and start experimenting. This is a project that you can do right now in your backyard, and the experience will help you to create an efficient grill if you ever end up in a real survival situation.