Keith’s 10 Tips On How To Create a Fun & Flavorful Burn Pile Stew

Burn Pile Cooking Prep


The Ultimate Cooking Experience 🔥

It seems a waste of energy not to use all the heat generated from a burn pile. However, after a good day’s burn, it is great to sit around the fire with a cold beverage and a Dutch oven full of good eats.

When I first started to cook over a burn pile, I would toss everything into a dutch oven and let it simmer. After a few burn pile cookouts, I’ve refined my cooking. I now brown the meat and caramelize onions before adding them to the stew. This extra step adds layers of mouthwatering flavor to my stews.

Browning the meat on the Burn Pile

Note: You can create the same outdoor cuisine without a burn pile. This experience can be enjoyed on a campfire or even with briquets if it is not a burn day or you don’t burn.

My prep & cooking plan of action is as follows:

1. Get everything cut up, measured, and prepared before going out to do the yardwork. Before creating a burn pile, make sure you check with your local government to acquire a burn permit. Here’s the website for Calaveras County Burn Day Information and Permits: 

2. Burn! Finish up piling on the burnables at least a half hour prior to cooking so that you are not working in the flames and smoke. Give yourself some extra time for the cooking. Sometimes it takes a bit longer than expected. In mid-winter (burn season) it gets dark quick so plan on that, too.

3. Bring out the oven, food, implements like potholders, whisk broom and lid lifter. Prepare your cooking area with enough space to put the lid, food and utensils. Have chairs or stumps handy for family and friends to enjoy the celebration.

4. Rake out coals from the main fire. I usually have a small fire burning on the main pile. Heat up the bottom of the Dutch oven on those coals.

Caramelizing vegetables

5. Depending on the recipe, It’s best to brown the meat in the hot oven first. Pro Cooking Tip: Coat the meat with flour, salts, and spices prior to cooking. This trick helps increase the flavor by creating a gravy while cooking. 

6. At this point, I sometimes remove the meat and caramelize the onions, or I might just start adding the rest of the ingredients, depending on what takes the longest to cook. Then, add the necessary liquids, put on the lid, place coals on top and let it simmer.

Burn Pile Simmer

7. I check it every now and then, stirring it and adding more coals if needed. Try to be careful not to get ashes into the dish. Not very tasty! The whisk broom helps with this. The simmering can take 1 to 3 hours, depending on the recipe.

8. With about an hour to go, I might add some foil-wrapped potatoes to the coals if there are none in dish. These can be great for breakfast the next morning, too.

9. When it is all done, remove the Dutch oven from the fire, whisk off all the ashes and bring the pot to the kitchen or where you will be serving. Be careful not to burn your counter with the hot oven. I place the oven on a large cutting board.

10. Enjoy your delicious and hardy meal. You’ve seriously earned this one!

My Beef with Cumin Stew

My latest dish was a beef with cumin stew which got rave reviews. Other dishes I have cooked have been: soups, pot roasts, chicken stew with dumplings, beef stew with allspice, a Somali chicken stew with xa’awash, beans, cornbread, pineapple upside down cake, the possibilities are endless.

Please be safe & have fun with your Burn Pile Cookout!


Important Note: Only do a Burn Pile with permits from your local government. Again here’s the link to inquire about burn days and permits for Calaveras County.


One Response

  1. Sounds very interesting! As a kid in scouts, we experienced different outdoor cooking methods & this reminded me of things tucked way back in my brains filing system. I tried to teach my daughters troop the very basic outdoor methods & those City girls had never seen anything besides grilling😆

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