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We car-camp regularly at Ontario provincial parks. The parks forbid bringing in our own wood (to help prevent foreign invasive species from entering the local ecosystem). We are supposed to buy local firewood from the park.

Unfortunately, the firewood available at the parks are barely seasoned. At certain parks, I've seen the firewood are unsheltered (or only partially sheltered) for rain, which makes it hard to build any fire, not just for cooking.

We often grill over seasoned cherry or maple at home and would like replicate that experience while camping. Are there ways/tips/tricks to cook/grill raw meat such as steaks over a fire built with unseasoned wood?

EDIT: This is not a question on how to start a fire with possibly wet firewood. The question is about how to create a fire from such wood suitable for cooking --- suitable temperature for sufficiently long time for meat to be cooked without a high level of smoke to ruin the flavour.

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First of all, you want to bring a lightweight hatchet with which you can split the green firewood. Remember that the more surface area you expose the more flame you will get and the hotter the fire will get.

Last week, my friends and I were having a hard time with your same problem, so we made a bellows (air pump to fire) with an air mattress pump (4 D batteries), with an aluminium foil tube attached, placed close to and pointed towards the nascent embers at the base of the fire. With some patience, we were able to get a good fire, good coals, and something worth cooking over.

Other things that could help: try splitting the wood thing and stacking it in a log-cabin pattern over the early flames; this will expose a lot of wood to the existing flame and still allow good ventilation.

Make sure you are taking of any rotted wood or bark that will only smoulder. Try using some candle wax melted onto the wood to try and getting going well.

  • We have a small axe for splitting. The use of air pump as bellow for the fire is something we've never thought of though -- we've always just fan it with something like cardboard. – ckpwong Aug 13 '15 at 20:31
  • @ckpwong: The only advantage to the "bellows" rig is a relatively steady flow of air. The cardboard (pizza box, whatever) will be fine so long as it's used to create a fairly steady flow of oxygen for the fire. This helps with the generation of good coals for cooking. – Zach L Aug 13 '15 at 21:32
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I've gotten pretty sufficient fires on a rainy fall day with relatively wet wood. Something that I often do is collect a lot of wet wood use the fire to dry out other logs. Make sure they're relatively small so they dry out by the time you need them. Just keep putting wood around the fire to dry as you use it.

A good recommendation from @whatsisname is you use charcoal. You can even make your own out of what ever type of wood you'd prefer.

ADDITION:

If you cannot dry the wood. You can try cooking the wood down into coals, and cooking with a dutch over, or cooking directly on the coals. You can wrap potatoes and vegetables and throw them on the coals, you can use a cast iron pan and set it on top the coals, or you can set the coals on a dutch oven to cook via indirect heat. Searing with a pan on top of coals is probably the best alternative to grilling over the fire with something like a tripod. This will also significantly decrease the amount of smoke that contacts your food.

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