General Cooking Fires
Selection of Firewood. Since coals that last
for a long time are most desirable for cooking fires, care must be taken in
selecting firewoods. To be sure, at times we are forced to use whatever is at
hand. "Beggars can't be choosers." With few exceptions, sound dry
hardwoods will produce good coals. Since there is such great variation in the
fuel value of woods, the study of firewoods offers an opportunity to correlate
nature study with fire-building. To become an efficient fire-builder a hiker
must study and experiment with the woods in his territory.
The following woods can be recommended to a greater or lesser degree : apple,
aspen, white ash, beech, yellow birch, cedar, elm, eucalyptus, hickory,
ironwood, locust, hard maple, mesquite, spruce, and all the white oaks.
When forced to use green woods, try the following: white ash, yellow birch,
For kindling the fire most of the dry softwoods are good. Dry sumac is very
good. Small dead softwood or hardwood branches that are found on or under the
trees are good. When obtainable, there is nothing better than dry or dead pine,
spruce, or balsam knots. Although birch bark, particularly yellow birch, is very
good, in general it is unwise to teach children to use it for starting fires.
Crisscross Fire (4). Every outdoor enthusiast should be familiar with this
fire because it has no superior for producing a bed of glowing embers in a
remarkably short time. The advantage of this method for either starting or
replenishing a fire is that it gets air from all directions.
Lay a small pyramid fire about six inches high around a fuzz-stick, and on
each side of it place a two or three inch foundation-stick about a foot long.
Upon these build up a crisscross structure with uniformly sized, dry,
hardwood sticks the size of your thumb.
Crisscross Lay for Speed
For a quick luncheon, lay a crisscross fire, and before lighting it, hang the
kettle to boil. Just before the wood pile drops, sear your steak or chops in the
hot flame. When the wood falls to a bed of coals, lower your pot. Using the
foundation-sticks as a rest for the frying pan, proceed with your frying or
pan-broiling. If you have been so fortunate as to find gilod firewood, you
should be enjoying your meal twenty minutes after you light the fire.
1. Why do split sticks burn better than whole branches?
2. Would a crisscross fire be good for a night camp fire?
3. In teaching fire-building would you use a crisscross fire or a pyramid
fire as lesson number one?
Trapper or Hunter Fire (5). This fire has been the favorite cooking fire of
America since the days when wood seemed inexhaustible. In the early days little
thought was given to various types of fires, for it was generally considered
that the trapper fire had no equal for cooking purposes. This tradition still
exists, but because of the increasing scarcity of logs in most parts of the
country, we must consider other fires.
Favorite American Hunter or Trapper Fire
The principles of the trapper fire should be carefully studied so that they may be applied to modifications of this old
favorite where stones or earth must be substituted for logs. Note the following:
1. Method of retaining and confining the heat.
2. Heat reflection and radiation.
3. Direction of wind and control of draft.
4. Support for holding pots and pans.
To build a trapper fire, lay the side-logs either parallel or at an angle, at
such distance apart as will accommodate the size of the various cooking
utensils. Use•a damper-stick as illustrated when starting the fire, when
adding fuel, or when it is desirable to increase the draft.
There are several methods of starting this fire, depending upon the use to
which it is to be put.
(a) When a small meal is to be cooked, lay a crisscross fire; when it burns
down, 'place the side-logs in position.
(b) When several large utensils are to be heated, remove the log on the side
from which the wind is blowing, lay a long fire against the remaining log and
when it is well ablaze, replace the other log.
(c) When baked potatoes are on the menu lay the side-logs on two
damper-sticks, put plenty of tinder (dry leaves may be used) between the logs;
lay a liberal supply of firewood in crisscross fashion on top of them. When a
sufficient amount of ashes and coals have been formed, completely bury the
potatoes between the logs. Then replenish the fire and cook the rest of the
1. How would you lay a trapper fire with reference to the wind?
2. In what respect are stones inferior to wood for side-logs?
3. Would you prefer fast-burning or slow-burning woods for the side-logs of a
permanent fireplace? Which for a single meal?
4. How would you use a trapper fire for baking bread? (See Fires No. 15 and
Backlog Fire (6). This modification of the trapper fire requires only one
large log. It is especially useful when boiling and frying are to be carried on
simultaneously. It is easy to regulate so that the cook may have "Blaze for
boiling, coals for broiling."
Backlog Fire in Action
Lay the backlog at an angle of about sixty degrees to the direction of the
wind and build a fire against it on the side from, which the wind is blowing.
Hang the pot against the backlog as illustrated. When a sufficient amount Of
coals have been formed, rake them back between the firedogs for frying or
1. What is the object of the backlog?
2. Would stones answer the purpose quite as well as wood for a backlog? For
3. What is the objection to placing the backlog at right angles to the
direction of the wind?
4. In what respect is this fire superior to a trapper fire? How is it
Trapper-Backlog Stone Fireplace (7). As its name indicates, this is a
combination of a trapper and a backlog fire in which stones are substituted for
logs. If large stones of nearly equal size are not available, build up the
fireplace with smaller stones to a height of four or five inches. It is safer,
especially if small stones are used, to hang the pot rather than to rest it upon
the stones. Why?
Trapper-Backlog Stone Fireplace
The fire may be started with a pyramid lay, or by putting a liberal supply of
inflammable material such as leaves, bark, grasses, or twigs between the stones.
Then pile the firewood in crisscross fashion on top of the stones.
1. If you could get logs, would you use them instead of stones? Why?
2. How would you lay this fire with reference to the wind? How would you
regulate the, draft if the wind shifted?
3. What other method could you use for hanging the pot?
Scout Cooking Lay (8). This cooking lay will appeal to leaders who use a
group or patrol organization, as the work may be apportioned into eight parts as
Scout Lay without Forked Sticks
1. Erect the crane described in No.
2. Make the pothook described in No.
3. Cut side-logs.
4. Gather small sweet sticks for the grill.
5. Make a fuzz-stick and gather tinder and kindling.
6. Gather firewood.
7. Dig the potato trench.
8. Prepare the food.
If potatoes are to be baked, scoop out a long narrow trench three or four
inches deep, just large enough to contain the potatoes in a single layer. (If
the bottom is lined with small stones, fewer coals will be required.) Lay a
narrow crisscross fire the length of the trench and at least a foot high. When
it supplies enough coals to cover the potatoes completely, bury them. Sprinkle a
this layer of ashes or dirt over the potatoes and rekindle the fire.
To bake potatoes properly is the most difficult thing a beginner tackles. He
usually tries to bake them in glowing embers, because he fails to realize that
he must burn a large supply of wood and secure ashes enough to cover the
About ten minutes before the potatoes are done—they require about
forty-five minutes to bake—lay the grill and broil the meat. Do not place the
green firedogs until you are ready to broil the meat. Be sure to bank them with
dirt to prevent the Fair from getting under them and setting both the logs and
grill ablaze. Stones are better than wood for side supports. Why? Notice forked
branches are not used for either the grill, pothook, or uprights.
1. What kind of fire other than a crisscross could be used to produce coals
2. What sweet woods are good for the grill? What poisonous woods should be
avoided? (See No. 28.)
3. Do you prefer the split upright on the left to the one on the right?