America's Favorite Regional Open-Fire Foods
From seafood to barbecue, America's different regions each have a favorite dish to cook over an open fire.
Along the rugged coastline of Maine, lobster bakes have been a tradition for centuries. Usually, a fire is built right on the beach. Lobsters (and often clams, potatoes, and corn, too) are placed on a large griddle kept aloft from the flames by a framework of large stones or bricks.
When Native Americans first introduced European settlers to choice spots for harvesting the region’s blue crabs, the early colonists quickly set about building seaside fires on which to place pots for steaming. In the 1940s, Old Bay Seasoning was added for flavor; spiced, steamed crabs remain an Eastern seaboard favorite today.
When this lowcountry stew originated in the Frogmore community of St. Helena Island off the South Carolina coast, it was a chunky seafood mixture cooked slowly over a beachside bonfire in a massive cast-iron pot. The mixture of shrimp, corn, potatoes, and kielbasa is still a casual-cooking favorite.
Unless you’re from the South, you may not have heard of a pig pickin’. A whole hog is cooked over a pit of glowing coals until the skin is crisp and glossy and the meat meltingly tender. The meat is picked right from the carcass to feed a crowd.
Kansas City Burnt Ends
The fatty, pointed end of a beef brisket may seem like low-grade meat to some, but for the Kansas City barbecue crowd, it’s a choice cut. The end is trimmed away (either before or after the brisket is cooked), seasoned again, and returned to the grill until dark brown and tender; it is usually served with plenty of barbecue sauce.
Good old-fashioned slow-smoked beef brisket is practically a religion in the Lone Star State. Brisket, a tough and stringy piece of meat, can become meltingly tender when slow-cooked over a smoky, water-logged hardwood fire. Each Texan has a secret recipe, but most begin with a spicy rub, lengthy marinade, and low fire in a covered grill.
Pizza on the Grill
On the West Coast, barbecuing is a year-round activity. Pizza is a natural choice; the dough is a delicious canvas for all types of fresh vegetables, cheese, and other ingredients, and grilling pizza adds lots of natural flavor while keeping it light.
Wood-Plank Smoked Salmon
Salmon was a staple ingredient of the Pacific Northwest’s Native American population. Fillets were tied to planks of alder or cedar, then smoked over open fires or in smokehouses to preserve the fish. Today, this is done using store-bought wood boards near beach bonfires or in modern grills.