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I recently moved into a new apartment that is equipped with a wood burning fireplace.

I am very excited about this, not only because burning wood on a cool day makes the world seem simpler and awesome, but also because I am interested in the potential culinary applications.

First and foremost, I am interested in grilling. There seem to be a number of different ways to use an indoor fireplace as a grill. Given the limited space of my apartment-sized fireplace, what is the best solution to grill a steak, some veggies, or some hot dogs over my interior open flame?

What features differentiate the various styles of these devices?

Example image:

Adjustable fireplace grill

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If anybody happens to be curious, I ended up not pursuing this project. My fireplace doesn't ventilate well enough. Even after a thorough chimney cleaning, much smoke ends up being sucked back into the apartment for some reason. –  Preston Fitzgerald Dec 16 '13 at 14:49
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3 Answers 3

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Your primary features should be:

  1. Safe design. This means the unit should remain steady when engaged with the fireplace.
  2. The ability to easily add and remove food from the cooking surface.
  3. The ability to easily move the cooking surface closer to and further from the fuel source.

These are paramount. Your first priority is to do no harm, so you want a stable grill built for the purpose of hearth cooking that won't fall out of the fireplace and set your apartment aflame. The ease of use is also important (and is probably a contributor to overall safety), as you want to be able to control your cooking conditions without much complication.

As a secondary concern, I would want something that either had a rotisserie option built-in, or was rotisserie-capable. Also, I'd want maintenance to be simple. The default thought might be to go for cast iron, but you should consider that it will likely be facing temperatures that will kill the seasoning, and reseasoning could prove to be difficult. So it may be worthwhile to do some research on the best material to use for the long term.

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Oof. I hadn't really considered cleaning. That part will be trickier on an indoor grill for sure. –  Preston Fitzgerald Mar 8 '13 at 21:19
    
@PrestonFitzgerald My usual trick is just dropping the grill over the flames, let it burn and then scrub out the carbonized grease with a metal brush over the (already dirty) fireplace –  belisarius Mar 11 '13 at 12:38
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This won't be a direct answer regarding the grill, but a popular alternative:

Consider getting a cast iron dutch-oven and a wire/metal bbq basket instead.

Cooking over the open wood fire is akin to driving a rocket through a go-kart track. Most people burn the logs util they have have built up good amount of charcoal. At this point, you either bury the cast-iron pot in the coal or place the cage containing food over the charcoal and watch the magic.

a couple of small blocks of stone/brick propped on the desired side usually leads to the perfect height of the cage over the coal. Best part is that the cage and the pot fit in the sink for a quick cleaning.

here is a cross section picture of the cast iron pot in coals. From Modernist Cuisine, Nathan Myhrvold:

here is a cross section picture of what the cast iron pot in coals.  From Modernist Cuisine, Nathan Myhrvold

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I'm pretty sure the idea with grills like this is to let the logs burn down to coals. At that point, surely for the sake of being able to reach in to add, turn, and remove food, it's good to have a grill, not just something inside a pot? –  Jefromi Mar 9 '13 at 1:03
    
@Jefromi I'm referring something like: amazon.com/Onward-Manufacturing-Company-Non-Stick-Rotisserie/dp/… easier to 'reach in' if your whole set up can be removed from the fireplace. The cast iron pot is a different game from a grill and what you see in this Mondernist cuisine picture: g-ecx.images-amazon.com/images/G/01/books/hopub/images/… –  MandoMando Mar 9 '13 at 1:16
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I'm mostly a reader at this site, but in this particular case, as an Argentinian barbecue fan that used an indoor grill for many years, I feel somewhat qualified to spit out some warnings:

  • Use embers, not direct flame. The flame will burn your meat.
  • Temperature: you should be able to hold your hand for three seconds just over your grill when cooking, no more, no less. You may use an adjustable height grill or just adjust the amount of embers, as you prefer
  • No greasy meats. They'll clog your chimney after some time and leave grease at your fireplace floor (the smell is nice while cooking, but not afterwards)
  • Be sure your chimney works very well before attempting to use a grill indoors. The smoke smell may last for a week on curtains and mats
  • NEVER use it to cook fish unless your SO is a seal

(more on some desirable grill features later, need some spare time)

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Do you know how much grease is okay? I ask because I know how nasty it is when it starts dripping down out of a stove hood, but I assume you don't find out you've overdone it until it's way too late. –  Jefromi Mar 9 '13 at 4:22
    
Very thankful for your feedback. I was hoping someone with first hand experience would wander in. Thanks. –  Preston Fitzgerald Mar 9 '13 at 4:46
    
@Jefromi De-greasing a fireplace vent pipe (sorry I don't know the right word) is a one-time-in-a-whole-life experience. So I didn't allow any space for a second round. I mostly cook thin slices (faster) of very lean meat or poultry and veggies now. –  belisarius Mar 9 '13 at 16:54
    
This is actually making me kind of nervous. My fireplace vents fairly well, but not as well as I'd like. My apartment smells of wood smoke for days after burning a fire... which is fairly pleasant. But I imagine it would not be pleasant if it smelled like hot dogs for days. –  Preston Fitzgerald Mar 11 '13 at 11:53
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@PrestonFitzgerald Well, my first mistake was with a trout. Just imagine ... :D –  belisarius Mar 11 '13 at 12:35
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