I was playing the Sims Medieval the other day, and at one point, the blacksmith proves s/he's a capable cook by... taking a piece of meat, firing up the forge, and hammering the thing into a steak.

It's obviously done tongue-in-cheek, but it got me thinking - is it somehow possible to use a forge (bellows, coal, anvil, the works) to produce something actually edible?

If 'yes', what sort of constraints (e.g. necessary preparations, limitations on what kind of foods you could prepare) would there be?

Putting aside issues of cost and practicality.

  • 5
    You can watch a blacksmith cook a pizza in a forge here: youtube.com/watch?v=BalyIv-GrKQ
    – kgutwin
    Jul 23 at 13:46
  • 1
    My wife would say she might not be able to tell the difference between forge-cooked steak and my A #1 melt-in-your-mouth prime ....
    – CGCampbell
    Jul 23 at 15:16
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    Watch it done
    – J...
    Jul 23 at 15:20
  • If you can use a radar dish on a helicopter as a microwave you can use a forge as a grill. I've been told stories of guys blowing (I would like to think fans but for all I know it could have been their mouth) into the pitot tube to make the helicopter think it was flying to get the radar dish to turn on
    – DKNguyen
    Jul 23 at 15:23
  • This is similar to the trick I've heard where you wrap some meat and/or veggies up in foil and stick it on the engine block in your car, then go for a drive, cooking the food with the engine heat. I imagine the same techniques that allow you to do this safely would apply to a blacksmithing forge - mainly wrapping the food in foil to avoid contaminants (or metal shards in this case). Jul 23 at 17:24

Amateur blacksmith here.

So, first, let me caution that two of the things that are around any forge are toxic chemicals like borax, and lots and lots of tiny metal fragments that would be very bad to get inside you. So I don't recommend ever actually cooking around a forge.

If you were to do so anyway, though, how you would do it is by heating a large flat piece of steel to red-hot in the forge, and then holding that steel above or below the thing you wanted to cook. There's actually a standard medieval cooking tool called a salamander that works on this principle, just starting in a fireplace and not a forge.

I cannot comment on whether anyone actually cooked this way at one or more ABANA meetings, given how unsafe it would have been to do so.

  • 1
    A large flat piece of steel on a forge is almost exactly a Mongolian wok.
    – Dave X
    Jul 24 at 17:31

The (probably apocryphal) story behind "Pittsburgh rare" steaks is that steel workers in Pittsburgh would cook a steak on a steel ingot out of a blast furnace, or directly on the furnace. The high heat would blacken the outside within seconds, while leaving the inside extremely rare.

If that sounds tasty to you, then, well, problem solved. If you wanted your steak more reasonably cooked, you could simply allow the steel to cool for a bit longer before you started cooking on it.

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    done with a thin enough steak on a slightly cooled bit of steel (dull red rather than bright yellow) I reckon you could get a pretty good steak from that. Also from what I'd heard of the story, the steak would be slapped on the side of the steel so that it would fall off once it was done
    – Tristan
    Jul 23 at 10:26
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    It's actually how Bistecca alla Fiorentina is traditonally cooked. It goes in an 800F wood-fired oven, so that the outside is charred and the inside is rare.
    – FuzzyChef
    Jul 23 at 19:54
  • "More reasonably cooked"?! I'm sorry, seared on the outside and raw on the inside isn't a perfect steak? Please say you aren't one of those philistines that orders "well done" 😉. (Works great for tuna, also.)
    – Matthew
    Jul 25 at 13:04
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    @Matthew Blackened and raw is great for tuna and for a very small selection of beef cuts. Show me a seared ribeye and I'll show you a wasted ribeye.
    – Sneftel
    Jul 25 at 14:31
  • @FuzzyChef I always wondered whether that was a thing you could do with a WFO. Thanks for the search term.
    – Sneftel
    Jul 25 at 14:34

Fun idea

A forge fire is just a big open coal BBQ grill and very hot.

A bellow will help getting high temperature, maybe too high for proper grilling; you'd need to be careful.

The anvil is pretty much useless for cooking, it is away from the fire and will not get very hot; you could use it to hold a piece of meat while you hit it with a hammer to tenderize it

You could use the forge/anvil to create yourself a nice iron pot and use it to cook food.

See : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgzEx2_PO1Y&ab_channel=ChandlerDickinson

  • 1
    This was really an answer so I'll post it.
    – FuzzyChef
    Jul 23 at 0:29

I have cooked on a forge numerous times, but my forge was a bit different from most modern forges. The main difference being that we used charcoal instead of propane. It was an old-school blower forge where you crank a wheel around to push air up through the bottom. You get a pile of coal or charcoal, make a fire that gets the coal or charcoal to start glowing, then crank it to get it hotter. It's not that different from what I think is called an African charcoal stove. We would get it hot, then put a grate on the coals, then a cast-iron on the grate. Voila! In case you were wondering, most people don"t use charcoal anymore because it takes so much effort and time to make. Coal burns about 1/3 the rate of charcoal but produces the same heat (and some nasty smoke). But obviously, propane is even easier than coal. Most people in developed countries and factories who do any smithing use propane, but I think charcoal is the best. Nothing noxious, no risk of explosions, and the fuel is renewable.

  • Also, less scale!
    – FuzzyChef
    Jul 23 at 19:56

In a location with furnaces , you can always have a hot lunch by finding a warm location. But the surroundings are not supportive for cooking. However simple tings like baking apples is good ; core it fill with sugar and cinnamon and heat. Apples can be baked surprisingly fast at 500 +F , but do not leave them in a furnace too long. It seems like seconds to go from great caramel sauce to tar.

  • The same struggle as a candy maker.
    – DKNguyen
    Jul 24 at 19:12

Forges operate at extremely high temperatures. Steel gets that "glow" of red around 900°F/480°C. So if we want to consider the coldest possible temperature, that's it (but likely much higher).

There are a limited number of foods that could be cooked at that temperature and be enjoyably edible. For most foods, temperatures that high will burn the outside before cooking the inside.

You'd really be limited to things like flatbread, pizza, or very thin strips of meat. Essentially things that have a lot of surface area to cook, but not much internal mass that needs to be brought up to temperature. Maybe even something like popcorn? Either way, that surface-to-mass ratio will be important.

There may be other things that are possible but not practical given enough creativity. Ex) You could heat the anvil, then use it's thermal mass to cook on. Because of the impractically, but possibility, it feels more fun as a world building exercise than a cooking one.

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    I'm guessing it'd have to be really thin because the thing would cook really, really quickly? So something thicker would end up with the middle still cold while the outside is charred?
    – user94836
    Jul 22 at 23:41
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    Exactly. A tortilla may cook perfectly, but a sandwich loaf would be dough inside and charcoal outside.
    – AMtwo
    Jul 22 at 23:57
  • 900F would not actually be a problem; there's lots of foods that are cooked at that temperature. However, the temp directly above a coal forge is likely to be more like 1800F, which indeed would make it impossible to cook anything without incinerating it. Especially tortillas.
    – FuzzyChef
    Jul 23 at 0:45
  • Ruths Chris steakhouse makes some....somewhat dubious (IMO) claims about the temperatures of their ovens and plates being in the 1000+°F range.
    – Mike G
    Jul 23 at 14:08
  • 1
    Given radiated heats drops off exponentially, couldn't you just cook the pizza a bit further away from the direct flame?
    – user94836
    Jul 24 at 4:06

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