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I was thinking about it and we use charcoal, gas, wood chips, etc to heat our food; for obvious reasons and since they burn for a long time.

But what if, for example, you set a few steaks on fire and use those steaks to cook a hamburger? Would it improve the taste of the hamburger?

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    LOL - Hickory makes good stakes and adds a nice flavor to the hamburgers. – MaxW Feb 26 '17 at 0:00
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    Braising comes to mind. – moscafj Feb 26 '17 at 0:11
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    Why would you waste expensive meat to cook cheap meat? For that matter, why would you waste food to cook other food at all? – Catija Feb 26 '17 at 3:23
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    In India ( and other places i am sure ) they use cow dung as fuel for fires and they pour butter on to feed it. Technically dung and butter are foods that have been processed . Just saying. – Alaska Man Feb 26 '17 at 5:16
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    Are you just looking for any example of the general concept in the title (including burning a bit of something when cooking with another fuel source), or are you actually asking about using food as a fuel as in the body of your question? None of the answers addresses the latter, yet you've accepted one. – Cascabel Feb 27 '17 at 16:34
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It's possible to smoke meat using nuts or herbs, and fish can be baked on a huge slab of rock salt, but other than that, people don't really bother.

There's nothing wrong with experimenting though. Maybe you'll invent something new by burning fruit. Who knows.

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    I've also heard of meat smoked with tea leaves either cooked wrapped in them, or using the leaves for smoke - but you're right, it isn't very common. Probably because it "wastes" whatever food is burnt. – Megha Feb 26 '17 at 7:17
  • Is tea smoked stuff really that uncommon in chinese cuisine? – rackandboneman Feb 27 '17 at 13:16
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    As far as I understand, this does not mean actually using nuts and herbs as a fuel source, just as a smoke source, and the rock salt isn't burned at all. – Cascabel Feb 27 '17 at 16:35
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If you just want the concept, there are pasta sauces involving egg or egg yolk where the heat from the pasta is the only thing that cooks the egg. In that way you cooked your food with food, but you didn't have to do without either piece of it.

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    I like the carbonara. – beppe9000 Feb 27 '17 at 15:19
  • But you're not using the pasta as the source of the flame... you're not burning the pasta to cook the egg, you're using residual heat to do that. – Catija Feb 27 '17 at 16:38
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    I answered before the edit saying "as fuel", @Catija – Kate Gregory Feb 27 '17 at 16:39
  • It's obvious in the question that "as fuel" was always the goal. See the OP's comment on the question from yesterday. You can hardly ignore the only example in the question (setting steak on fire to cook a burger). – Catija Feb 27 '17 at 16:40
  • I do similar things with eggs on rice, though the rice is still in the rice cooker when I do it so it doesn't quite count. Though I suppose it would work with freshly cooked rice that was still piping hot – ChickenOverlord Feb 28 '17 at 18:20
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In a way, exactly that happens in a flambe - potable alcohol (you can drink it and it has calories - food ;) ) is set on fire to cook stuff... and in some preparations (eg very high heat wok cooking), cooking oil (edible calories too) are set on fire for a moment...

Of course, there is a symbolic/style/fashion/hip/just plain decadent factor to take into account here - a burger prepared that way would make people CLAIM it tasted better, and that make enough people PERCEIVE it as tasting better, no matter what the actual influence of the technique is - unless it renders the food patently unpalatable, unsafe (though that has a hip factor in itself) or inedible.

Also, in a way, any smoking wood you use IS a food ingredient: You process it (by burning it) to extract an edible/palatable fraction (the smoke particles) and add that fraction to your food (by exposing it to the smoke).

  • Cooking wood is definitely a food ingredient... also, there are some dishes which use wood-specific charcoal as an ingredient. I've seen bamboo charcoal, there's bread made with that charcoal ground finely. So the wood can be a food ingredient twice over, the smoke can make one thing and the charcoal a second thing, and the whole is used up. – Megha Feb 28 '17 at 1:29
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What about acidity to "cook" fish ? You can make ceviche by "cooking" the fish in lime and/or lemon juice.

or salt to cure fish and meat ? You can make gravlax by "cooking" the fish with sugar and salt.

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Stakes may burn well, steak does not. Go ahead, light a pile of them. I dare you. How long did those burn for before they fizzled out?

I generally try to avoid having fat-flare-ups when grilling, as the thick greasy black smoke is the opposite of an improvement in flavor. That would be most of what you'd get from tossing a steak on the coals, which is about the only way you're going to "burn steaks" without having them either not light at all or go out in seconds, depending how hard you try to light them. Your fuel would still be charcoal.

The only "practical" application of your general concept which comes to mind (only "practical" due to weird US farming subsidies) would be using a corn-burning stove, and I doubt that would have any particular flavor benefit. You could burn other dry grains, pasta, or nuts if money is no object (presumably if you are starting with "burn steaks.") The nuts will tend to greasy black smoke again (I once gave up on shelling some black walnuts and used the remaining ones for firestarters; They burned quite well.)

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There is a self-fueling food, but it's only partially self-fueling. You need another heat source to provide the ignition.

First, get the fattiest grind of ground/minced beef that you can find. Cook it over either charcoal or a gas grill with a heat deflector. Place the burger directly over the charcoal or heat deflector.

Close the lid, which will help heat the entire burger so it renders the fat. As the fat drips, it will create flare-ups which will cook the burger faster than just the starting heat source.

It helps to use thinner patties -- as all of the fat is then relatively close to the surface, a higher percentage will drip out ... and the thing will be cooked before the outside becomes a hardened husk.

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