Meat on a Stick: feed your inner caveman

"Meat on a Stick," from Make It Like a Man!

There are only three things that men want, and two of them are Meat and Fire. A gentleman, however, needs more: a little something on the side, a glass of wine, and perhaps something saucy. I’m going show you how to bring these things together, in an unbelievable, rustic meal featuring meat on a stick, i.e. steak over a campfire. It will be easy, absolutely primitive, and completely foodie at the same time.

To get this meal going, you’ll need to procure some meat.

Sure, you could hunt for it … with a gun – but where’s the sport in that? Bow and arrow seems a bit more respectable, although still, is it really a fair fight? Unless you can bring down a buck in unarmed, hand-to-hoof combat, you might as well just visit a butcher. On the way home from the beach.

"Lake Michigan, viewed from Empire Bluff," from Make It Like a Man!

A really good beach.

You want a cut of beef that’s quick-cooking. Filets are my first choice for this meal.

If you’d like, consider dressing up your meat.

I prefer really good beef to be seasoned before cooking, and then served in an austere manner. But on occasion, I might consider:

If you wish to go this route, consider serving these things on the side, in individual cups or tiny bowls, and use them as dipping sauces as you eat. Start your meal prep with them, and set them out so they’re ready-to-eat.

Once you’ve done that, you may want to take your meat out of the fridge and let it come toward room temperature.

Light a fire.

I’m not going to go in-depth about how to do this, except to say that any self-respecting person should be able to produce a beautiful fire – without relying on accelerants – with only one match. Otherwise, once President Trump starts a nuclear war that bombs us all back to the Dark Ages, you’re going to be useless.

I don’t always construct a campfire with the teepee method, but for cooking meat on a stick, the teepee is perfect.

You need to get this fire hot. To do that, you’ll need to let the fire produce a bed of coals. As you add wood, continue to add it in the teepee style, so that you wind up with a wood teepee over a bed of coals. This will create an impressive blaze with a convenient open space in the center.

While your fire is getting under way, prep your sticks.

"Meat on a Stick," from Make It Like a Man!

Unless you like well-done beef, you’ll need wood. A metal skewer will transmit heat into the center of your beef, and your beef will wind up cooking from the inside and the outside at the same time. Wood doesn’t transmit heat well enough to do that.

Of course, your wood needs to be green. Otherwise, your skewer will disintegrate, and your meat will fall into the fire.

Dimensions: does size matter?

You want a stick that’s long enough to let you keep your distance from a roaring fire. I like something about five feet long, but three would work.

It doesn’t really matter how thick your stick is. Yes, I just said that. It doesn’t, because you’re going to be whittling down the pointy end. However, if you start with something about the diameter of your index finger, your whittling will be easier.

Maple saplings are perfect for this.

If you’re doing this in a large clearing in the middle of a mixed deciduous-hardwood forest, you’ll probably find sugar maple saplings handily growing right at the forest’s edge. You can easily fell and trim them with a good pair of pruning shears. If you’re not doing this in a forest, well then, why don’t you go back to your quinoa salad?

Yes, then the whittling.

Use your hunting knife to shave off pieces from the end of the stick until you’ve got something no thicker than a pencil, and sharp enough to be considered a weapon. Do this by the campfire, of course.

Meat Prep

Dry the filets with paper towels. Toss the paper towels into the fire.

Then, you may want to cut your filets into pieces.

Size = Doneness. The larger the pieces, the more rare they’ll wind up.

Sometimes, I cut the meat up into pieces the size of marshmallows, roast them one at a time, and eat them one at a time. They usually come out medium rare, to medium. If you’re afraid your meat’s going to cook too much, keep the meat refrigerated until time to cook.

"Meat on a Stick," from Make It Like a Man!

Sometimes, I cut the meat up into pieces about 1/2 to 3/4 the size of my fist. Done this way, you can easily produce saignant, to rare, to the rare side of medium-rare beef. If you’re afraid your meat will wind up too rare, allow the meat plenty of time to come toward room temperature before cooking.

Beef always needs lots of seasoning. The larger the pieces, the more seasoning. Salt and pepper are perfect, but something like Montreal Steak seasoning is good, too.

Make sure to skewer the meat deep enough onto the stick that it’s not going to come off. I like to see about an inch of wood sticking out the other end.

"Meat on a Stick," from Make It Like a Man!

I recommend roasting in direct, intense heat.

Shove the meat directly into the flames, and every 15 seconds or so, give it a quarter turn. If you prefer coals, I suggest you get the meat as close to them as you possibly dare.

This is where the teepee construction comes in handy. You should be able to shove that meat right into an oven of hellish flames.

It won’t take long for your meat to cook, but obviously, it depends on the size of your pieces. Use the touch method to determine doneness. You’ll be surprised to find that you can yank your meat from the fire and immediately touch it without burning yourself. (At least, I can. Maybe you should proceed with caution and not take my word for it.)

"Meat on a Stick," from Make It Like a Man!

If you’re using the cook-and-eat, marshmallow-size method, take your finished piece out of the fire, let it cool for a few seconds, and then pull it off with your fingers and eat it. (Or eat it right off the stick like a caveman.) If you’re roasting larger pieces, push them off the stick with a fork once they’re done, give’m a pat of butter, and tent them with foil while you work on your sides.

If you want sides…

Choose things that you can skewer while your meat rests, like halved peppers. Onions and mushrooms can be skewered if your deft – but you may want to use traditional, metal campfire skewers for those.

It’s fun if everyone roasts their own meat, but it can be more efficient if someone roasts meat while someone else roasts the sides.

If you don’t want to mess around with grilled veggies, prep ahead a salad.

Red Wine is a huge plus for a meal like this.

Common choices are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir, among others. But if I had my druthers, I’d pair it with whiskey: Bulleit.

"Meat on a Stick," from Make It Like a Man!

Meat on a Stick

Credit for images on this page: Make It Like a Man! This content was not written in exchange for anything, nor was it solicited.

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29 thoughts on “Meat on a Stick: feed your inner caveman

    • Not an especially buggy year. Some times things work out like that.

  1. I don’t have an inner caveman but I do love with one!
    He loves meat juice dribbling down his chin.
    That sounds bad.
    Jay recently posted…Poor Agnes

    • Ah! You should! You could use BBQ sauce with this method if you applied it at the very end, or you could use BBQ as a dipping sauce.

  2. Jeff! I’ve always wanted to cook meat on a stick, but I’ve never had the gumption to actually do it. Kudos to you for doing it AND sharing the tips. Now about that whole whittling down my stick thing….
    David @ Spiced recently posted…Mixed Berry Coffee Cake

  3. Great, fun post Jeff. Wish we could actually have a open fire out camping here, but with California being so bone-dry that’s not a good idea so my BBQ will suffice for now (unless we move to Oregon like I’m hoping soon). I recently went to the East coast and visited Smithfield pork and met another blogger, Derek, over at I think you’ll like the stuff he puts out and his Instagram is off the hook with various submissions from followers. Check it out!
    Kevin | Keviniscooking recently posted…Slow Cooker BBQ Beef Stuffed Potatoes

    • I’m usually in the position of admiring your lovely weather, but one thing we do have going for us is plenty of water. Thanks for the Derek tip – I’ll check him out!

    • It is fun. I do this any time people visit me at my summer place, and it never fails to be a curtain raiser.

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