Ditch the stove, and learn how to cook in the great outdoors!

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Cooking in the Wild West: Tips From a Montana Ranch Chef

Cooking in the Wild West: Tips From a Montana Ranch Chef

Feel the wind at your back, and the grass underneath your feet…learn to cook like a cowboy! Whether you find yourself on a 6,000-acre ranch in the middle of cattle country, or you are simply looking to grill better steaks on your Weber, we have some tips from Craig Moore, a guest chef at Bell Cross Ranch in Cascade, Mont., about digging in your spurs and cooking meat to perfection in the wide-open air.

The wind isn’t always your friend — The biggest challenge with cooking on a mountaintop or a prairie is the wind threatening to blow out your fire. Chef Moore said that he and his team always line the chafing dishes with tin foil to keep wind from blowing out the fire of the Sterno. He also suggests cooking at the bottom of a mountain or hill rather than the top, so you’re shielded.

Pre-cook meat indoors if you can — The elements sometimes aren’t with you. From the wind, rain, and snow, or critters who may want to crash your grilling party, Moore said that he and his team pre-cook indoors to make sure conditions are as close to perfect as possible.

Your grill can make or break your meal — Moore very rarely cooks over an open flame, preferring instead to use a grill. But when it comes to sturdy grills, expensive doesn’t always mean better. “There seems to be trend with wealthy people at these western lodges buying shiny stainless steel grills, and most of them are horrible and practically useless,” said Moore. He suggests going with a simple Weber grill for cooking in the great outdoors, or a large cowboy fire pit grill for larger parties.

Cook over the coals for that authentic western taste — “Charcoal has a flavor you can’t duplicate,” says Moore.

Nothing beats local meat —It depends on where you call your grill home, but chef Moore said that nothing beats local meat from Montana, a state known for its cattle. “I guarantee you anyone around here could tell the difference between local beef and not,” said Moore. “It’s much more flavorful.” He says that it doesn’t matter whether the label says grass-fed or comes from high-end grocery store, there’s nothing like beef from the ranch next door.

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Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaFantozzi