Joshua, who's tried everything from fruit woods to fig woods, now uses almond wood from a farm in Northern California as his fuel of choice. He starts his fires with an Iwatani Torch Burner, and the flames are tended all day in the large brick oven outside of the Saison dining room. Much like the Olympic torch, it almost never goes out.
The Iwatani works beautifully, but let's look at how they do things in the world capital of grilling.
THE GAUCHO METHOD
I don't have a long history of wielding fire, but I am a seasoned consumer of parrallada, as grilled meat is known in Argentina. I've witness many all-day Sunday feasts—asados—in the provinces outside of Buenos Aires. These asados are a cultural mainstay and serious business. Roasting a whole lamb, as common in Patagonia as a stuffed turkey in the U.S., often starts at 6 a.m. and finishes near 2 p.m. Argies assume 4lbs (2kg) of meat will be eaten per person at such affairs. Bring your Pepto-Bismol.
Francis Mallmann is the Argentine figurehead of grilling, the capo, the Mickey Mantle of meat.
Raised in the Andes as the son of a preeminent nuclear physicist, Mallmann trained at the most famous French kitchens in the world, later becoming South America's most venerated Patagonian cook. But, in his own words, he was "tired of making fancy French food for wealthy customers in Buenos Aires" and so returned to his mother tongue: fire.
Patagonia is, as he describes it, still much like the Wild West was 100 years ago. Andean gauchos (cowboys) and the Indians before them used methods that he still recommends. For wood, he prefers, in descending order:
3. Birch or hickory
If you have to use charcoal instead of wood, use half the volume. For a serious, large-mammal meal, a minimum of 5lb (2.5kg) of charcoal is needed.