My Top Ten BBQ Tips

1 – Asses Your Kit
-Use what you have got to the best of it’s abilities. If you have a smoker, break out the brisket. If you just have a small, discount supermarket grill then learn how to make the most kick-ass grilled meats, burgers and vegetables.

2 – Fuel
-Use the best fuel you can get your hands on that is suited to your needs. Charcoal and wood are your two main contenders here. If you are going for a grill, a high quality charcoal and a few woodchips soaked in water is your best bet but if you are planning on a long slow smoke then big pieces of oak and beech will be your friend.
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3 –The Main Event
-Whatever you decide to cook, again go with the best quality you can get your hands on. Think about what you want to cook. If you want good ribs, get good ribs. If you want burgers, get chuck steak mince with a high quantity of fat. If you want a huge spread of salads get fresh fruits and vegetables from the market. It’s not every day we roll out the grill (unfortunately) so when you do push the boat out a little.

4 – Prep your food.
-Salt your courgettes/aubergines for ten minutes before cooking. Oil squashes well. If you are using big, slow cuts like Jacobs ladder, then trim a good bit of the thick, white fat off of them. Fat is an insulator and if you leave too much on there the meat below won’t cook evenly.

5 – Seasonings and Rubs
-Make up a good quality rub for all of your barbecuing needs. I would recommend some combination of salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder and onion powder. For barbeque rubs I don’t think you should go with more than four/five ingredients. The flavours will just get lost with the strong tastes.

-If you want to up your game, make up a different rub for all of your favourite dishes. Chicken, fish, beef and even vegetables can get a serious boost from a great, individual rub.

6 – Cooking Prep
-When heating your grill, make sure to set up the fire and coals about forty minutes before you want to actually start cooking. This will allow the coals to heat up properly. You know they are ready when they all turn white with ash.

7 – Basting.
-There are many schools of thought here but my personal favourite way to keep food moist while cooking is an arousal spray. I use equal parts water, cider vinegar and apple juice. This helps keep the outside moist and develop a great bark of flavour with the seasoning.
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8 – Cooking process.
-While cooking slow cook meats it is important to make sure they don’t all dry out. The best way to combat this is wrapping them. I find wrapping in foil does the job for me but you can wrap in butcher paper or even cloth if you have some around. Wrap meats for the final third of the cook time to balance the smoke flavour with the internal moisture.

9 – Sauce
-BBQ Sauce is one of the most important things when laying out a smoky spread. I recommend finding a simple recipe online (might I recommend this one, or this one.) and playing around with it yourself. Everyone has their own tastes when it comes to sauces and it all about finding your own.

10 – Serving
-When serving up your wares it is importing to stick the landing to seal that perfect Ten from the judges. Let beef and port rest for twenty minutes. Serve chicken and fish as soon as possible. Let vegetables rest in a simple dressing for five minutes.
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The Worst Food

I used to not really like food that much. Shocker I know. I never disliked food either but up until I was about twelve I viewed it pretty much exclusively in two forms. Form 1) Fuel, Form 2) Variations of chocolate.

I came from a big family and every Christmas for the big dinner it would be “all hands on deck.” As a kid with my hands being smaller than most I was relegated to the job of cutting parsley in a mug with a pair of scissors. I hated that job and the smell of bruised parsley to this day brings me back to that annoying time before I was given a real job.

Eventually I was upgraded to “here, peel that” before a bag of carrots was thrust upon me. It was truly a great day in my history.

The Cookbook Chronicles

My favourite cookbook I have ever read has got to be Momofuku by David Chang and Peter Meighan. This book tells the story of David Chang set up his first, second and third restaurants across his three year meteoric rise from west village noodle bar to a Beard award winning culinary freight train. He is now one of the most influential Chefs in America, possibly the world with restaurants in Canada and now Australia.

The book is broken up into three distinct parts, each part for each of the first three restaurants he opened. Each section tells the story of the opening of the restaurants and guides you through the recipes and dishes that were on the menu when they first opened.

Throughout the book he keeps coming back to the idea of Authenticity vs Deliciousness and which is more important.

He talks about the search for “Authenticity” as a fool’s errand. Authenticity is an un-quantifiable entity. Especially when trying to recreate something like Tokyo Ramen on the streets of Manhattan. It’s impossible, the ingredients are different, the customers are different, the cooks are different, hell even the water in the taps is different.

Instead he says that it is far more important that first and foremost, your food be delicious than for it to follow some impossible notion of authenticity. When I go out for food I want good food made well. I don’t want food made in a pastiche of a dish without any of the correct ingredients or techniques.

“Is it delicious?” should always be your first question when making a dish.

When he talks about inventing new dishes for his Japanese inspired noodle bar he comes directly up against this conflict early on when making a base for his ramen broth. Ramen broth will usually contain a very strong smoky element in the form of katsuobushi which is a dried, smoked and fermented product made from bonito fish. He talks about trying to find a similar high quality product made in the states but without much luck. He then stumbled upon Alan Benton, a gentleman who makes what is reported to be the greatest smoked bacon in the world. Dave used this smoky bacon instead of the katsuobushi as the base for his Dashi. In that dish, his philosophy was formed. To take the idea and flavour of a traditional dish, and recreate it using the best of what you have on offer to you.

That is the kind of authenticity that David Chang believes in. Authenticity to the ingredients, not to a certain way of doing things with a certain exact set of ingredients.

It is worth noting also that the recipes in this book are extremely well put together, relying a lot on ratios and feelings more than the usual exact science of recipe writing. The photos are incredibly candid and natural. Most being from Chang’s personal collection of things he and his friends had swapped over the years.

Overall the book paints a really true and honest story about what being a chef in a restaurant kitchen is really like and all of the insanity that goes with it. I love cookbooks but sometimes with the prevalence of “Back to basics” and “Easy quick dinners” books it’s hard for me to get my hands on a cookbook I can really relate to. A book that speaks to me creatively and challenges me to cook better than I did today. This book is exactly that. The story is inspirational in a way that I could see it being my story in five or ten years time. The recipes are accessible but force me to think outside my comfort zone. The photos are scenes I see on a daily basis in work.

This book feels very much like a book made by cooks for cooks about cooks.

An absolute must read for anyone who takes food, or any form of creativity, seriously.