Its not about burnt offerings and a token salad

If your idea of barbecued food is your ‘clichéd pile of burnt offerings and a token salad’, it’s time to think again.

After spending much of our time designing building and using our own equipment, and with our expertise of alfresco dining experiences, we soon discovered there was so much more to lighting the grill and plating up a well-done burger or sausage.

During our years of trading and doing our demos , we have cooked ‘all sorts of things’, from beautiful roasts to pastry dishes such as Beef Wellington, and even BBQ accented dishes like brownies and pies. Yes, really!!!!

Sophisticated and Adventurous BBQ

Currently there’s a growing appetite for the adventurous cook to transfer their skills in the kitchen to the bbq and recreate some of their favourite dishes. In doing so, they can also understand the additional flavour profiles that can be created in this way. In Ireland, we still have a very much defined view of what bbq food is, yet what we expect from our food in terms of traceability and sustainability has never been so important. It has been really very rewarding to work with like-minded people and see others who are as excited and enthusiastic about food and cooking new dishes.

No Limits to Barbecue Cooking

All our relationships with outdoor cooking in Ireland doesn’t have the same roots, as say, America, South Africa or Brazil – and that, sometimes, can limit our ideas about what we think we can use a bbq to cook. Mainstream media perpetuates this all the time, telling us what we cook and when we cook it, up to and including weather presenters saying if it’s going to be a barbecue weekend or not! This national psyche, combined with a lack of live fire training and a knowledge base of the same, time and time again limits what caterers and people working in the bbq world know about bbq cooking and the menus they create for events, and family etc.

Tried and Tested Routine

Food needn’t be cooked inside, before it’s taken outside to ‘finish off’ on the bbq, bbq food should be nicely smoky and have the flavour of the open fire – and you’ll never get the same result if you do three quarters of the cooking in an oven. I don’t think it’s because we’re lazy; I think it’s just a lack of understanding and people having no option but to take the easier, tried and tested route of ovens and hobs.

Everyone should try hosting a barbecued theme night in their venue, at home or for that special event we all have in our calendars – and we should never need to let the weather compromise plans.

So, what’s one recipe everyone can try on the barbecue? That’s a big question. People should learn the concept of indirect heat and start out by roasting a chicken. Understanding the straight-forward concept of moving heat slightly away from the direct heat source to create a roasting environment will totally revolutionise how you think about a bbq and open up so many possibilities.

Branching Out

Branching out into barbecuing isn’t a case of all or nothing or turning your back on what you’ve always done. So many places and people have cooked over charcoal in kitchens, but have kept to the same items, such as steak and maybe ribs. Think of it as another style of cooking, just as you might use a pressure cooker or slow cooker for certain dishes, and hobs and ovens for more mainstream dishes.

Do your Homework – Expand your mind by starting out with the fundamentals and get hands-on with some equipment. Swat up on well-sourced charcoal, too.

Think Seasonally – change your bbq style year-round, and as much as I say bbq is year-round, I don’t always want to be stood outside on a wet chilly evening, so I change what I cook. As the evenings draw in, I start to roast more on my barbecue and start using it more to cook those braised, slower cooked wintery dishes that are just so comforting, but with a smoky, bbq twist.

Have Fun – Experiment, play and open your mind to what other cultures have known about live fire cooking for years, but we’re slowly but surely catching up with!

BBQ Overload

I think it’s all too easy to think this trend for bbq cooking is at saturation point. There haven’t been too many ‘smokehouses’ either on the high street, or tucked away somewhere in a discrete rural location, but one thing I’ve noticed and been disappointed by too many times to remember is the sheer lack of quality on offer. All too often, the flavour profile is so dumbed down and overpowered with sweet barbecue sauce that it’s just unpleasant.

Open Your Mind and Expand Your Menu.

Apply the same principles we’ve heard so many top chefs and foodies for years; start with the best ingredients, keep it simple, and cook them to the best of your ability! The Holy Trinity of BBQ – Brisket, Pulled Pork and Ribs – are an absolute ‘foodgasm’ when cooked properly, but so are coal roasted beets to complement that menu special; show stopping grilled veg, mouth-watering pizzas cooked in an authentic wood fired oven, steaks cooked to perfection over charcoal, or a reverse seared cote de boeuf, smoked with a little wood chip.

Open your mind. Allow yourself to experiment with a heat source that’s been used for centuries and gain a reputation for doing something totally special as opposed to the mundane.