Tip 29 – Year round BBQ – 30 Days to Better BBQ

Frost of Weber Handle

Our weather in the UK has become one of the trademark features of UK BBQ, but maybe not for the right reasons. It has become somewhat of a national joke that as soon as you put flame to charcoal, the heavens will open and any plans for a BBQ are ruined. I’m not going to pretend that anyone likes to BBQ in the rain but hopefully with the tips below I can show that it isn’t a reason to stop using your BBQ.

I also want to talk about using your BBQ outside the traditional BBQ season. Many BBQ’s are put into hibernation at the end of the summer, destined to remain there until the next sunny bank holiday weekend. I use my BBQ’s all year round and I hope I can encourage you to do the same.

 

Rain, Hail or Shine!

Rain sucks! It seems to make every task that little bit harder (and wetter) but if we didn’t get so much of the stuff, we wouldn’t live in such a beautiful, green country so maybe we need to cut it some slack.

When most of us plan a big cook, the first thing we do is check the weather, maybe even before we decide what we are going to cook! If rain is forecast then you may be tempted to change your plans but as long as you take the horrendous weather into account there is no reason not to have your BBQ.

Rain and bad weather will have an effect on your BBQ so you will definitely need to take it into consideration. When rain hits the hood of your BBQ, it will have a cooling effect and bring down the ambient temperature inside your BBQ so you may need to add some extra charcoal to keep a steady temperature. The same can be said for cold, frosty day.

Wind can cause your coals to burn faster than usual so make sure you are set up in a sheltered spot and close your vents down a little if needed.

Remember that you don’t have to stand beside your BBQ at all times. Place it close enough to the house so that you can look out the window and check the hood temperature or use something like the iGrill to monitor the temperatures of your BBQ and food from the comfort of your house.

If a BBQ enthusiast hasn’t fired up the BBQ during torrential hurricane conditions, can they really be called a BBQ enthusiast? We all have those pictures of our BBQ’s smoking away with a garden parasol clinging on for dear life over it. The neighbours may think you have lost the plot but it is simply earning your wet weather stripes.

 

The Shack

When the garden parasol isn’t quite cutting it anymore, it may be time to look at building your own covered area for your BBQ’s. This can be as simple as a garden gazebo that will keep the worst of the rain off you as you cook to a large permanent structure for cooking and dining.

A few month’s ago, I had to take down my shelter as we were having some work done in the backyard so I have plans to rebuild it soon so I will be sure to document my plans on the website for you all to follow along with.

There are entire Facebook groups dedicated to outdoor cooking and dining areas so have a look at some different ideas and get inspired. Having somewhere to prepare and cook food in all weathers is a BBQ enthusiasts dream and it makes cooking all year round that little bit easier.

 

Having a BBQ vs Using a BBQ

When I tell people that we cook our Christmas dinner on our BBQ’s, I often think they picture our entire family sitting out in the garden with icicles hanging from the end of our nose, chasing a half frozen brussel sprout around our plates, but it really isn’t any different to cooking your Christmas dinner in the kitchen.

I fire up and preheat the BBQ’s the same way I would preheat the oven. I put the turkey and ham on to cook, the same way I would using an oven, and I get on with the rest of my day. Food cooked on your BBQ doesn’t have to be eaten outdoors. If this was the case, I’m not sure even the most hardcore BBQ veterans would want to do it.

Having a BBQ has become synonymous with getting the entire family around, setting up the garden furniture and enjoying the sunshine. The reality is, all you are doing is cooking dinner. If the weather is rubbish you can eat it in the comfort of your home.

 

If 30 days to better BBQ has help you with anything I hope it is these two things.

  • The possibilities of what you can cook on your BBQ are endless.
  • Your BBQ is a great way to cook food all year round

Tomorrow’s tip will be the last in the 30 Days to Better BBQ series. The tips will remain on the website for everyone to read back through plus I have something else special planned for them that I’ll release more details about soon.

 

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Tip 28 – Pulled Pork Recipe [Video] – 30 Days to Better BBQ

Pulled Pork

We’re at the end of Smoking week in 30 Days to Better BBQ and I want to finish off with another video. This time I’m smoking a pork butt, low and slow in my Weber Smokey Mountain to make pulled pork.

If you are new to low and slow BBQ and smoking, Pulled pork is a great cook to help you practice fire management and temperature control. It is a little more forgiving than some low and slow classics such as brisket as it can handle a slightly higher heat and the window for getting it off the smoker just right is a wider.

 

Setting up the smoker

I used my Weber Smokey Mountain for this cook but you can get equally great results on a Weber Kettle using the snake method for your coal setup.

In the WSM I fired it up using the minion method and brought it up to around 130C. I filled the water bowl to around halfway with boiling water. Using cold water in the bowl will make it difficult to get the smoker up to temperature as the water will absorb a lot of heat.

 

Preparing the Pork Butt

For this cook, I used a 3kg boneless Pork butt, which is from the shoulder of the pig. You can also use a bone in pork shoulder which will still have the blade bone. When the pork shoulder is cooked to tenderness, the blade bone will slide out clean.

To prepare the pork butt for the smoker, you don’t need to do a lot. Remove any ‘knobbly bits’ that are sticking out as they are likely to burn over the duration of the cook. If there is a heavy fat cap on top of the pork butt, this can be trimmed down to allow as much rub as possible to get into the meat. There is plenty of fat in the pork shoulder that will slowly melt, adding flavour to the meat and keeping it moist.

I seasoned the pork butt with two Angus & Oink rubs. The first layer was ‘Porky White Chick’ followed by a layer of ‘The General’. When the pork butt is evenly coated on all sides, it’s time to get it on to smoke.

 

Smoking the Pork Butt

The initial stage of the cook is simply to let the pork butt take on the smoke and to add a great colour to it. After placing the pork butt on the smoker, I added a chunk of Cherry wood and a chunk of Silver Birch, both from Smokewood Shack. I like the flavour of this blend as it is quite mild and you get a great colour from the Cherry wood.

Leave the pork butt to smoke for about 3-4 hours. You can check it from time to time to make sure the surface of the meat isn’t drying out too much and spray it with some apple juice if you need to. Once you are happy with the colour, it is time to lift it off and wrap it up.

 

Wrapping

There are lots of people who will not wrap the pork butt for the entire cook but I like to wrap. It speeds up the cook a little so can be a life saver if you’re pushed for time. You can also add some liquid into the foil which will help braise the pork butt, making it really tender and juicy.

Do your best to avoid tearing any holes in your foil or else you will end up with a puddle on the bottom of your smoker. You want to wrap the pork butt as tightly as possible as this will avoid any steam building up and ruining that bark you worked hard to create.

Once wrapped, put the pork butt back onto the smoker and leave it for another few hours.

 

When is it ready?

After you wrap the pork butt, check it from time to time with your Thermapen. It’s best to feel for tenderness rather than relying on an internal temperature to tell you when your pork butt is ready. You will know you are in the right zone when the internal temperature reaches around 93C but if the probe isn’t pushing into the meat with no resistance, leave the pork butt on the smoker of a little while longer.

When you are happy with how the pork butt is probing, it’s time to lift it off and rest it. I usually leave the pork but loosely wrapped in foil with a few towels over it for about an hour. At this point, the pork butt has cooled enough that you can hold it with your hand without burning.

When it’s time to shred the pork butt, you can use your tongs, bear claws, forks or simply your hands to pulled it apart.

 

If you are new to low and slow BBQ I highly recommend giving pulled pork a try. It’s a straightforward cook that tastes great. It keeps really well in the fridge and is great for wraps and sandwiches for a quick lunch or add it to a pizza.

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Tip 27 – Become best friends with your Butcher – 30 Days to Better BBQ

Beef Ribs from Hillstown Farm Shop

A couple of weeks ago, as I rocked up outside my local farm shop, I found myself asking a really strange question…… “When did I begin to get so excited about going to the butchers?”

It’s an affliction that most BBQ enthusiasts suffer from. Well….. I say suffer, but truth be told, it’s simply another part of BBQ. Using great quality meat on your BBQ is a match made in heaven and it’s only when you have tried better quality meat that you realise what you have been missing out on.

 

So why should you buy your meat from a butcher rather than the supermarkets?

 

Your butcher has spent years learning his craft and is passionate about producing the best quality meat he can. Sadly, not all butchers are created equal but the ones who know their trade become obvious after talking with them a few times.

As a beginner, it can be a little daunting going into your butcher and trying to order the cut of meat you want, especially if it’s not something you would traditionally find on a butcher’s counter but there really is nothing to worry about. A butcher will be more than happy to talk through different cuts and they will more than likely want to know about what you have planned for it. I’ve had some great tips from my butcher on how to cook different cuts, or simply tell your butcher what dish you had in mind and they can recommend the best cut for it.

It won’t be long before a 10 minute trip to the butchers turns into an hour long visit talking about meat and BBQ…… and that’s why I enjoy going to the butcher!

 

Sharpening up your own Butchery Skills

A big part of BBQ is preparing meat to cook on your BBQ. I highly recommend learning some basic butchery skills. There are loads of beginner butchery classes out there you can attend or if you are the ‘learn it yourself’ type of person (like me) then check out The Scott Rea Project on YouTube. I’ve picked up loads of tips from watching Scotts video’s and it is my first port of call when I need to know how to prepare a certain cut of meat.

 

Having trouble finding the meat you want?

Sometimes sourcing the right cuts for BBQ can be difficult. You may have tried all your local butchers but can’t seem to track down what you are looking for. All’s not lost! There are some great butchers out there who offer a delivery service, most nationwide.

If you live on the UK Mainland, you can check out Bob’s Family Butchers in Hatfield who are a traditional Butchers who have really made a name for themselves in the BBQ community for the quality of their meat.

If you are my side of the pond (Northern Ireland), Check out The Meat Merchant in Moira or my local butcher, Hillstown Farm Shop in Ahoghill. Both companies take tremendous pride in the meat they are producing and the end results speak for themselves.

 

These are only a few of the fantastic butchers out there, I would love you to leave a comment below and show your local butcher some BBQ love. Let others know where they can find great quality meat on their doorstep.

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Tip 26 – Varieties of Smoking Wood – 30 Days to Better BBQ

Cherry Wood

Today we are going to take a look at some of the varieties of wood used for smoking and the different flavours they can add to your food. As with any ingredient you use in your cooking, each different variety of wood works better with some meats than others and will give you a different flavour and colour.

Fruit woods such as Apple, Cherry and Pear are some of the milder flavours out there and are a great place to start. The flavour isn’t too intense and has a slight sweetness to it. For some, the flavour of strong smoke can be a little overpowering so these milder woods will give you a great flavour and colour whilst letting the meat come through.

Oak would be considered a medium strength smoking wood and ideal for those who really like to taste the smoke on their food.

 

Whilst most hardwoods are suitable for smoking, there are some woods you should avoid as they can be harmful. These woods are Redwood, Pine, Fir, Elm, Liquid Amber, Cypress, Spruce, Sycamore and Cedar. You should also avoid any wood that has been treated with any kind of preservative.

 

Blending different varieties of wood

It is a great idea to play around with blending different varieties of wood that have different flavours to achieve an overall flavour profile. Blending fruit woods like apple, cherry or pear which give a slightly sweeter smoke with something like beech, oak or hickory can give you a great flavour on your meat.

This is also a great way to intensify the smoke flavour on your food. If you like the flavour of a fruit wood but would like a slightly stronger smoke flavour then rather than adding more wood, try blending a different wood in with the fruit wood to get the best of both worlds.

I have put together a wood smoking chart with some of the more common wood varieties, their strength of flavour and what meat they work well with. This is not an exclusive list and there are other varieties that work well but these will give you a nice mix to get started with

 

Click here to download the wood smoking chart

 

Giveaway Update!

Smokewood Shack Giveaway

To help you experiment with all these different wood flavours and find the right flavours for you, James over at SmokewoodShack.com is going to allow the giveaway winner 25% off their next order so you can stock up on some of the best quality smoking wood around. Make sure to visit the Smokewood Shack website to see their range of Chunks, Chips and Dust.

A huge thank you to James for supporting 30 Days to Better BBQ and helping out with the giveaway. You can follow Smokewood Shack on Twitter and Facebook

 

This is the fourth and final prize to be added to the 30 Days to Better BBQ Giveaway, to find a list of all the prizes and how you can win them, visit http://www.barbechoo.com/giveaway. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, 28th June 2017.

Tip 25 – Snake vs Minion Method – 30 Days to Better BBQ

Minion Method on WSM

Getting a long cook time from your BBQ can be difficult to manage if you are relying on simply adding lit coals each time your temperature starts to drop. For most long cooks, you want to keep your temperature quite low and steady. This means you only need a few briquettes to be lit at any one time to achieve that temperature.

Today we’re going to look at two different charcoal setups for low and slow cooking that mix lit briquettes with unlit briquettes to extend your cook time and avoid the need to sit by the BBQ watching your temperatures.

 

The Minion Method

This charcoal setup was thought up by Jim Minion as a way to get his WSM up to temperature but maintain a long, consistant cook time. It has changed a little over the years but the principles still remain the same. The minion method works by filling the charcoal basket of your BBQ with unlit briquettes then adding a few lit briquettes on top. As the BBQ slowly comes up to temperature, you will adjust your bottom vents to slow the ignition process and control how quickly the briquettes burn.

The number of unlit and lit briquettes you add will ultimately be determined by what your target temperature is and how long you are cooking for. To hit a temperature of around 225-250F for 7-8 hours, I will usually add a heaped chimney starter of unlit briquettes to the charcoal basket then add around 15 lit briquettes to the centre. Adjusting the vents to around ⅓ open when the smoker is close to my target temp will help it hold steady for the entire cook.

The minion method is my preferred smoker setup but you can also replicated a ‘Mini Minion’ in your charcoal BBQ. As the food is much closer to the fire, it will generally require less fuel to maintain the temperature but set it up in the same way. Using a charcoal rail to hold the coals to one side, add your unlit briquettes to one side of your Charcoal BBQ then add a few lit briquettes on top. By adjusting the vents, you will control how quickly the unlit briquettes catch and therefore control the burn time.

 

The Snake Method

Another common ‘low and slow’ charcoal setup is the snake method. This involves carefully building a line of unlit briquettes around the outer edge of your charcoal grate then adding the lit briquettes to one end of that line. Think of it like a fuse – you light one end of the snake and it will slowly burn it’s way to the other end.

A common setup for the snake is a 2 x 1 snake which simply means 2 x briquettes laid side by side on the bottom row, then a second row of 1 x briquette built on top.

The length of your snake will depend on the cook time you require but it is very important that you take care when placing the briquettes as they rely on contact with each other to ignite and keep the snake going.

You can add a chunk or two of wood at the beginning of the snake to provide smoke in the early stages of the cook.

 

Whilst my preferred method for low and slow cooking is the minion method, these are both great ways to control your burn time and will ultimately give you more control over your temperature during long cooks. Both methods will slowly bring up the temperature inside your BBQ and allow you to control it with your vents. Trying to tame a high temperature can be difficult so these two methods should help you get your temperature management under control.

 

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