Learning different skills and techniques on your BBQ is all about experimentation, but if you aren’t keeping notes on each of your cooks then the results of all those experiments will be lost forever. Keeping a BBQ journal or log will, over time, give you an archive of all the cooks have done along with details on what worked and what didn’t.
How do you keep a journal?
I keep all the notes from my cooks in a notebook that will sit on the kitchen bench or beside the BBQ’s each time I cook. I will scribble notes down as I go on anything that I think may be useful later or anything that I know I may want to try next time I cook that recipe. These notes are quick scribbles. They are small, shorthand bits of information that I know I will understand when I look back on them later.
So what should you record in your journal?
Throughout the tips in 30 Days to Better BBQ, you will have heard me talk about keeping notes of certain things like temperatures, fuel, ingredients etc. These are all important bits of information that can go into your journal. Here are some of the things I like to record in mine.
To start with, I’ll make a note of the recipe I’m using, including the recipe book and page number. I will also make some ingredient notes if I’ve had to swap something from the recipe, or also what cut of meat I’m using. If you are using your own recipe or experimenting with your own rub or sauce, list all the ingredients and measurements here.
The next thing I will make a note on is the BBQ setup. These notes will include which BBQ I’m using, what my coal setup is (direct, 50/50 indirect, minion etc.) I’ll make a note of what time I lit the chimney and roughly how much fuel I’m using. Once the BBQ is up to temperature, I’ll note how long it took, what the target temperature was and how my vents were set to achieve it. Notes like this are great for learning how much fuel to add to your BBQ to hit a specific temp. If you add 1 full chimney of briquettes but had to close your vents down to drop the temperature, then maybe you could add less fuel next time?
Before putting my food onto the BBQ, I note which rubs or marinade I used and how long before the cook they were applied.
When the food is put onto the BBQ, I note 3 things – Time, Placement and Grill Temperature. This is usually in the following form
13.10 – chicken on, indirect @ 180C
It only takes a few seconds to make the note but it can give you so much information later. Each time I check the food or start another part of the process, I will make a note of the time, current grill temperature and the internal temperature of the food. By the time the food is ready, I will have a detailed timeline of the cook showing how steady my BBQ temperature was, how long the food took to cook and how quickly the internal temperature increased.
The last thing to note in your journal is rest times and any changes you would like to make next time you cook this recipe. This could be something as simple as ‘sauce was good, need to put potatoes on earlier’ or ‘Rub needed more heat, allow more rest time.’ My recipe books are full of little scribbled notes like this. If I like an element of a dish I’ll note it down.
Why are these notes important?
Think of these notes as invaluable advice for yourself in the future. If you are learning temperature control etc. then these step by step notes allow you to see how a cook went and adjust for the next time.
Christmas Dinner is my most used notes. It’s probably one of the most important meals we cook but it can be easy to forgot what worked and what didn’t from one year to the next. My notes have saved me on more than one occasion as I can look back to the following years notes and make a timeline for my cook, ensuring I don’t get an ear bashing because the turkey isn’t ready.
I want to take a moment to say thank you for all the support you have given me and my website during 30 Days to Better BBQ. I was sitting on my sofa one night when this idea popped into my head. Within a few days, I had announced it and then the real work started. There have been a great range of tips, some of them more basic than others but hopefully everyone will have found some little bits of information that they can use to take their BBQ to the next level.
The series of tips have now sadly come to an end but they will remain on the websites for anyone to look back through as they wish. I also have some other plans for them which I will talk about in due course.
If you have any questions about anything we covered in 30 Days to Better BBQ or maybe something we didn’t, please leave a message in the comments section of that tip and I will reply. That way the information is there for everyone to see.