Mutterings of a Fool

Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Tag: BBQ

Weber grill academy review

I’d meant to write this post about a month ago but got a little distracted by running and building my pizza oven (more of that to come later this week) so I thought it was about time I shared my experience of the Weber grill academy. As you know I attended the grill academy with Cancer Research UK to help launch they’re Burger off Cancer campaign. But what I wanted to share here was a few thoughts on the grill academy itself (it was awesome) and more importantly all the barbecuing tips that I picked up.

Weber BBQ lined upIf I’m honest the grill academy would have had to have been pretty bad for me not to enjoy it, after all it’s an afternoon involving food (already a great afternoon) AND cooking on fire. What more can you want? The 2 chefs helping us were great, both clearly passionate about the way of cooking and thankfully wanted us to spend as much time hands on which is after all the way that you learn isn’t it?

We spent a couple of hours preparing and cooking a 3 course meal using various techniques on both gas and charcoal barbecues. I’d tried to keep track of all the tips while also paying attention to the cooking, not an easy task but despite this I did manage to capture some great words of advice. So here’s my top 9 tips (who needs round numbers?) for awesome barbecue cooking:

Basting chickenThe quality of the charcoal is important; cheap charcoal is cheap because it’s been bulked out with sand amongst other things. This means it doesn’t burn for as long and therefore you use more. It also means that the period where it’s at the right temperature to cook on is smaller. I’m sure there is some balance here between cost and cooking time but maybe think twice about that bag of charcoal from Poundland?

Choose the right type of charcoal for the cooking you’re doing; now that I know this it’s pretty obvious but I’ve never specifically chosen briquettes over lump wood charcoal because of the type of cooking I was going to do. But lump wood burns hotter but for a much shorter period, so great for cooking steaks or for hot smoking some salmon but not so great for a big family BBQ. Briquettes on the other hand doing get quite as hot but do burn for much longer. Perfect for cooking chicken or when you’re hosting a big BBQ and need to cook lots of food.

Roasting potatoes on BBQUse a chimney starter to get the charcoal going; these chimney starters aren’t just a fancy gadget they do actually help with lighting the BBQ. To light place a couple of lit firelighters on the bottom of your BBQ and sit the chimney on top. This gets the charcoal lit evenly and can then be tipped out into your BBQ once the coals start to glow.

Direct vs. Indirect cooking; again fairly obvious but something to think about depending on what you are cooking. Direct cooking means simply directly above the coals while indirect is next to the coals. Direct is really grilling and is a faster, hotter way to cook. While indirect can be used for slower cooking and for larger pieces of meat. Weber barbecues have baskets in the bottom that allow you to keep the coals to one side so you can cook right next to them or on the grill but not directly over heat. We cooked some small roast potatoes this way which were amazing, all smokey and crunchy.

Hot smoking salmon on BBQUse metal trays to make cooking fish etc easier; you can buy metal trays with holes in the bottom that make cooking fish on the BBQ much easier. Simply play on the grill while cooking and then take off using an oven glove. Avoids sticking the fish to the grill while not losing any of the flavour etc of cooking on a BBQ.

Hot smoking is delicious!; we hot smoked some salmon on the day and it was amazing. The coals are kept to the side using the baskets mentioned above, we then placed a bowl of water between them and some soaked wood chips on the coals themselves. Then the fish (on a metal tray) goes on the grill and you put the lid on. It gives such a soft, smokey flavour cooked this way and something very different to simply grilling. You can also buy a box that sits on the burners of a gas BBQ to achieve something similar when cooking on gas rather than charcoal.

Smoke box on gas BBQUse a thermometer; this is one I’m definitely going to start doing, use an instant read thermometer to check if food is cooked or not. Particularly useful for joints or fish and saves you taking things off that aren’t cooked.

Put the lid on when cooking; we’ve all got a family member who when barbecuing looks like they may need to call the fire brigade to put the flames out. It doesn’t lead to food that is cooked well and means ever burnt to a crisp or under done. But if you close the lid when cooking it slows the feed of oxygen so stops the flames building and cooks your food all the way through due to the increased temperature all the way around it

Cook asparagus in a fish basket; if you like grilled asparagus (and who doesn’t?) put it in a fish basket to save you having to turn every single stalk individually.

Hot smoked salmon and asparagus

There you have it, my top tips for awesome barbecuing. If you have any of your own to share feel free to leave a comment. Now I’m off to bankrupt myself buying Weber BBQ products.

Burger off Cancer

Marinading the chickenSometimes as a blogger opportunities arise that you just can’t say no to and last week I attended an event that was just one of those opportunities. The chance to help launch a new campaign with Cancer Research UK AND go to the Weber BBQ school was definitely worth taking time off work for.

I thought I was half decent at cooking on a barbeque but having been to the Weber school I realise how little I really knew, honestly it was eye opening learning some of the tips and techniques. But I’m going to tease you a little and leave those for a post of their own, for now I’d like to spend a bit of time talking about the campaign.

Here’s how the campaign works, are you ready for this? It’s very complicated. What you do is have a BBQ, invite a bunch of people around and ask them to make a donation. That’s it. It’s not exactly a hard sell to guests is it? Which I think is the beauty of the idea, simple to raise money and gets people together to have a good time.

CRUK_Battle of the BBQ_RT

Cancer Research UK are hoping you’ll all think this is a good idea and will join them in hosting BBQ’s on the weekend of the 19th and 20th of July for their big BBQ weekend. If you’re interested you can register to get your own fund raising pack by clicking here, you can also buy from the same link a party pack of paper plates and napkins with the awesome tag lines “burger off cancer” and “give cancer a grilling”. Mighty fine tag lines I’m sure you’ll agree, or maybe they just appeal to my dad humour?

Burger off cancerAs I drove home from the event I started to plan our BBQ and I realised that the 19th of July is when my ‘little’ race is so having a party the next day will be the ideal way to celebrate and try and forget how much my legs are aching. I’m also hoping I’ll have my pizza oven ready by then so I can fire that up for some amazing pizzas, fingers crossed! Although not entirely sure how long I’m going to want to be standing up for, can you BBQ sat down?

So what are you waiting for? Get planning your party and join in with the big BBQ weekend.

Also if you’d like a shiny new Weber BBQ for your party then Cancer Research UK are running a competition called will it grill. Simply shoot a short video of you grilling something unusual and upload to Instagram or Vine with the hashtag #willitgrill to enter. The video with the most votes before the closing date will win a shiny new BBQ. You can find full competition details here.

Look out for my next post about the BBQ school which will include some awesome tips and tricks plus some delicious recipes. Happy grilling.

Cancer Research asked me to write about this campaign to raise awareness and they invited me along to the Weber BBQ school to learn about it. 

Review: Asda BBQ range

This is a review post.

Last week Asda approached me and asked if I’d be interested in trying their new BBQ range that has been developed after they competed in the world BBQ championships in Memphis.

Asda BBQ meatI was in 2 minds whether to accept this review post or not; on the one hand it’s free BBQ meat which is hard to say no to but on the other hand this kind of meat doesn’t really fit in with my buying principles does it? One of my biggest issues with buying supermarket meat is that it is generally very hard to figure out exactly where the meat has come from. Labels require some translation to understand what the various quality marks mean and therefore how the animals have been treated.

But having talked this through with Asda I decided to accept and see if I could be proved wrong. Asda’s approach to sourcing their meat is to buy British first, so doing well so far, they do however top up from abroad to meet demand. This means that around 99% of the beef is British, and their pork is 60% British and the rest from the Netherlands. Not so great and of course a very small amount of that meat is free range based on what they have on the shelves in store.

So they don’t score top marks ethically, what about taste which is probably what the majority of the British population pays attention to anyway. Well we tried a number of things from the range including the Butcher’s Selection sweet BBQ pulled pork, BBQ beef brisket, sticky glazed BBQ chicken drumsticks and cherrywood smoked ribs. Plus some BBQ classics in the form of Extra Special Scottish beef burgers and Extra Special pork sausages.

Asda BBQ meat 2All sounds delicious doesn’t it? Well judging by the mmm’s and ahhh’s coming from around the table I think everyone tended to agree. The ribs were a particular favourite with Henry with the meat being very soft and juicy just like a rib should be. Some of the marinades on the meat were a little too sugary for my test but then I’m not really a BBQ sauce fan so if you are you’d probably like them.

The chicken drumsticks were very tasty after cooking on the BBQ, even if my BBQ skills did mean they ended up a little blacker than they should have been. The pulled pork did indeed fall apart once cooked, although it’s a relatively small portion so don’t expect it to feed more than a couple of people.

My one frustration with the new range is that the pulled pork, brisket and ribs aren’t technically BBQ food in that you cook them in the oven not on the BBQ. They’ve already had the slow cook piece of the process done so you’re just doing the finishing touches in the oven, so for me that doesn’t sit quite right in a BBQ range.

So would I buy from this range with my own money? Most likely not and not because of the taste, there were no complaints there, but because my personal choice is to buy meat that is free range and also local. Buying this way doesn’t meet either of those 2 requirements, for example on the pulled pork box it only tells you that the meat is from the EU. For me that doesn’t work and I’m willing to pay more for my meat as a result.