Over the last decade there’s certainly been a revolution in barbecue in Britain. I remember the constant need to explain that BBQ is much more than burning sausages and burgers, but these days you never meet anyone who’s into food who doesn’t understand there’s a whole lot more to this kind of cooking.
UK BBQ Culture
This is an interesting one, something I’ve observed over many years of being closely involved in the outdoor cooking scene. I guess you’ve got a natural split in a way, the casual BBQ fan and the enthusiast.
I think a lot more people are eating BBQ full stop. There are American smokehouse style places in every major city and most towns plus every pub seems to have “Smoked” pulled pork somewhere on the menu. Then on those few precious days that Summer makes an appearance, every man and his dog cracks out the BBQ.
For many people, lighting the BBQ is still more about the social and booze element and that’s cool as long as people are enjoying themselves with friends and family it’s all good. But for foodies, it seems a new dimension in culinary creativity has opened up for outdoor cookery over the last few years.
There’s so much more equipment available in the UK now, I mean you can get a wood fired Uuni pizza oven for under £200, there’s a staggering array of grill and smoker options for every budget from the reliable old Weber kettle, through to pellet grills like Traeger and ceramics like the fantastic Primo Grills.
Ingredient availability has also improved dramatically. Online butchers have been a god-send. Its easy now to pick up exotic cuts like Picanha or Cupim where as not to long ago your butcher would stare at you blankly if you asked for a Boston butt or a whole tri-tip.
And this has led to people doing so much more with their alfresco cooking adventures. This makes me smile, a lot. So if you’re reading this and thinking you’d like to raise your BBQ game, what should you do?
Well apart from buying some Taste The Glitter rubs for starters, there’s so many good sources of information available. Browsing Amazon will bring up lots of fantastic US BBQ books available for next day delivery even if you live in Wigan. There’s even some great British books such as Neil Rankin’s fantastic publication and the Grillstock cook book (featuring yours truly). I guess I must write a guide to which BBQ books are worth the spend, there you go, it’s on my todo list.
There’s also many websites, forums and Facebook groups holding a mine of fabulous information. There are too many for me to discuss them all but I recommend the British BBQ Society Group on Facebook as a great starting point.
The British & European Competition BBQ Scene
When I started competing in 2009, there was very little going on this side of the Atlantic. The only BBQ competitions were in the UK and we would typically struggle to get more than 10 teams per event. However the whole scene across Europe has exploded in the last five years.
On the mainland, its pretty much exclusively KCBS. I don’t travel over to do very many contests mainly due to time constraints. A European contest means two days of holiday booked so if I did all the ones I’d like to, I wouldn’t have time for a real holiday. If you’re interested in Euro comps, just google “KCBS in Europe” and you’ll be set.
KCBS haven’t had the same traction in the UK yet, probably because we’ve had our own IBQN circuit for several years. However there have been KCBS events in Britain and the number is growing slowly.
We typically see 2-3 IBQN competitions per year and these are where I’ve competed the most. Additionally, every Summer we have Grillstock festival in Bristol, probably the largest BBQ and music festival in the UK, maybe even Europe.
My view is that IBQN events are suited more for people who either want to compete seriously or those who want to learn. Grillstock is all about fun and getting a wee bit drunk. Teams spend a lot of time interacting with the public and each other, then dancing the night away at Meat Rave. Do I prefer one over the other? Not at all, both are equally good but for very different reasons.
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