For those of you just looking to read about my 'research' (i.e. how much meat I'm eating, and how much fun I'm having) look elsewhere on this page. This section is more for the people who are asking "what the f*** are you doing and why have you left your job?" I titled it Genesis because I guess it is worth noting how this idea/passion/transition came about, or was created. So, before the barbecue tour of the US, before the outlandish expense of a ceramic smoker, I have always had an underlying passion for barbecue, but it just took a whole to come out, fully at least.
Like most Brits, I have fond memories of sitting outside enjoying the summer evening warmth whilst enjoying perfectly chargrilled delights from the barbecue. But, if we're honest, those times were probably not as common as my mind recalls because a.) either the weather did it's best to demolish the misplaced optimism, or b.) the food was poorly executed. This could range from a mild offence (e.g. under-seasoning, poor timing meaning long pauses between sausage and burger) to a more serious offence of undercooked chicken or worse still, large bowls of heavy mayonnaise-based potato salads. Regardless of the diversity in quality of the products consumed at these barbecues, there was always a fun and informal atmosphere, which helped to tint all the memories in a slightly rosey shade.
For me there's also the fact that barbecuing involves playing with an open fire. Not that I'm some kind of pyromaniac, but I think there's something pretty captivating about cooking on wood and charcoal that brings out the inner caveman in us. I guess that in modern world where everyone is mad-busy and everything is so connected and immediate, it's refreshing to use a cooking medium that is a little more stripped back, yet requires full attention.
Somewhere in amongst my early, mixed BBQ experiences, something had caught on, or caught fire, if you will. It seemed that a combination of experience, learned ability and perhaps luck all play a part in the success of the food at least, and this intrigued me. I guess the experience element is like anything really, the more you do something the better you get. The learned ability part was when I really started to take note. After a little reading, it became clear there's a reason as to why some of that food tasted better than the rest; it's mostly due to plenty of nerdy science that I won't bore you with here, but would be happy to chat at length about any time. Topics may include, but not limited to: the Maillard reaction, 'the stall', gelatinisation of connective tissue, primary vs. secondary combustion, convective Vs radiative heat, what happens when you rest meat, grass vs grain-fed meat, dry-ageing etc...[yawn] etc etc. The luck element is essentially what the other two parts are trying to erode, or at least reduce as much as possible. But it will always be there, due to things outside of our control like the air humidity and the way the specific meat reacts to the cook. For more on how this works see the clip below, possibly the best YOUTUBE clip I have ever seen, co-hosted by one of my food heroes, Aaron Franklin of Franklin BBQ, Austin.
Science of BBQ video Suffice to say that if you give me a combination of food, some science and the chance to get people together, then I'll be in a pretty happy place.