2017: My Year End Review
It’s been a great year of cooking with fire for me and I have learnt so much. As the blog is almost a year old I wanted to write up a summary of 2017 just to track my progress but to act as a reminder when I look back in 2018 and beyond.
My main reason for starting the blog was to get organised. I had notes from my cooks on bits of paper, in notebooks, on post it notes in books, in word docs and on Google Drive but I could never find what I was looking for. Anytime I was looking to cook something a 2nd time I couldn’t remember how I cooked it the last time and how it could have been improved. The blog was started up to capture all of that information in the once place.
I didn’t really expect anyone to read what I was writing and I was quite nervous sharing the link with the first few folk on Twitter but I got some good feedback which was nice. As time went on more people started reading it and people were asking me questions on certain cooks so I developed the structure of each post a bit more to try and cover more details to help other people cook some of the dishes.
I have been a keen photographer for a number of years taking shots on our travels so I was keen to try and get some decent shots of the food I was cooking to go in the blog. Food photography is a bit different to travel shots as you are normally battling the light but I have had some great shots this year which has been great for the blogs posts. In the last couple of months I have had some helpful and detailed advice from a great guy on the BBQ scene which has helped to really improve my shots further – many thanks to that guy (he knows who he is!).
Next year: I think the style and content of the blog will pretty much stay the same, I will keep cooking stuff that I find in books and hopefully come up with more of my own dishes too. Some folk have suggested dishes this year which has been brilliant, please feel free to do this too!
Another key part of the blog initially was to track timings for each cook. I used to plan out each cook to include when rubs/sauces should be applied, how long the meat should be on for, when to turn it, when to take it off, when to rest it etc. Over time and after cooking more and more different dishes and meats I have gained enough confidence to stop planning my cooks like this. I still do as much preparation in advance so I can just focus on the cook on the day but I am so relaxed cooking now compared to the start of the year it’s unreal. I really enjoy it now, great way to unwind after a day at work.
Next Year: I want to keep pushing myself trying new meats, new cuts and different techniques of cooking. We travelled a lot before we had kids and I have started recreating some of those dishes on the grill so I will look to continue doing that. Someone asked me what my favourite dish was – truthfully, it’s probably the one I haven’t cooked yet!
I have cooked some amazing quality meat this year, it’s been fantastic to speak to farmers and butchers about their meat, the breed, where it was raised, how it was raised, how it was butchered and hung. There are some great people in the UK doing some wonderful things to deliver top quality meat for us and that care and attention is usually obvious when you touch the meat, smell it, cook it and of course eat it!
I haven’t bought or eaten supermarket meat in a long time, there have been enough food scares to put me off what tends to be anonymous, untraceable, poor quality meat. Take your meat money to a good local butcher or farmers market to see the increase in quality you can get for the same (or less) money. Failing that there are good butchers online who can deliver top quality produce and usually offer free delivery over £50/£75/£100 so buy in bulk and stock the freezer.
Next Year: Scotland has an amazing array of meat and fish available which I love to discover and cook. Next year I plan to eat more local produce and meet more farmers, fishmongers and producers.
The BBQ Community:
The BBQ Community on Twitter is a collection of wonderful people who are all happy to help each other, share hints and tips but generally encourage everyone to progress UK BBQ. One thing that stands out is Goatober 2016 where quite a few of us discussed getting involved. BBQ Stu created a private twitter group where we could all discuss Goatober. Since it’s initiation that group has grown in membership but it remains a brilliant group of people all helping each other to progress. That group is the first thing I look at when I pick up my phone before I go through my twitter timeline and it’s best on a Sunday when everyone posts their amazing food photos!
That same group of people are the ones who thought up, kicked off and ran UK BBQ Week earlier this year – more on that later!
Just before Xmas I saw a post from Bubbacue81 to say his beloved Traeger grill had been stolen 2 days before he planned to cook Xmas dinner for his family. A few of us kicked off a fundraiser to try and replace his grill but part way through Gregg from Sherwood Foods and Russell from Riverside Garden Centre stepped in and offered to not only replace his grill but upgrade him from a Bronson 20 to a Pro 34 as well as throw in a load of extra bits and pieces. Brilliant gesture from those guys and one which I believe sums up the BBQ Community, folk all helping each other.
Next Year: We are discussing UK BBQ Week so keep an eye out!
UK BBQ Week:
Someone spotted a fairly negative post by Harvester pushing the usual outdated BBQ stereotypes. As they were a sponsor of National BBQ Week the Twitter group were a little disappointed as BBQ is obviously our passion and one we all really enjoy but also something we try and get other people involved in so they too can enjoy it and see how easy it can be to cook a great meal on the grill. After a fair amount of chat we decided to launch our own BBQ Week and UK BBQ Week was born!
We launched quite late and had an incredible amount of work to do, I honestly didn’t think we would get everything done in time but Phil (love2bbquk) and James (barbechoo) put in an incredible amount of work in a very short amount of time to get the website launched. BBQ Stu and Clayton pulled together all the graphics and media. There was a group of us behind the scenes progressing the social media accounts and talking to companies about getting involved.
It was a great team effort from a bunch of people spread all over the four countries of the UK but such a lot of hard work! Every evening after we had finished work we had to manually capture all the competition entries into a spreadsheet and respond to everyone’s social media posts then try to choose a winner for the competition each day. We had some really late nights but it was amazing to see how so many people embraced the week and were out cooking on a regular basis but also cooking dishes they hadn’t tried before or hadn’t thought to cook on a BBQ before. It was a brilliant thing to be involved in and we are all looking forward to doing it again soon, we just need to reduce the resource overhead a bit!
Next Year: As mentioned above, we are discussing it and are planning the next event. If anyone has any ideas or suggestions please contact us on the UK BBQ Week social media accounts.
I live in Scotland near the coast and at times the weather can be wild. Over winter 2016/17 I cooked in rain, sleet, snow, thunderstorms, gales as well as the odd bit of sunshine. It was really hard at times and I didn’t fancy another winter battling the elements so we had the garden redone and I designed a cool BBQ Hut to take pride of place in a new social entertaining area! I have been cooking in the hut for a couple of months now and it’s made such a difference. There is power, lighting, cover from the weather and all of my kit to hand. I wasn’t sure about paying out for the garden to be done but in a short time I am now convinced it was the right thing to do!
Next Year: We have had folk round already in the evenings and I have cooked in the hut whilst everyone socialises then eats together. It’s been brilliant but I think it will come into it’s own during the summer, really can’t wait for the lighter evenings.
I have wanted to have a go at cutting my own meat for a while but haven’t found any butchery courses near by which match the famous courses at “The Butchery” in London. When Goatober 2017 came round I bought half a goat direct from Cabrito Goat and cut it up myself. The hut was handy as I bought some stainless steel counters from Nisbets which let me hack away in private without wrecking the kitchen too! I was quite nervous before I started cutting but the Scott Rea videos were a massive help and I was so proud that I managed to cut the joints up properly.
Since then I have had some big pannage pork cuts delivered which I cut up into smaller parts myself which again was very rewarding.
Next Year: I am booked on a butchery course and fancy buying in more half/whole animals and cutting up larger joints as well.
BBQ Stu had a great numbering system last year when he did 100 cooks. I was amazed he had managed 100 cooks and didn’t expect to get close to that figure but I got quite organised this year with all my cooks planned out weeks in advance so I really made the most of those planned day and cooked a lot of different dishes. Counting everything up I have managed 150 dishes over fire this year:
- 130 on the Weber Grill / Smokey Mountain: 116 were unique cooks / 14 were repeats
- 20 on the Uuni: 16 were Pizza cooks (5 or 6 pizzas per time) / 4 were cast iron cooks.
I am still amazed I managed 150 cooks but I have truly enjoyed it. I have cooked a wide array of meats and cuts from a variety of recipes from different cuisines and learnt so much along the way!
Everything I have cooked has been written up on the blog and I listed everything on a single page too:
All the cooks are broken down into the source of the recipe too:
And if you are looking for a book to buy each cook from a book is listed here:
Rob Sisk asked me what my top 10 cooks were this year, I went through all of them and couldn’t narrow it down to ten. The best I could do was a top 40:
Next Year: I have really enjoyed the cast iron cooks on the Uuni lately and will be looking to do more of these next year. I also got an Indian fire bowl for Xmas so will be looking to use that as much as possible.
130 cooks on the Weber Kettle / Smokey Mountain. I am amazed at the variety and quality of food you can produce on these 2 items. For around £600 for the pair you are off and running! I spent quite a lot of time this year trying to perfect my burgers, it’s close but I just have a few changes to make to get it how I want it.
20 cooks on the Uuni, 16 pizza sessions and 4 cast iron cooks. The cast iron cooks have been awesome so I will be looking to do more.
I have learnt a lot on the Uuni and my pizzas progressed over the year as you can see in this post:
Everything I learnt along the way I wrote up in this post and I add to it every time I learn something new. Folk have found this quite handy and it’s the official FAQ on the Uuni facebook group now!
My pizza skills have progressed but I need to improve my dough so I will concentrate on that next year.
Next Year: More cast iron cooks in the Uuni and I will write up each pizza cook to try and improve my dough.
If you made it this far, apologies for the long winded post. Many thanks to all the great people in the BBQ community and especially those folk in the #Goatober Twitter group. Thanks also to all the farmers, butchers and producers putting out top quality British meat for us to enjoy and lastly thanks to all those firms operating in the BBQ space helping to push the popularity of BBQ in the UK.
I don’t want to list people because I will miss folk by accident and I don’t want to upset anyone!
Hope you have a great new year and I also hope 2018 brings you lots of awesome food cooked outside over fire!