By Ellie Donnell, digital editorial assistant
Want to throw a winning, perfectly timed and cooked barbecue? Award-winning chefs, Samantha Evans and Shauna Guinn, are here to tell you how.
In 2013, they quit their jobs to road-trip across America and discover the hidden secrets behind American barbecuing. It’s now near impossible to get a reservation at their restaurant, Hang Fire, which received 1300 bookings in the first 24 hours of opening. Luckily, with the launch of their new show Sam and Shauna’s Big Cook-out, I’ve caught up with the pair so that you can recreate an epic American-style barbie at home…
1. What type of barbecue do you recommend using?
It doesn’t really matter what type of barbecue you cook on. We’re not snobbish about using gas or anything. In fact, we just recommend choosing one with a lid because it instantly allows you to do two things: smoke and grill. American barbecuing tends to focus on smoking – that means using the indirect heat to cook the meat – whereas grilling involves directly placing food over the hot coal.
We recommend using a mixture of wood and charcoal: charcoal provides the heat whereas wood imparts that wonderful smoky flavour. We’re passionate about using sustainable British fuel too!
2. What are your tips when it comes to cooking meat?
One of our top tips would be to not fill the whole thing with charcoal! Fill it half way up, wait for it to get hot and then move all the charcoal to the left hand side. Use the heat directly over the coals to achieve those lovely char-marks on the outside. Then move the meat over to the other side and pop the lid on. The whole thing acts as an oven so you can be sure that it’s cooked through.
Another top tip would be to grill a really huge piece of meat and then slice it up to serve to guests. We actually find that sausages are hardest to cook; some end up blackened whilst others are completely raw. Try smoking a brisket for 24 hours overnight and have it ready the next day. Then all you really need to focus on is the beer and sides. Barbecuing is a labour of love after all…
3. That is one of the worries of a barbecue. How do we make sure everything is cooked?
Yes it is. But we recommend investing in a meat thermometer for that. Just to be on the safe side.
4. What’s the verdict when it comes to sides?
We’re two women on a mission to convert people to eating coleslaw! People think they don’t like it because of that horrible mayonnaise-laden stuff we have in the UK. But American slaw tastes different to the stuff we’re used to. Make it the night before and substitute mayonnaise for buttermilk, yoghurt or crème fraiche to keep it light. Just make sure to drain off any extra liquid the next day to ensure it’s lovely and crunchy.
5. What’s your favourite food to cook on the barbecue?
Anything that’s smoked. We find that ribs go down really well. If we’re using the grill, we much prefer using larger cuts of meat – maybe a big Brazilian Picanha or steak for slicing up for your guests.
We really like kebabs too but don’t try shoving chicken, mushroom and peppers onto one skewer – they all cook at different times. Do them separately.
6. We’ve talked a lot about meat – but what would you recommend for the veggies among us?
Go for hardier vegetables such as aubergines, courgettes, or peppers that won’t disintegrate. And cook them whole.
7. And the most surprising thing you can cook on the barbie?
People don’t realise it, but summer squash grills beautifully. Scrub the skin, massage in some olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper and pop over the grill.
You can also cook vegetables in the embers of the charcoal such as beetroot, red onions and peppers. Just lift up the grate and nestle them in! Cooking for vegetarians is a great opportunity to really go to town on the sides, and we love making a whole host of veggie and vegan side dishes.
8. Fish can be a little more tricky – have you got any tips for that?
Yes, they can be delicate things. Try using a firmer variety such as monkfish and cooking it kebab-style. You’ll find it doesn’t fall through the grate. The trick is to never oil the grate, only the fish (or meat or veg etc). And never move it around – just leave it until it’s cooked through.
Alternatively, wrap the fish up in foil with, with some lemon and oil if you fancy, and cook it that way.
9. What’s your opinion on marinades?
We love them! If you’re smoking your meat, use a dry rub such as a salt and sugar base, plus any extras such as paprika and chilli. When it comes to steak, we’re very strict about using just salt and pepper. If you’re grilling, then use a wet marinade.
10. Any that you would recommend?
Chicken is especially good for marinades and there are two that we generally turn to. One is a Mediterranean-style mixture of lemon, fresh oregano, thyme, garlic and cider vinegar. We also love our Indian-inspired marinade of yoghurt, turmeric, chilli and lemon.
11. It’s not exactly barbecue weather in the UK, most of the time. What’s your advice on that?
We agree, one of the problems is that people can’t practice over here because of the weather. Our top tips? Get a gazebo and a rain mac!
Follow all the barbecue action over on Twitter using the hashtag #bigcookout, too.