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Winter Blues

Like for most of us the past few weeks have been a tad depressing. The media circus is back telling us we are all doomed and the weather Gods are evening the score after a spectacular summer. I have always said that there is a Yin and a Yang in life and we are definitely in a Yang!

Time seems to be in short supply, probably as its now dark by 5pm and pressures of family life don't always make it easy to plan and execute a cook. But how many of us are dreaming of that next barbecue or accessory? There is always something that if we had it in our barbecue armoury would make life a bit easier. So below I have listed what I consider to be the essential kit for a successful cook.

These are on no specific order just what comes to mind as I'm writing this drivel:

  • An instant read thermometer - I find this allows me not only to test for internal temperature across the meat but also to feel for tenderness. Essential for briskets, ribs or anything you want to cook to pulled. It doesn't have to cost a fortune but you do need one that reads temperature relatively quickly.

  • Heat resistant gloves - in order to manage your pit properly you need to work with heat, and high temperatures which you need to protect your hands from. A quality pair of heat resistant gloves is a great addition to any pitmasters armoury, just make sure they do not get damp as heat travels well through water!!

  • Good quality barbecue tools - an obvious one I thought but I'm amazed how many pitmasters are 'getting by' using kitchen tools. Trust me proper barbecue grade tools will make managing your food and your pit much easier.

  • Spritzer bottle and sauce mop - I've coupled these two together as I generally spritz my proteins and I do this for two reasons; it adds moisture and it builds flavour - win/win. However towards the end of the cook I sometimes put a glaze on my ribs, or pork belly, or chicken portions, or sweetcorn, or prawns, or..... you get the picture so you need some kind of mop or brush to do this.

  • A Shack - a big one this but some kind of cover for your barbecue(s) and maybe even you is a Godsend in the UK. Trust me if you have a covered area it gives you the confidence to start a cook.

  • Top quality charcoal and/or briquettes - many a cook has been ruined as the charcoal burned out too hot and too quickly due to the accelerants put into poor quality charcoal. Plus the nasty taste that these charcoals add to your food. A lot of people like the idea of a barbecue but are disappointed with the cook and the results....this is because they are doing it wrong.

  • Quality seasoning - it doesn't need to be pre-made (though we do love our Angus & Oink rubs) but part of the barbecuing processes is to impart flavour and tenderness to our food. The Texans have no imagination, they believe salt and pepper on everything makes good barbecue, my Nan used salt and pepper fifty years ago to try and add flavour to our bland British cooking but we have come up with something better than that in the 21st Century and a quality seasoning on your food makes all the difference to the outcome of your barbecue.

  • Seasoning woods - something us Brits seem to only just be getting into and again we are generally doing it wrong. Small blocks of wood such as oak, beech, cherry or maple woods can be added to your pit to add another flavour profile to your food BUT the wood needs to be hot when added to your charcoal as cold wood produces thick white smoke which adds terrible flavour to your food. I always have my wood chunks on the grill heating up before adding them to my fire or I have them sitting in my pit on unburned charcoal getting hot so that when the charcoal burns and ignites the wood it is already hot and therefore burns clean and adds the wood flavour to your food, not creosote!

  • Good barbecue books - I love cooking outside and creating good food for the family but sometimes we get stuck in a rut and keep cooking what we once loved but now.....not so much. For inspiration I do turn to my barbecue books and come up with the next big family favourite and books such as Food & Fire by Marcus Bawdon are a great source of things to cook and help you get away from burgers and sausages.

I could go on (and usually do) but I think if you have the above at your disposal whilst cooking on your barbecue these will aid you in getting the most from your cook and therefor you will cook more often. If you are missing any of these then remember that Christmas is next month and maybe you should start building your Christmas list....The barbecue Shack of course has all of the above and not just during the warmer months, but all year round.

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