The stars of the BBCOne series Sam & Shauna’s Big Cook-Out, Samantha Evans & Shauna Guinn spent their life savings on a six-month pilgrimage to the Southern United States to learn the art and science of slow and low American BBQ (and meet Dolly Parton!). Back in Wales, following immediate success at kitchen takeovers and street food events, they went on to scoop a string of awards, write a cookbook divulging the secrets of a perfect American BBQ, and open Barry Island’s sensationally popular Hang Fire Southern Kitchen – a neighbourhood joint specialising in homespun soul food.
We want to do some serious barbecuing this summer. Does the right BBQ equipment matter?
We use a range of cookers from an Argentinian parrilla to wood-burning smokers and more simple set-ups with a wood fire. It really depends on what kind of outdoor cook you want to be. A good starting point is buying a BBQ with a lid. Whether you spend £30 or £300, they essentially do the same thing – allow you to control your fire. A BBQ with a lid also gives you the option of hot smoking meat, fish and vegetables at home.
American BBQ is big on smoking. What would you suggest for lending similar flavour to a home barbecue?
There are some wonderful British charcoal producers that also supply the wood needed for smoking. They play an important part in maintaining healthy woodlands and the by-product is rather wonderful. We’d encourage you to see if you can order online, or locally, and experiment with British native breeds of wood. We have a plethora of beautiful woods to choose from and each one imparts a specific flavour profile.
Which cuts of meat are particularly good for a barbecue and why?
You can cook anything you can cook indoors on a BBQ. The only limit is your imagination. If you have a BBQ with a lid, it is essentially an oven. You can cook whole fish, whole chickens, legs of lamb, whole briskets and racks of ribs, pizza and even very authentic rotisserie gyros or kebabs. Anything goes!
What should we serve on the side?
Side dishes are just as important as your meaty centrepiece. Balance out the BBQ by making some fan-sliced Hasselback potatoes. Sweet potatoes work wonderfully topped with a little sour cream. We also love to barbecue root veg directly on the coals; onions and garlic work particularly well, they turn very sweet and make a delicious smoky accompaniment. Simply peel the charred exterior when they’re cooled, chop up and add salt and pepper. Aubergines, courgette and squash are classic BBQ veg, but you can give these a makeover my creating some delicious dressings to bring out the natural caramelisation after being on the BBQ. Squeeze charred garlic cloves into the dressing for an extra sweet and smoky twist.
How about drinks?
If we’re barbecuing at home, we find it essential to have a nice cold craft beer in one hand and a pair of tongs in the other. To serve with the BBQ, nothing beats cold pitchers of cocktails or mocktails. Speaking from experience, don’t be tempted to make the cocktails too strong, you don’t want people keeling over before they’ve devoured the feast you’ve been working on.
Any other tips for a successful BBQ?
Get everyone involved. Invariably someone will ask if you need help – take advantage of this and have a few jobs lined up. For example, get a mojito, sangria or Bloody Mary recipe together and let them make that. There may be salad and veg to prep, a dressing to make, bread to slice. It really does fit the spirit of a BBQ when it’s a team effort. And the washing up…. You can always buy biodegradable plates, cups and cutlery if it’s a step too far in getting help from your guests in that area!
We need armchair inspiration… What can we expect from the BBCOne series Sam & Shauna’s Big Cook-Out?
We’re really excited about our third season, which airs on BBCOne Wales from 1st June. It’s a weekly four-part series that focuses on groups of volunteers that make a real difference in their communities. We get to meet the heart and soul of what makes Wales a fantastic place to live. We celebrate their achievements by cooking a huge outdoor feast. We usually invent brand new, madcap ways of cooking at these feasts and have fun building the contraptions together.
In a world full of uncertainty, it’s great to have made something that’s feel good, packed with lovely recipes and celebrating local producers, community heroes and their support network of friends and family.
NEXT ON THE JOURNEY: Wine works well with grilled meat, which is handy because 10 miles north of Hang Fire in Barry is Llanerch Vineyard Hotel.