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Barbecue - not just a guy thing!

By May 23, 2022 ,

You may have noticed I like to barbecue. On average now I barbecue 3-4 times a week (and not just in summer, all year round), not to mention using my Kamado Joe to smoke meats and fish. Even before I switched to Kamado style barbecues I used to barbecue pretty regularly.  I wouldn't say I'm fanatical but I love the depth of flavour you get out of meat, vegetables and fish and being able to play with different types of woods to either smoke or accentuate what you put on the grill.

I've signed up for a few forums, followed a few podcasts and live Instagrams associated with barbecue and it seems to be a mostly male preserve, even all the advertising is aimed at men. There is very little in the way of diversity when it comes to advertising.  All the barbecue tools are quite large (man sized) and for a woman with small hands not easy to handle. Good heat proof gloves are a nightmare to find in small sizes and when I did find a good brand they only colour for women was hot pink! Thankfully now Grill Heat Aid have expanded the colour choice and I now have some nice black ones, but I did have to order these from the US as no European brands seem to stock anything other than "one size fits all". We don't need pink barbecue tools just possibly ones that are of a manageable size. 

This isn't a feminist rant, but a comment from a friend of mine got me really thinking about this. We were discussing inviting people over for a barbecue at some point and she mentioned that I'd get a break from cooking as my other half would be doing the barbecuing. I replied that it wouldn't be the case as I was the one who did the barbecuing in our house. She was genuinely surprised at this and her reply inferred that it was strange for me to do so. Even more so when I pointed out that my other half has never cooked on the barbecue, it's always been me. 

I started off with a weber barbecue over 25 years ago and even then I cooked on that BBQ and not my other half, even my male housemates were happy for me to do all the grilling. My preference is if I've gone to a lot of trouble to prep and marinade meat or certain dishes, I really don't want someone else to cremate it. Also my housemates attempts at barbecuing ended up with a bout of food poisoning, so I thought best to take over. 

Now I'm no stranger to all male environs, I grew up with four brothers. My first job after graduating in the city of London was pretty male dominated. In some kitchens I worked in I was the only female chef. Not to mention a stage as an assistant sommelier in a Michelin starred restaurant, which is not exactly renowned for being a female dominated profession.

I recently bought the Pitt Cue cookbook in Dutch mainly because the meat cut charts would prove useful for my next trip to the Butchers (names for meat cuts differ big time between here in the Netherlands and the UK and Ireland). I know my meat cuts well but the names do vary from country to country, so best to know that I'm getting the right cut when I order. The book in English is called the Pitt Cue Co cookbook, in Dutch it's called  "Het Mannenkookboek". I'm not inferring it should be called the Vrouwenkookboek but you see where I'm going with this. 

I've spoken to many women who grill as well and they find barbecue books or advertising off putting. In barbecue magazines, there are little if any pictures of women actually doing the cooking, maybe sitting nearby or eating the food. I was recently interviewed for a barbecue edition of Entree Magazine here in the Netherlands and I was the only female in the section out of 20 chefs. Is it too much to ask that women are included more in the advertising and the magazine interviews both online and in magazines? It's inclusion, not feminising that we are looking for. There are quite a few women who do barbecue out there and maybe its time that companies started to target them too and I'm not talking about a token picture of a woman wielding tongs. 

For those of you who enjoy BBQing and want to take it that one step further, do consider a Kamado Joe. I've been using Kamado style barbecues for 10 years now and of all the ones I've had the Joe is the best option for quality and price, you get a lot more accessories with the barbecue itself in comparison to other brands where you have to buy them separately. The engineering and thought that has gone into how you use it is fantastic. The heat control is one of the best I've encountered. They may be expensive, but you won't be buying another barbecue ever again as it's a lifelong purchase, you also get a lifetime warranty with it too on certain parts. It is so versatile as you can grill, slow cook, smoke and make a really great pizza on it.

If you do buy a Kamado then consider getting the following accessories:
Deflector plates - great for indirect cooking and long slow cooks
Long handled tongs and turner
Cast Iron griddle - gets a good char on steaks and burgers
Pizza stone - don't buy a cheap one, it will only crack in the high temps needed for cooking pizza
Meat thermometer - essential to ensure the meat is cooked properly, thermapen is a good reliable brand
Grill cleaning brush - only takes a few seconds to clean the griddle down after BBQing
Silicone brush for basting your meats

If you do take the plunge and have got the accessories you now need to arm yourself with some good cook books:  

Hangfire Cookbook by Sam Evans and Shauna Guinn
Rodney Scotts World of Barbecue - Rodney Scott
Goat - James Whetlor
Serious BBQ by Adam Perry Lang 
Hete Kolen - Grillen en Kooken met een Kamado by Jeroen Hazebroek and Leonard Elenbaas or the English Language version Hot Coals: A User's Guide to Mastering Your Kamado Grill (or any of the Hete Kolen and Hete Rook books)
Pit Cue, the cookbook by Tom Adams and Jamie Berger

More importantly get to know your cuts of meat, what cooks slow and what cooks quick, what does and doesn't work on the barbecue. 
You'd be surprised at simple things like the variance in cooking different types of steak. Some steaks only work best cooked medium rare, any further and then it's like chewing shoe leather. Find a good butcher or local farmer that sells direct and make friends with them they will be happy to give advice if you're not sure what cuts are suitable for what type of cooking.

Don't get suckered into buying cheap charcoal either, some brands will have accelerants in them to help them light and please don't use lighter fluid, it will taint your food. There's nothing worse than eating meat or veg that tastes of lighter fluid. Try and aim for sustainable brands or if you are lucky to have a local charcoal producer them look at the range of charcoal you can buy. Every type of wood has it's own cooking characteristic so you can tailor your cook a lot better. 

Sign up for groups in Facebook which are good communities with good advice and tips. Follow people on instagram that inspire you. You can even join my LadyGrillers monthly with Sue Stoneman and I where we try to inspire you with seasonal local food and maybe one or two cocktails. 

If there are any women (or men who haven't tried BBQing yet) out there who want to try their hand at barbecue then go for it, you never know you might enjoy it!

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