There's nothing quite like a glimpse of bright sunlight peeking through the clouds to send us scurrying to the supermarket for a barbecue meat pack and some burger buns but at Hillmount they have news for you, you can barbecue all year round, in any weather, and still have the most amazing meals, quickly!
This week I had the chance to attend Hillmount Barbecue Academy, on the outskirts of Belfast, and their three hour BBQ Lesson. In that short time we chilled out, learnt a few recipes and cooked a three course meal! Gone are the days of waiting hours for your coals to heat up and cook your sausages to a crispy black char. Step away from that disposable barbecue and treat your grill like your oven and you'll be having flame grilled delights every week just like our Austrailian and American buddies.
Here are just a few of the things I learnt during our lesson
Every dog has it's day and every meat has it's optimum temperature. For chicken you want to get it to 75°C and for beef burgers you want to hit around 69°C. When cooking steaks you will want different core temps for depending on how you like it cooked. This will mean investing a probe/meat thermometer which is something I've always wanted the excuse to invest in.
Heat has a direction
Ok so that direction may just be 'up' but it's a key lesson. All barbecues have hot and slightly less hot spots (there's really no point calling it cold). You use each of these areas differently to make sure your food is cooked properly. For thick cuts of meat you want indirect heat (not directly above the flames and for thin cuts you want direct heat to seal the juices in quick. Learning how to use indirect heat will prevent you having to pass those sausages off as Cajun!
"If you're looking you're not cooking"
This is Weber's motto for successful barbecuing and it makes sense. We were being taught to treat our barbecues like any other oven so obviously by opening the lid/door you are letting heat out and dropping the temperature. With the aid the fuel chimneys we were cooking at about 200°C within 20 minutes of our class starting but if you were experimenting with large cuts of meat or slow cooking you could adjust these on your barbecues temperature gauge (this is often just a little metal flap to be open and closed on the lid)
No seriously, close that lid!
Another reason for keeping the lid on as tight as possible is to keep in moisture.
Your food has moisture as does the fuel itself and you want to trap all that in. Ever wondered why the burgers on your disposable barbecue could double as tennis balls despite your loving care and attention? Well this is why!
Barbecuing is not just for the men
Now I'm not gonna get all "I am woman" here but actually I kind of am. Most of our class mates were men who had been bought the classes for Christmas, birthdays and other such occasions. I've even heard of stag dos attending these classes. Despite this there were all sorts of people from all ages and all demographics in the class. Couples, mother/daughter duos, friends; barbecuing is not just for the lads and at Hillmount everyone is welcome!
Another point that close to my heart is they cater to all dietary needs. Any allergies, intolerances or preferences are all carefully respected and I was seriously happy to see how aware of cross-contamination they were!
I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at the academy. I learned so much and found a real confidence that I know will lead me to whip out the barbie more often.
The half day course that we attended retails at £70 for the 3 hour lesson and 90 minute taster sessions are also available for £20; you don't get to cook the food yourself but you do get a demonstration, a wealth of knowledge and a few glasses of wine to go with the food. (Some of our fellow classmates had been on the sessions previously and highly recommended them). We all received a goodie bag at the end which included giant marshmallow destined for s'mores and a generous discount voucher.
Visit www.Hillmount.co.uk to book and see their other craft and gardening events.