Once it gets sunny, there’s only one thing we want to do – BBQ!
It was a huge success, so we wanted to share what we learned.
Be warned, there’s a lot to be learned initially.
But if you like smoky meat and fish, it’s well worth it.
It’s the reason we hardly ever eat out anymore!
Our research had us choose between Weber’s Smoky Mountain & the ProQ range.
No one regrets buying the Weber, but we thought the ProQ was a little more flexible. And British.
The middle of the ProQ range is the “Frontier”, and we went for the higher-spec “Elite” model.
This has stainless steel grill trays rather than chrome-plated ones, and they clean up really well with a wire scrubber & some effort.
All the handles and fittings are stainless steel, the side handles are PVC coated, and the eyelet holes are silicon-lined to protect your probe thermometer.
This model costs £269, the basic is £209.
It’s a lot compared to a vanilla BBQ, but for what this is, we think it’s a good price.
Putting the whole thing together is straightforward.
And it’s very impressive!
Full assembled, it has two smoking chambers, so can cook up to four chickens at a time.
We’ve never been that ambitious, but whenever we smoke anything, we pop a chicken in too, so we get a few tasty midweek lunches in addition to our weekend food.
If you don’t want to smoke meat slowly – if you just want to BBQ – you can simply use the bottom section and throw your meat on for fast grilling (eg steak)
We use a chimney to light the coals.
After making sure there are plenty of coals in the bottom of the BBQ, the chimney sits on them.
I stuff the bottom of the chimney with rolled up newspaper, give the paper a good Spray of oil (1Cal or similar), and light it.
I’ve never had this fail, and you’ll have a chimney of hot coals in the time it takes to enjoy your first beer.
You can use the lid if you wish, eg if you’re using woodchips.
Using none of the stackers like this puts the food VERY close to the coals.
This is perfect for steak (I marinate in soy sauce, honey & oil overnight) but would leave you with burned chicken or sausages.
For these, I put one stacker on, throw on some woodchips, and put on the lid.
The lid keeps things hot, and keeps the smoke in.
I find 40 minutes for sausages, an hour for chicken quarters.
Look at these jerk chicken pieces I did! (recipe)
These were delicious (v spicy) straight off the grill, but once cooled a few hours later the spices had mellowed and the smoky taste had intensified.
For a full smoking experience of, say, chicken & ribs, I’ll use everything.
I marinate the chicken overnight (excellent recipe in ProQ manual).
I put my chimney of coal in, throw on lots of woodchips, and then fit the lower stacker.
Next comes the water pan, half filled with boiling water.
This sits just under the lower tray, and stop the smoker getting too hot. The steam will help keep the meat soft too.
I fit the grill tray and put the chicken on.
Then the second stacker goes on, and the ribs go onto that (to be honest, ribs were quite a faff – I tend to do a leg of lamb now).
Domed lid on last, and cooking begins.
It’s important to keep an eye on the smoker – you don’t want the water pan to go dry or meat fat will burn onto it and the temperature will go too high.
You can’t let the fire go out, but nor should you put too much charcoal on.
There is a temperature gauge in the lid, but I’ve found this to be slow to react & innaccurate.
Digital thermometers are under a tenner, and you can use them to test the temperature in the smoker (through the eyelets) and then put the probe into your meat to check it is cooked safely.
The first hour of woodchips is the most important, but you need to keep them topped up too.
At the same time, opening the lid and doors all the time will stop the temperature getting up.
“If you’re looking, it’s not cooking.”
Here’s a pic of Dafydd enjoying his lunch, but keeping a careful eye on proceedings.
There are whole books written about BBQ (I have several, and wonder why I’ve not bought the Hangfire book yet) and there’s a lot to learn.
Smoke rings, types of wood, size of wood pieces, marinades, dry rubs, Carolina vs Texan sauces.
It’s a lifestyle.
But if you’re new to all this, the ProQ Frontier Elite is a great place to start.
It comes with a good manual, and Mac’s BBQ has excellent sections on recipes, a forum to ask questions, and guides on first setting up your ProQ.
Looked after, it should last years, and the other kit isn’t dear either.
Two bags of “restaurant charcoal” lasted us all summer (£26), and baskets to grill fish are £1 in Morrisons, while two sea bream are a fiver.
If you want to learn a new skill, a bit of adventure and a change to your cooking and eating, then I urge you to get a BBQ smoker.
It pains me to say this, but the best place to buy them in the UK is on Amazon.
The Ladies Who Lunch paid for their own BBQ & stuff.
We’ve not met the Hang Fire ladies since they were in a pub in Splott, alas.
They’re a great example of how BBQ smoking can take over your life.
We know we COULD have bought a gas barbecue, thank you.