Howdy! We’re Samantha Evans & Shauna Guinn from Hang Fire Smokehouse and Southern Kitchen. Four years ago, we quit our careers in London, and headed to the States to learn the alchemy of southern style barbecue; which is the art of slow smoking hunks of meat using only charcoal and wood smoke. We road-tripped around the Southern States from Memphis to New Orleans, being willingly possessed by the spirit of fire and meat at every place we ate at, every BBQ competition we attended and any backyard cook-out we were invited to. Since returning to Sam’s motherland, Wales, we’ve transitioned from street food pop-up to a permanent restaurant on the Welsh Riviera, aka Barry.
The Pool have kindly asked us to give a few tips and tricks for weatherproof BBQ food. Our main tip would be buy a gazebo or wear a poncho. My friends, we live in the glorious UK and at the mercy of all it’s unpredictable weather systems. The real art is to a good barbecue is to learn how to use your existing barbecue properly, and buy cheaper cuts of meat that go a long way (which incidentally are way more flavourful, and you can either save money or feed more friends).
Our main tip would be buy a gazebo and wear a poncho, use your existing barbecue properly, and buy cheaper cuts of meat that go a long way
Let’s start with what you’re doing with your grill. Hopefully, you have a grill with a lid. This helps a lot in ensuring your food is cooked evenly, and potentially you can turn a regular kettle-style charcoal grill into a smoker too.
It’s all about setting up different cooking heat ‘zones’. If you have a blazing fire (direct heat), you’re going to cook hot and fast. This is fine for searing steaks, but not thoroughly cooking a chicken breast. Check out this diagram for how you should set out your coals. If you wanted to cook poultry, lamb, larger hunks of meat, use either Direct Medium or Indirect aka smoking:
We’d suggest cheaper cuts as mentioned, and because you’re saving money we’d also suggest buying ethical meat, free range chicken and pork, local beef, locally caught fish etc. We’re talking about experiencing both a feel-good factor of shopping and supporting local, being a responsible carnivore, and for some, more importantly, the kudos of providing a barbecue feast your friends and family go glassy eyed over when they reminisce on how super awesome your skills are!
With chicken, buy the cheaper thighs bone in, you can marinade them (try our Mai Thai Chicken Thigh recipe below), grill either direct medium or indirect, or cube into kebab sized portions. With breast, make it go further by cutting into strips and hammering into escalopes (getting at least two-three per breast), marinade for 3-4 hrs and grill. Or cube into 5cm bits and twin with chunks of mango or pineapple, red peppers and mint for a tropical kebab.
How about some steaks on the grill – or even cooked directly on the coals? This is called cooking ‘dirty’, which means you sear them on the white hot coals, 3 mins a side. With beef steak cuts, we source amazing quality, lesser known cuts at our restaurant and cook all medium rare, allowing the meat to come to body temperature before throwing the grill.
For example, boneless short ribs (marbling to die for) are one of our personal faves. Flank steak is super awesome, a bright red colour because it comes from a strong, well-exercised part of the cow, and as with all red meats, best sliced against the grain before serving to maximise tenderness. We love Flat Iron steaks, famed for their marbling, they have a feather like texture when cooked slow and low; they also make a supremely flavourful steak when grilled hot and fast. Or how about Hangar Steak, part of the diaphragm muscle group (don’t make that face before you try it, it’s awesome!). It’s very dark red and has incredible beef flavour, far more than sirloin or rump. It takes to a medium rare like a duck to water.
With all of these steaks, if you’re grilling, liberally season in sea salt flakes and cracked black pepper (don’t forget to oil ‘em up first and let them rest for a min of 5-10 mins after cooking).
Twin all of these cuts with a middle Eastern Chermoula dip (below), some Argentinean chimichurri (below), a a herb baste (whizzed up herbs of your choice, 2 anchovies, 1 garlic, olive oil and seasoning to taste). You could also add some bone marrow butter (OK, we’re starting to get fancy, but if you have the time, look it up and check it out, it’s to die for).
Barbecues don’t have to be a labour of love where you slave over a million dishes, think about it in terms of you have around an hour of cooking time on a small to medium barbecue, so work around that time frame and just make a couple of awesome dishes, with lovely sides prepped in advance and treating yourself to a medicinal glass of something nice in your hand whilst doing so! Poncho’s at the ready? Then get grillin’!
MAI THAI THIGHS
This dish is an adaptation of some tasty chicken we ate at a little Thai café just off Union Street in San Francisco. It was the perfect lunch for a warm autumnal day sat in Washington Park (probably planning out our next meal). The dish borrows from classic Thai flavours and pairs with the citrus punch of a mai-tai cocktail. The marinade works well on all manner of chicken cuts, whether it be halves, whole or quarters.
COOKING METHODS Indirect Grilling/Smoking or Oven
- 10–12 bone-in chicken thighs
For the Marinade:
- Juice of 1 lime
- Juice of 1 medium orange
- 100ml pineapple juice
- 2 tbsp Thai fish sauce
- 50ml sesame oil 50g
- Soft light brown sugar
- 1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
- 10 garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 long red chillies, sliced lengthways
- 5 spring onions, sliced small bunch
- Thai basil, chopped
For the Basting mixture:
- Juice of 1 lime
- 125ml groundnut oil
- 2 tbsp soft light brown sugar
- 1 tbsp soft dark brown sugar
- Use a sharp knife to trim away any extra fatty parts from the chicken thighs and place in a large ziplock bag.
- Whizz the marinade ingredients in a food processor or blender and pour into the bag, massaging the marinade all over the chicken. Push out as much air as possible and seal the bag. Put in the fridge and allow to marinate overnight for maximum punch.
- The next day, combine the baste ingredients in a small bowl and set aside while you prepare your smoker. Set up your grill for indirect heat, maintain the temperature at 108°C/225°F.
- With the wood smoking, place the chicken on the grills, away from the coals and close the lid.
- Cook for a total of 2 hours, basting the chicken with your basting mixture every 20 minutes. Crisp the skins up over the coals just before serving and check that the internal temperature of the chicken reads 75°C/165°F on an instant-read thermometer. Take off the heat and allow to rest for 5–10 minutes before serving.
NO SMOKER? NO PROBLEM
You can cook these thighs in the oven. Simply follow the recipe up until you put them in the smoker. Preheat your oven 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Place the thighs on a wire rack over a roasting tin and cook for 45–50 minutes, basting once during the final 15 minutes. Make sure that the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 75°C/165°F on an instant-read thermometer before serving.
At our pop-ups, we serve this delicious Argentinian pesto (of sorts) in our burnt-end sandwiches and it goes down a storm. It’s so
good with pretty much anything from pasta to salad dressing, but steaks are where it’s at in terms of perfect partners. Those asado barbecue-loving Argentinians know how to flavour their beef, and chimichurri sure packs a punch and looks beautiful, too. The key is to this is to chop everything by hand – blenders tend to make the texture a little too fine.
- 4 tbsp finely chopped leaf parsley
- 4 tbsp finely chopped coriander
- 2 tbsp roughly chopped oregano
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1 tsp chilli flakes
- 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
- 1⁄4 tsp sea salt
- 1⁄4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- Juice of 1⁄2 lemon
- Combine all the ingredients, except the oil, lemon juice and vinegar, in a bowl. Add the oil, stir through, then add the vinegar and lemon juice. Allow the ingredients to marinate for an hour before use. Just before serving, taste for seasoning.
- Keep in the fridge until you want to use it and allow the chimichurri to come to room temperature before using. This will keep in the fridge for 2–3 days.
This recipe is great slathered over lamb but it also works well with other meats. Swap the mint for fresh thyme or rosemary leaves if serving with pork, beef or chicken. We love chermoula on any grilled meats.
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 50g fresh coriander, with stalks
- 100g curly parsley, remove larger stalks
- 30g fresh mint leaves
- 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 150ml olive oil
- 3 tsp paprika
- 1⁄4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1⁄4 freshly cracked black pepper
- 1⁄2 tsp fine sea salt
- Put the cumin and fennel seeds in a frying pan and dry fry over medium heat, until the spices are lightly toasted and fragrant. Pound in a mortar and pestle (or use a spice grinder) and set aside.
- In a food processor, blitz the fresh herbs and garlic until they form a green paste, add the rest of the ingredients, including the toasted spices, and pulse-blend until you have a thick paste.
- Transfer to a sterilised jar ready for use. If you refrigerate, allow the mix to come to room temperature. It will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Samantha Evans & Shauna Guinn’s new book The Hang Fire Cookbook is the ultimate guide to barbecuing and learning the art of home smoking.