Global grilling and barbecue

Written by ZOE PERRETT

‘Barbecue’ might not seem the most appropriate word for this time of year, but when the dark and cold of a British winter creep into our souls, the thought of a good summer barbecue might just be the ticket to help us through the season. Zoe Perrett, our food-fuelled wanderer, takes us around the world to get to grips with the grilling techniques and barbecue cooking styles of seven summery countries.

You might think there’s nothing more British than firing up the barbecue at the first sign of sunshine, but cooking over open flames is a universal language spoken the world over. The tradition is rooted in history, with the original form of the word itself believed to have been coined by early tribes in the Caribbean and modern-day Florida.

The word ‘baribicu’ became ‘barbecoa’ as it moved Europe-wards – referring to the same ‘sacred firepit’ that grill-loving gourmet hounds cluster around today. In contrast with today’s ‘food over fire’ methods, traditional barbecoa involved burying meat under leaves that were set ablaze, rendering it tender and allowing juices to be collected beneath.

‘Traditional barbecoa involved burying meat under leaves that were set ablaze, rendering it tender and allowing juices to be collected beneath.”

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But most modern methods have flipped the script; and you’ll more often find the flames licking the food from beneath, yielding the appetising aromas and smoke-kissed flavours we’re so fond of in Britain. This has been the case for centuries, with Dr. Johnson defining the term as a means of cooking pork in his 1756 dictionary.

Today, people all over the globe are thrilled by grills – and not just when the cooking pertains to pork. New London pop-up practitioners Smoke & Salt have their flames fanned by all sorts of diverse ingredients and international traditions. Business partners Remi Williams and Aaron Webster have a burning passion for the elemental pleasures of using smoke, and want to ignite it in others.

You can achieve a huge range of results by experimenting with temperatures, techniques and timings. The searing heat of an open grill, or a low, slow American-style hooded barbecue – each offers a very different cooking experience. If you’re brave enough to build your own, Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty demonstrated a DIY oil drum rotisserie on Channel 4’s Friday Night Feasts.

Take inspiration from anywhere and everywhere with ingredients, marinades and dishes and look out for meat bearing the British Quality Standard Mark which guarantees good eating.

Try Turkey’s lovingly-layered vertical doner kebab; lacquered, horizontal whole Hawaiian hogs; Caribbean-inspired rum-saturated pineapple; and Middle Eastern flatbreads – the only limit is your imagination. Once you get started, you’ll realise that almost everything edible is better following a good grilling.

So sit back, relax and check-in this afternoon for the first installment of our global grilling odyssey. We’ll be in Louisiana, home of the best grilled oysters in the world!


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