The summer maybe closing in but there was always time for another BBQ. In the run up to the Wild Turkey 101 series we caught up with HotBox Head Chef Lewis Spencer to get his top tips on putting on the best BBQ.
Let’s start with the basics, what is the easiest way to make sausages look like you have made a real effort?
Sausages are an effort to make without the right equipment and some practice so start by choosing a good butcher! A hotbox link contains no breadcrumbs, lots of fat and a decent lamb intestine casing. The sausage links are then hung for a day allowing them to dry out a little and intensifying the flavour. The trick then is to cook them slowly over smoke giving a ‘snap’ to the skin and keeping all those juices inside and not on the BBQ.
What are your favourite side dishes for a laid-back BBQ?
With BBQ meats being rich and heavy going, the best sides are those that compliment the meat often cutting through. Typically, sharp flavours such as pickles, vinegar based slaws, and citrus notes. Start off with lime buttered corn on the cob, pickled slaw and some decent gherkins.
What difference does a dry rub make? Should you always use one and on all meats?
Dry rubs are a great way to bring extra flavour to the meats you’re smoking. It’s usually a blend of herbs, spices, sugars and salts in different combinations depending on the meat of your choice. For example, pork lends its self to sweeter notes whereas beef more savoury. With large cuts of meat, it’s difficult to expect a marinade to penetrate the meat but it will help a nice dark bark to form during a long low smoke.
Be careful not to mix ‘char’ with burn. Fresh herbs and spices are best used close to finishing.
Is it worth making your own sauce or are shop bought sauces fine?
Making sauces is fun and allows you to add your own stamp on a dish. I’d recommend adding Wild Turkey 101 or using the smoked meat juices to incorporate back into the sauce adding extra flavour. BBQ sauce is basically ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and sugar. After that, the world is your oyster – add apple juice, whiskey, spices or dripping. Keep tasting all the way!
How long should you marinade for?
The cut of meat will determine the marinade time. Generally, it’s good to dry rub the night before, let all the sugars and salts dissolve and then give a cheeky sprinkle of dry rub prior to putting your meat in the smoker.
Veggies always seem to be forgotten at BBQs – any good recipe ideas?
There’s tonnes of great veggie dishes! Try Mexican elote (BBQ corn). Soak your corn in the husk in water for 10 minutes, place the soaked husks in the smoker, cook for 30 minutes, remove the outer leaves then chargrill until the corn kernels are blackened. Slather with lime and garlic mayo, sprinkle with feta and smoked paprika with a good squeeze of lime. Enjoy!
Do you have any unusual ideas or party tricks which will impress at a BBQ?
Our beer can chicken is perfect for adding that drama to the BBQ – a whole chicken marinated for 2 hours, using the flavours and juices direct from the beer can!
What are your staple drinks at your BBQs?
Bourbon and BBQ have long since been a match made in heaven. The bold flavour and citrus notes of the Wild Turkey 101 Old Fashioned is a perfect match to barbecue dishes.
Dry rubs are a great way to bring extra flavour to the meats you’re smoking. It’s usually a blend of herbs, spices, sugars and salts in different combinations depending on the meat of your choice.
Are there any flavours which just don’t work on the BBQ?
Be careful not to mix ‘char’ with burn. Fresh herbs and spices are best used close to finishing. For example, coriander, lemon, garlic and butter is great to mop on your chicken a minute before you whip off the grill, however if left in the flames of a BBQ then it’ll burn easily giving an acrid taste.
This might be a tricky one – what’s your top tip to stop other people interfering and giving tips whilst you’re at the grill?
A decent drinks selection for a start, set up a DIY cocktail station with some recipes and let your guests get creative there! Alternatively, there’s plenty of prep jobs needed for all those sides and sauces. Prepare the ingredients and some loose recipes that your guests can help out with. If the potato salad gets interfered with (ruined), it won’t be the end of the world!
You’re hosting a BBQ masterclass series with Wild Turkey Bourbon. Why is bourbon the perfect match for BBQ and what type of dishes and cocktails will be on offer?
The Wild Turkey 101s are all about giving you the classic skills to make the most of modern life, we’re specialists in the field and want to pass on the tricks of our trade. At the Wild Turkey 101s event, we’ll be divulging how to become a BBQ master and sharing the recipes for our much-loved beef, chicken and pork rubs, while Wild Turkey will be teaching how to make the perfect Old Fashioned cocktail. Bourbon and BBQ are so well matched that we’ve even added Wild Turkey 101 to our BBQ sauce for the brisket bun on the 101s masterclass menu. There’ll also be 4-hour smoked St Louis smoked ribs, mutton BBQ beans and a refreshing watermelon salad side up for grabs.
The Wild Turkey cocktails have been tailored to compliment those rich, heavy, meaty flavours and cut through it. They use refreshing citrus and cooling ingredients. There will be three cocktails served: the ‘Wild Turkey 101 Old Fashioned’, the ‘Dixie Fizz’ which is a refreshing highball with a little spice and a lime kick, and finally the ‘Paper Plane’, a sharp little number with Aperol and fresh lemon.
The final Wild Turkey 101s: Smoking and Rubbing with HotBox masterclass will take place on 30th August at 6.30pm.
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