Thursday, 10 July 2014

The BBQ Masterclass

Tuesday was a momentous day here at BaconHam Villa. It marked my first foray into the realms of presenting in front of camera.

We had gathered to shoot some promotional films for Love Pork on getting the best out of the great British BBQ. I was teamed up with Andy Annat, 3 times UK BBQ champion and world championship finalist. We made a good double act - with me asking the questions and Andy showing how it's done.

Having not worked on a film set before I didn't appreciate how many people and how much work and time goes in to creating just a few minutes of footage. Along for the day, as well as myself and Andy were Andy's partner, Penny, Oliver Harrison, the cameraman, Alan Harrison, the director and photographer and also Tony Goodger from BPEX Marketing and his son Henry. We were also joined by my old friends Keith Fisher and Claire Holland from BPEX who I'd worked with before at last year's sausage awards.

The team began arriving around 10:30am, having come from all over the country. We spent a good couple of hours getting everything set up and planning ahead. Our brief was to make five short films for the Love Pork (Consumer web site) showing how easy it is to barbecue supermarket pork cuts at home. These were as follows:

1. Pork Collar – To be served as home cooked slow and ‘pulled’ meat suitable for serving in a bun.
2. Pork Collar steaks
3. Pork Belly slices
4. Pork on a Plank
5. Baby back ribs

Now I don't know about you, but I guess I am fairly typical of the average barbecue host in that I consider myself a bit of an expert but on the vast majority of occasions, my idea of a barbecue is to chuck a few burgers, sausages and chicken drumsticks on it and leave it at that. What I realised on Tuesday was that there are a whole world of cuts of Pork out there that are tailor-made for barbecuing - some that I hadn't even considered using before. Not only that but there are all sort of hints and tips about the barbecuing process itself that I hadn't picked up on before.

To give a few examples: Lump word charcoal is far better than briquettes or those self-lighting bags. It burns better, doesn't produce as much waste, and doesn't taint your food with any self-lighting residue. Also, oil the grill and not the food - prevents sticking better and stops fat splashing on to the coals.

There were all sort of other tips that in hindsight seemed obvious but that I'd never considered before. For example, just using a standard B&Q style drum barbecue, once you are cooking, pile most of the coals on one side, and less on the other in order to create a hot and a cool zone. Another new way of cooking Andy showed me was pushing the coals to both sides to create room to place a silver foil tray in the middle of the barbecue, filled with water. You can then add fresh herbs (my garden is full of rosemary), lemon juice, apple juice, whatever you like really to create flavour. With the lid of the barbecue down this then creates a lovely moist atmosphere which permeates the meat and keep it from drying out. 

There are many more tips I could tell you, but I'll save those for now - as you will be able to see it all for yourself when the films come out. So what about the actual meat itself? Well, again you'll be able to see all of the cooking techniques in the video, but the end products were absolutely amazing.

I have to admit to being one of those people who generally goes for leaner cuts of meat, so when I have cooked pork on a barbecue it has normally been loin steaks. I've never really tried cuts such as collar and belly slices before perhaps perceiving them to be cheaper and more fatty, but it was only after I had tried some cooked by Andy that I realised what I had been missing all this years. There was no edge of fat on the finished product - the lean and fat meat had merged together along with all the flavours that Andy had added to create the most succulent, delicious tasting meat you could ask for. It was around 2pm by the time these first dishes were finished and placed on the table. By this time, having worked through lunch the team was more than ready to tuck in so the large plate of it on the table soon disappeared.

Here's a few pictures of the finished products, kindly supplied by Alan Harrison:

Pork Collar - the proof was in the
tasting - these didn't last long!

Belly Slices - delicious!

I also learned some interesting things about ribs. There's quite a few things Andy recommends doing with them which I wasn't aware of e.g. removing the membrane and cutting off the "tips". The tips are the gristly end bits that you often get with ribs from takeaways. Another useful tip I picked up is to only put the barbecue glaze on right at the end of cooking. These sauces have a lot of sugar in them and will burn if you put them on before cooking.

Here's the finished rack of ribs:

Cooked using the "Texas Crutch" treatment!

So that's the cooking, so what about the filming? Well, it was very much like you've seen it portrayed - "Action" and "We'll take it from the top, Andy".

My role as presenter was to play the average guy wanting to get more out of his barbecue, but needing a little help. So many of our sections would begin with me saying something along the lines of "Hi, Andy. I've been down to the butchers and picked up these pork belly slices but I'm not really sure what to do with them". At which point Andy would then take over and show how it's done.

We filmed many short sequences of a few seconds at a time, all of which will be spliced together to make the finished product, editing out the fluffs and taking the best cuts of each bit.

We developed a good rapport and finished many of our sections off with one of Andy's catchphrases. Much of his cooking is done with the lid down leading to this little exchange.

Andy: "And then we put the lid down, because remember, if you're looking..."
Me: "You're not cooking!"

It was brilliant fun and I really enjoyed the day. Who knows, perhaps this could mark the beginning of a new presenting career for me. After all I've stood up in front of audiences in my Nielsen years and my subsequent DJ career. Perhaps this is the natural next step for me. Just in case anyone from the BBC/ Channel 4/ Food Network etc. is watching I am currently available! 

Seriously, I do really enjoy working with Love Pork and hope that it does lead to some opportunities for me in the future. Both my children are going to be at school full-time from September and I do need to find new ways to earn a living. That is all assuming of course that sales of the Time Bubble don't begin to rocket and it shifts a million copies before Christmas, which would be nice! 

To finish off the day we filmed a few family party scenes which was fun, though some of it might have to be edited out. When Ollie was asked what he'd like to eat he said "chicken" which wasn't the ideal answer for a video promoting cuts of pork but it did get the biggest laugh of the day. 

Eventually all was packed up and the day came to an end. I have to say it was a wonderfully enjoyable experience and I met some really nice people on the day who I hope to keep in touch with in the future. In fact, this is true of everyone I have met through Love Pork over the past year and I was delighted when they invited me to once again come along this year to be a judge for British Sausage Week 2014.

That's all for now, but I will be back with a second blog on the subject once the videos come out because I know you're all just itching to see my film debut!


Jason Ayres is the author of three humorous non-fiction diaries and the time travel novel "The Time Bubble", available now from Amazon


  1. Can't wait to see the films! Those pics are drool worthy. We BBQ'd up most of our pork delivery this month, it's the best meat for BBQs. Fact. And as you know I'm totally biased!

  2. It truly was awesome! Yes, we are having plenty of BBQ's - it's been a pretty decent summer down here.

    Heard today they hope to have the videos available by the beginning of August. Watch this space! Oh - and maybe see you in September(?)