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The Liverpool dad is so passionate about cooking outdoors that he’s set up an Instagram page, Smokefaced Grilla, with loads of hints and tips about getting started – and he’s hoping to get the rest of us fired up too and create a BBQ community across and outside of the city.
Tom, 32, from Wavertree, says: “I want to get more people barbecuing.
“It’s the most primitive and basic way of cooking. It doesn’t have to be with big, expensive equipment, and anyone can do it if they have got a bit of space and a little know-how.
“The food tastes great because you get the taste of the charcoal and the taste of the flame – and it’s not just meat and veg, you can cook. You can smoke meats, cook pasta dishes, ragu sauces…anything. I’m doing the Christmas turkey on the BBQ!”
Tom was introduced to barbecuing six years ago when he went to South Africa to visit a cousin, and he says: “That’s how they cook all the time over there, and I just fell in love with it.
“I have always barbecued for friends and family but, at the beginning of this year, my partner Laura – Laura Worthington from Laura’s Little Bakery – bought me large ceramic barbecue that you can use all year round.
“It keeps the temperature for 12 hours, and you can regulate the heat with vents and slow-cook food.
“I was looking up how to get the most use out of it and saw that there was a massive BBQ community down south in Devon and Essex and they help each other. I couldn’t find anyone in Liverpool, and felt I was basically on my own up here wanting to do it.”
He adds: “I discovered one of the people I was talking to down south was one of the main BBQ experts in the UK, and he suggested I start a community myself. So that’s what I’m doing.
“It’s a hobby I’m so passionate about. I’m obsessed.”
Tom shares pictures of his amazing barbecued dishes on Smokefaced Grilla, along with advice on how to get started, what to buy and even what to cook.
He scours websites looking for good second-hand barbecues that followers can buy – and he’s even bought one himself and given it away on the page.
“I’ve put pictures of my food, step by step, on my Instagram stories and got 15-20 messages from people saying they’d like to give it a go – even people asking how they could buy my food which makes me feel so much pride.
“I’m not a chef, but I love to cook on a barbecue and people love my food. Laura and I had friends round the other week and the food had all been picked up off the tray before she got it inside.
“It doesn’t matter what the weather’s like because you can cook outside and take it in – but you still tend to find that people love to watch and will gather around the barbecue anyway. It’s a social way of cooking.
“And it’s also a great therapy. Laura and I had a house fire earlier this year and I’ve suffered with PTSD ever since. Barbecuing is my hobby but – like all hobbies – it’s also helped me massively with my mental health and helping to deal with it.”
And he says: “Practice makes perfect and if you do start now, just think how good you’ll be by the summer!
“I’m cooking the Christmas turkey on the barbecue which means it will taste great – and it saves on space so you can get everything you need to in the oven.
“Barbecuing is simple but the food looks and tastes so good – and if I can do it, anyone can.”
1. Cook to temp, not time! Although it’s nice to have everything planned out and organised it’s much better to be safe than sorry! With Chicken the golden rule is “165 stay alive” (that’s 165F, otherwise it’d be charcoal!). A meat thermometer is a must-have tool for any griller!
2. Learn how to control the heat: The reason so many people end up with burnt sausages/burger at a BBQ is because they get the coals red hot then throw the food on, burning the outside but it’s raw on the inside. 90% of BBQs have vents, airflow is how you control the temperature so if the vents are open there’ll be more air and more heat! Watch YouTube videos on how to control the temp on your model.
3. Avoid lighter fluid & chemical fire lighters. The chemicals, while safe, taint your charcoal and your food. If you end up doing a long smoke/roast on your BBQ you’ll end up with a battery chemical taste on your food! No one likes that – 5-year-old you licked that battery out of curiosity so adult you remembers the disgusting taste!
4. Rest your meat. This is a pet hate of mine – people cutting into a beautiful looking steak and before you know it, the whole chopping board is swimming in the juices that should be keeping that steak tender and tasty! A little bit of patience goes a long way!
5. Have fun! It’s sounds cheesy bit it’s true. If you’re stressed-out you’re more likely to ruin whatever you’re cooking. No-one is an expert right away. We’ve all messed up more than once trying to be a grill master, it’s a rite of passage and a story to tell your guests when you’re sitting around eating the delicious feast you’ve just cooked on your BBQ!
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