KNOW HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR GRILLING SKILLS
FEED YOUR INNER GRILLMASTER
Story by Brian Misko, edited excerpt from Grilling With House of Q, Figure 1 Publishing 2015.
Quite a bit has changed since I aspired to be a BBQ superstar. Cooking on my deck turned into traveling to BBQ competitions and cooking in parking lots all over North America. Those competitions awards turned into regular segments on TV, staging demos at trade shows, speaking on the radio and teaching cooking classes. Then I wrote a Canadian best-selling cookbook and ultimately winning a world championship! So I know what I am talking about, and I love to share tips and provide a path on how to be a better griller.
Inspiration can come from a variety of sources and it is important to have open eyes and an open mind to see what you can learn from different influences. In today's media rich environment, here are a few of the many bloggers, social media channels or Instagram and Facebook pages that can easily give you an "a-ha" moment:
- The Sauce YouTube Video Channel
- Food Network Canada Website
Many barbecue and grill manufacturers are very good educators and sources to get you going. Register your smoker or barbecue equipment with the manufacturer and sign up for their newsletters if they have one. This information can provide you with a double dose of energy - first, cooking ideas and recipes that you want to try and then secondly, performance tips about your gear!
One of the most powerful ways to advance your skill is to find a "mentor". I know it would be cool and rewarding to have Bobby Flay or Guy Fieri to personally coach you. That's not what I mean… but you can still learn from them! Simply watching your chosen mentor - on TV, the internet or from their cookbooks and newsletters - can provide you with ideas and great energy.
My family has also inspired! There are many dishes that I have made on my smokers and grills that have come from childhood memories. I love reminiscing about dishes that we had at Grandma's or at a family gathering many years ago. My grandmother certainly didn't have a digitally controlled pellet cooker, but her roasted turkey was a focal point of Thanksgiving: now how do I recreate that experience? Thinking about my family has expanded the dishes I do to include charcoal baked bread, pastries and casseroles... and yes, all cooked on my smoker!
Do you ever wonder what the situation was when the very first person put peanut butter on one slice of bread and then smeared jam on another and slapped them together to take a bite? Two ideas mashed together can have surprising results. Let's say that you have a wonderful recipe for waffles. Everybody loves them - they are a family favorite. Now at the same time, your Grandma has a really good recipe for meatloaf. It is awesome and it brings back so many memories over the years. With a slight change, this can become a new inspired recipe for you! (see following page)
Another way to change things up is to take a recipe that catches your attention and then make a few changes to it. This could be a simple change such as taking a beef recipe and using chicken instead, or adding a signature flavor like diced jalapenos to a sauce or a little bit of cinnamon to the store-bought BBQ rub. Don't be shy, just be willing and only change a couple of things in a recipe, to get a feel for know what works and what doesn't. If you change too many things and it doesn't turn out, you won't know what to change to improve on the dish.
Seriously, what's the worst that can happen? The most important factor of all is simply a willingness to try. The people you feed, your eaters, will still love you. Trust me on this. Not everything will be perfect but it comes down to asking for feedback, listening to it and learning as you go along. Write down what you craft so you can either recreate it exactly or make minor adjustments to get it closer to perfection.
Good luck grilling, and have fun!
Brian Misko is co-owner and Pitmaster of House of Q, a competition BBQ team based in Surrey, BC.