Summer means a number of great things: from music festivals and alfresco frolics, to beer gardens and BBQs – and, in fact, it’s BBQs that we’re talking about today in our latest “Guide to…” feature. So, with another warm weekend ahead, we hollered at HotBox London for their tips on how to cook up the best BBQ meat you’ve ever tasted. If you’re not familiar with these dudes then allow us to give you a brief intro...
Prior to setting up HotBox London, head chef Lewis Spencer dipped into the world of restaurants at the age of 17, while working at TGI Fridays. After deciding to pursue a career as a chef, he travelled around Europe where he cut his teeth at several top restaurants. Upon returning to the UK he decided to put his knowledge to use, but ultimately he wanted to “strip everything back.” At the same time he met like-minded business partner, Basit, and together they set about creating a new London BBQ concept, and consequently, HotBox was born.
With celebrity fans including the likes of supermodel Jourdan Dunn, Rudimental and Wayne Bridge, as well as residencies at various StreetFeast events all over London, the future looks extremely positive for the HotBox gang, especially now with plans for a permanent restaurant in the pipeline.
So, now you know a bit more about these dudes, it’s time to take note of their top five tips for knocking up the best, most mouth-watering, smoky barbequed meat known to man.
1) The first stage of being a pit master is to get your hands on a proper smoker. There are many options, and they don't have to cost you a fortune. You can buy a decent Weber smoker for around £200-300 that does the job just fine. Alternatively, you can salvage most of the materials you need to build your own custom smoker, which will not only cost you next to nothing, but make you look like the real deal. There are lots of designs on the Internet, but you want the fuel source to be isolated from the food chamber so that the heat is indirect. When you start using it, make sure you manage the fire to keep a constant temperature. It doesn't really matter what that temperature is, as long as you maintain it throughout the cook. If you want to go the whole hog, find yourself a welder and build a 1 tonne monster like we did!
2) Pick your meat wisely. You want lots of fat running through the meat. You can smoke pretty much anything as long as there's fat in there. The principal of 'low and slow' BBQ is that the internal fat will baste the meat as it cooks over many hours. That time is needed to break down the collagen in tough meat, and results in moist, melt in your mouth 'cue. You don't need to stick to the usual cuts such as shoulders and ribs either. We love playing around with a little pork belly or salmon whenever there's spare room in the smoker.
3) Great BBQ shouldn't need any sauce. Focus on rubs and glazes to produce the taste profile you want. Our rubs are quite simple and consist of salt, pepper, sugar and spices in varying ratios depending on the meat. Once the meat is almost cooked we like to add a sweet and sharp glaze, which provides a little shine and some more flavour to the meat. Honestly, after all that the sauce is redundant.
4) If you are going to have sauce, make your own. It's so easy, and best served warm. I personally prefer a Texan style sauce, which is basically sweated onions with some chilli, lots of butter, lots of sugar, ketchup, mustard, vinegar and a little quality beef stock or dripping. Keep it warm and dip your meat into it... Actually, you've got to love a good sauce!
5) Unless you're a professional, it's very hard to know when your meat is cooked. Most BBQ looks ready half way through the cook, so it's important to invest in a temperature probe and rely on that to tell you when it's done. Don't worry about meat looking black either, as long as you've controlled the temperature of the smoker, it's not burnt. We spent a month visiting the most amazing BBQ joints in Austin and Lockhart, and most of the brisket there looked like giant lumps of coal.
A HUGE thank you to HotBox London for their first-class BBQ/smoking tips. We’d strongly advise you do your best to pop in and sample their truly exceptional BBQ grub if you happen to be around Spitalfields or at StreetFeast - you definitely won't be disappointed.
Keep up to date with HotBox London by checking out the following:
HotBox London - Twitter
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