As soon as the sun starts to break through the clouds, the barbecue-loving Brits are in the garden and fired up in no time.
But for some foodies, cooking outside isn’t just limited to the summer months.
That’s certainly the case with grilling expert Kirsty Redden, who cooks on her barbecue come rain, shine – or even snow.
“My oven is absolutely terrible, so I cook all year round on my barbecue,” she tells Fabulous exclusively.
“We have a covered area outside so I’ve been there in snow and pouring rain – none of that really bothers me to be honest, it’s all about the taste.”
The self-confessed barbecue queen, 44, fell in love with the cooking method and fiery flavor in her thirties after her brother-in-law encouraged her to join Instagram to post her food posts – leading to an electric moment light bulb.
“About four years ago I went on Instagram and found this huge community of foodies and I couldn’t believe there were so many people like me,” Kirsty continues.
“I found one guy in Canada and another guy in Australia who really liked their barbecues and kept seeing all these big slabs of meat and ribs, and I thought, ‘I’ve got to do this.’
“I got a Traeger BBQ and the first thing I cooked on it was brisket. After the first taste, I thought, “Wow! This is amazing.
“Doing something low and slow for so long meant the results were just crazy, it tasted like nothing I’d ever cooked before. And that was it – I was hooked.”
Since then, the Cambridge-based mum-of-four has branched out from simply mouth-watering meats to whip up a whole host of things in her garden gadget – from Christmas dinner to quiche inspired by the recent Coronation celebrations.
Kirsty tells us: “It’s a really strange mix, but apparently King Charles asked for it. It’s beans, spinach, cheddar and tarragon.
“I also barbecue and have steamed whiskey and salted caramel pudding just to show you can. It tasted great.
“And I cooked our whole Christmas dinner on it for thirteen people – it was so good. Traeger makes a turkey pellet that is infused with rosemary and has a brining kit and rub kit inside,” explains Kirsty.
“I brined the turkey for two days and then I dried it, put sodium in it and cooked it low and slow for the first two and a half to three hours at 100 degrees to get it nice and infused with a little smoke.
“Then I melted it at 190 degrees until it was crispy. I stripped it and rested it, and then everything else – potatoes, pigs in blankets, carrot stuffing, bread sauce and all.
“When I cut the turkey, I said to my husband, ‘You have to get that part yourself, because everyone has to try it for themselves. There was a lot of wow.”
It tasted like nothing I’ve cooked before. And that was it – I was hooked
And she admits there’s just one thing that hasn’t reached the heights she had in mind.
“The only thing I’ve had that failed was the meringue,” reveals Kirsty, “I just couldn’t get it right, but everything else was amazing.”
Now Kirsty – who is a brand ambassador for Traeger and an advocate for cooking by temperature, not time – is taking her obsession one step further and recently founded and launched her own barbecue cooking school in her hometown.
However, it’s not just the foodie community that can’t get enough of Kirsty’s dishes. Her love of cooking out has also earned her brownie points with her kids – quite literally.
She shared: “My son is 21 and when he was at university I sent him some brownies for him and his friends that I had made at the barbecue.
“Everybody said, ‘Oh my God! These are the best brownies I have ever tasted.
“When I first started, I think a lot of my family thought I was a bit crazy because women don’t really do barbecue in this country.”
But Kirsty, whose recipes can be found via her Instagram account @lovetocook4ppl, is keen to spread the message to her children and others that barbecuing isn’t just for men and is a lot easier than people think.
“It’s crazy, you go to a garden center and you see signs that say ‘Dad’s BBQ,'” she recalls.
“Sometimes when I do cooking demonstrations, my husband comes with me and it’s so funny because all the men come up to him and say, ‘Oh mate, are you doing this?!’
“He’s like, ‘No, it’s my wife,’ and everyone’s like, ‘Oh…okay!’
When I first started I think a lot of my family thought I was a bit crazy because women don’t really do barbecue in this country
She also explains that while it’s often men who want to come see her barbeque, she’s highly encouraged by the women.
She says: “I think because I’m a woman who already does it, they think it’s less embarrassing.”
Although the popular food influencer has an answer for those who might think lighting a Barbie on fire might mean you’ll smell smoke and meat.
She reveals: “If I’ve done a food festival and I’ve been cooking all day, I can smell it on me, but it doesn’t bother me, I really like it.
“The Traeger wood smell is quite clean and nice, not like a nasty pungent smell.
“And you only really get a strong smell when you first turn it on, and then it’s minimal.
“So as long as no one makes a sound in those two minutes, you’re good!”
However, Kirsty isn’t the only one who can be found cooking in her back garden from the bitter cold of January to the heat waves of July.
That was the day my BBQ eyes were really opened
John Finch is also a complete convert – or in his own words, a “barbecue geek”.
John, from Gloucestershire, is the proud owner of six different Weber barbecues, cooking all three daily meals five days a week.
He tells us, “There’s no such thing as ‘barbecue season’ at our house, every day
it’s a barbecue day. And it’s year-round – wind, rain, sun or snow.
“The oven is used, but not that often. More so when the kids are home alone and need to reheat something or other instead of being used for the main event.”
He first caught the “barbecue bug” when a friend from California came to visit in 2005 and cooked some barbeque beef.
The 49-year-old – who cooks up a storm on his machines from the classic Weber kettle to the newer Kamado-style grill – recalls: “There were flames coming out of the side of the grill and smoke billowing everywhere. I thought he ruined my lovely ponytail.
“But about an hour later, he took it off the grill, let it rest for 20 minutes and sliced it for the tables. I still consider it one of the tastiest cuts of beef I’ve ever eaten.
“That was the day my BBQ eyes were really opened and I set the last 18 years of my life on a completely different course, paving the way for countless fantastic experiences.
“It’s hard to think that a piece of beef can change someone’s life so dramatically!”
It’s hard to think that a piece of beef can change someone’s life so dramatically!
But John insists that’s exactly what’s being done, as he proudly declares: “I’ve cooked a lot of weird stuff. I often get funny looks when I say I’m grilling a salad, but giving halved gem lettuce a quick char on the grill adds great flavor, texture, and appearance to the final dish.
“Grilled ice cream is another one that raises eyebrows, but it makes more sense when I explain that it’s a baked Alaska so covered in Italian meringue that it just has to be really hot.
“I even grilled a kangaroo once, but it really wasn’t good!”
John has also made grilling his career path, launching a barbecue and music festival called Grillstock, writing books including Grillstock: The BBQ Book, as well as taking on his current role as European Marketing Manager for Weber BBQ.
And he doesn’t regret his decision for a second – even if some people worry that his clothes smell like meat.
John, who also teaches barbecue classes in the summer in his local village, explains: “I’m a full-time barbecue guy and it goes with the grass!
“Generally speaking, though, if you’re just cooking ‘low and slow’ on the barbecue, you end up getting a little smokey.”
“Once lit and up to temperature (even with a charcoal grill), the fire should burn cleanly and with very little smoke, provided you’re using good quality fuel and have good airflow.
“The biggest tip I would offer to avoid smoke and flames on the grill is to set up a 2-zone cooking zone.
“So if you’re using a charcoal grill, pile the briquettes on one side and leave the other side clean. Or on a gas grill, one side should be very hot and the other side very low or even extinguished. This gives you much more control. You can sear the food on the hot side, then move to the other side to cook.
“But to me, barbecue is much more than just a way of cooking. BBQ brings people together and I think deep down that’s the part I really love.
“Ever since cavemen, we’ve all gathered around the fire, cooked feasts and shared special moments with friends and family, and it’s still deeply ingrained in our DNA.”
BARBECUE TIPS FOR BEGINNERS
Kirsty says it’s never too late to fire up the Barbie. Here, she reveals her top three tips for grilling outside—and why it shouldn’t always be left to the men.
- Cook to temperature, not time. My family asks “when will it be ready?” and I say “it’s ready when it’s ready”.
- Don’t be afraid – just go out and take the plunge. The worst that can go wrong is that it doesn’t taste like you think it will, but it will.
- Trust your own palette and don’t be afraid to add the ingredients and see. I’ve never been a bespoke chef, just throwing stuff in and hoping it tastes good.