UK BBQ Mag Winter 2017/2018 - Page 82

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TEAM TALK

Every issue of UK BBQ Mag we like to give one of the growing number of UK BBQ teams a chance to tell us about what they do, and who they are, this Issue it's the Smokin' Yankees BBQ Belfast team.

Having a real love for the outdoors and outdoor cooking was a pretty lonely thing to have in Belfast not that long ago, I remember having an inherent wish to move on from the good weather “sun's out guns out” BBQ sausage and burger fest! Somehow cans of beer and burnt sausages weren't cutting it. I remember beginning to watch shows like “man v food” and “BBQ pitmasters” and being introduced to the World of low and slow cooking. It felt different to normal grilling, it felt like more of a journey than just a destination, it was deeper, more emotional than just grilling a pork chop (even though I love pork chops!!). After getting my 1st Smoker, a ProQ, I began to read about low and slow, I think I watched every you tube video. The addiction to Smoke had begun!!

I'll never forget my 1st smoke, a standard chicken,no more, no less, it was winter and under a Gazebo and it felt like BBQing on the deck of the Titanic (gratuitous Belfast reference!! Still haven't got over the fact that we built it and the English sunk it!). After moving on to the obligatory pulled pork and starting to learn about the dreaded brisket minefield, low and slow became more than a way of cooking it became a way of life, a hobby, some even call it a sport!! (i’d hate to see the team photo lol). Like any hobby I wanted to push it forward, to develop it and take it to the next level and for that I needed more people, cooking on my own in my man shed just wasn't enough anymore. Using social media I went in search of BBQ friends and I found them in the shape of Artust, Dr Evil The “USA” Smokin yankee! and many others who were always willing to share their knowledge. At that point there wasn't much of a collective BBQ scene in Belfast so local events were few and far between, I did however hear about the “Big Grill” and I spoke to an old friend Conor Dawson about maybe having a wee go at this competition BBQ lark!! Conor loved the idea and another friend James Acheson came onboard and with the assistance of English BBQ scene staple Artust, Smokin Yankees BBQ Belfast was born!!

We haven't looked back!! At the Big Grill we met “legends” such as Bunch of Swines and that in itself was a motivation to take this competition thing to the next level. We won Irish Champions at this 1st ever comp,a title we defended the next year!! Despite being a relatively young team (in experience not years!) we've seen quite a lot, from the lows of holding a gazebo down in gale force Devon winds at 3am to the highs of standing beside Tuffy Stone when he won back to back Jack Daniels world championships!

Having the opportunity to compete at “the Jack” and the American Royal was out of this world, meeting and competing against BBQ royalty was a chance in a lifetime and one we grabbed with both hands. We learnt so much, not just about competition BBQ but about what BBQ means to the passionate meat freak, it made us want to keep pushing and developing our skills and knowledge. It made us want to develop the BBQ scene here at home and it showed us that great teams use great products. Evolving as a team involves levelling up in terms of equipment, meat, ingredients etc. In the last year or so we have developed immensely, one of our most beneficial developments was that of Jim aka @onlyslaggin joining our ranks and bringing with him a sense of ambition. Our development has taken several routes, In a competition sense we wanted to compete in England, we did this with a pretty good performance at Q'fest in Devon including two 1st place calls! We will take that further next season in that we have already signed up for 2 comps, “Smoke on the water” and “Q'fest” and who knows what else. The next step is to compete in Europe and hopefully the US again, but casting our eyes homeward we have been speaking with KCBS and local businesses with the hope of bringing a BBQ competition to Belfast and therefore using our momentum to benefit the outdoor cooking scene here at home!

Developing partnerships is vital for a growing team and our strongest supporters from the very start have been Peter and Jim Hannan from Hannan meats in Moira. Having access to and support from Ireland's premium meat “Artisan” has been vital to our proud “local” mindset. We have no desire to use, compete with or promote US or Australian meats when we live in a country that produces some of the world's finest produce especially when “meat wizard” Peter Hannan and his team at the Meat Merchant are behind them, a prime example of this being his Sugar pit bacon rack which took 1st place at Q'fest!!

Another great Smokin Yankees supporter has been Mike Trump of Oakridge BBQ in Kearney Missouri! Being a genuinely great guy Mike first helped us during our dream trip to Tennessee and Kansas city last year when the Oakridge family opened their arms for us, he continues to help us through his sponsorship programme and because of this we have fantastic access to all Oakridge products which we proudly use in all competitions etc

This year has also seen us benefiting from getting to know Jeff from Flameboss in Florida, he very kindly welcomed us into the Flameboss family and provided us with the brand new 300 Wi-Fi pit controllers. Using these had allowed us to up our game by being able to have consistent and predictable temperatures throughout long cooks and monitor 3 meats.I'm not much of a nerd but being able to control your cooker from anywhere in the world is pretty cool, oh and being able to get some sleep at competitions or during those overnight cooks is just plain “frickin awesome”

I've always had a thing for coolers, well coolers and torches! I think it's the prepper in me lol. Having used igloos, colemans etc we’ve always wanted a proper rotomolded cooler from the “yeti” “Rtic” or “Pelican” ilk for competitions but finances have always gotten in the way, recently however we've got to know and work with Oliver Giles from ProSmoke BBQ and the range of inventive BBQ products from the states, one of these being his range of premium rotomolded coolers which are just absolute beasts and probably the only coolers you will ever need! We look forward to working with ProSmoke in the Future.

One of the most satisfying things of the last year has been seeing our 1st commercial sauce hitting the shelves. Developing our Apple and whiskey BBQ sauce from kitchen to stores with the assistance of “food guru” Paul Clark of EnPlace Foods foods was a great opportunity and it does still seem surreal to see our logo on shop shelves around the country!! Whilst developing and promoting our sauce we have had help from the “BBQ family” in Ireland, Britain and beyond including our 1st real review from BBQ giant Marcus Bawdon!! (tip O the cap!)

Within all of this is the central social aspect of low and slow BBQ, be that within the world of social media, our families and friends or within the competition scene, nothing brings people together like meat, fire and smoke! It is what motivates us as a team to continue, the smell of real smoke, the excitement of lifting that lid for the 1st time in 5 hours, the sense of satisfaction when you cut into a moist brisket all keep us coming back for more! I find that there is always a low point in a competition when we question why we go to all of the expense or difficulties of competition BBQ, usually for me it's when I'm missing my kids and scraping the fat of the 20th chicken skin at 2am! Every Time though, the doubts and negativity disappear with the last turn in and are replaced with an immense sense of pride and satisfaction in our efforts. All of us within Smokin Yankees have been well and truly bitten by that competition bug!!

The future is bright for us,(we hope), whether that future is competing at competitions, promoting BBQ through demos etc with business's such as Hillmount nurseries, running bbq classes, developing our range of sauces or hopefully working towards Ireland's first KCBS competition. We certainly will be busy and the smoke will roll!!