From Australia to South Africa, from Europe to the United States, the art of grilling is throwing off its humble origins: indeed, all over the world, new courses dedicated to this cooking method are starting up all the time and the number of events on and around the theme are mushrooming.
If you are among those who find the smell of meat sizzling on the grill quite irresistible, take a look at what’s in store for us.
There used to be the pit...
According to historians, the origins of the BBQ would apparently date back to the permanent campsites of miners, lumberjacks and manual workers engaged in building the new United States railway lines, where huge quantities of meat were grilled. How? It used to be cooked slowly in large pits for several hours (from 22 to 24h) in the indirect heat of a wood fire. In other words, low and slow. However, it is not as simple as it might sound. Whether an American “barbecue” or a South African "braai", an Argentine "asado" or a Korean or Japanese "yakiniku", a Philippine "lechòn" or Mongolian "khorkhog", this technique requires uncommon skills in choosing the right cuts of meat, preparing the hot embers and/or in smoking and judging the cooking times, without forgetting the ingredients used to season, marinate or preserve the meat.
Ask the members of the KCBS - Kansas City Barbeque Society, the non-profit organization founded in the mid-eighties to celebrate and promote the BBQ cooking technique (it obviously runs a vast programme of cooking classes you can check out for yourselves on their website), as well as championing the rules of international competitions. Or those who belong to the American Royal World Series of Kansas City (Missouri), now engaged in the 36th grill challenge or, to quote yet another example, the organizers of the 27th Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational Barbecue of Lynchburg (Tennessee), the most prestigious barbecue competition of them all, which closes the round of competitive events with a super challenge among the champions of various countries in a mouth-watering international event that takes place in a triumph of sizzling sounds and tantalizing smoky aromas.
Looking forward to the 2016 challenges
The "Jack Daniel's" event represents the annual climax of international BBQ competitions, whose contestants are the teams that have emerged triumphantly from contests involving at least 25 participants and are called on to participate by invitation only and in compliance with a strict set of rules laid down by the "KCBS". Last year, on 23 and 24 October, before an audience of 25,000 people, teams arrived from all over the world to keep this appointment: alongside the stars and stripes representatives (by the way, the 2015 edition was won by Cool Smoke from Richmond, Virginia, famous for its itinerant BBQ courses), the two-day Lynchburg event brought together countries like Australia, Canada, South Africa, the Bahamas, Germany, Italy, Estonia, Japan, Norway, Poland, Switzerland and Great Britain…
Champions of unquestionable skill who convinced the judges with their recipes, often authentic examples of haute cuisine, entirely prepared on the grill, from meat to the dessert course. But such competitions involve all four corners of the globe and all latitudes. From the Yak Ales Melbourne Barbecue Festival, held on 6 February at the Flemington hippodrome to the Canadian Smoking Q at Lynnwood Ranch, scheduled to run at Aldersyde (Alberta) on 14 and 15 May.
Sometimes the organizers take a delight in adding formidable obstacles. As in the case of the W.E.S.T. Winter Extreme South Tyrol event, the extreme competition of Riva di Tures in Valle Aurina, Italy: 30 teams of international renown challenged each other in January, regardless of snow, ice and a temperature of around -20°C! Not something you are likely to see every day. Which takes us to another unique competition scenario, an itinerant one this time: The Ultimate Braai Master of South Africa. The fourth edition took 60 days and involved 13 different dates, with the elimination of a team at each session, leading up to the selection of the final winner. An adventure covering over seven thousand kilometres… from the arid lands of Karoo, on the fringe of the desert areas, to the Wild Coast with its magnificent ocean waves, from the valleys of the Kwa Zulu Natal, where Shaka once reigned unchallenged, to the enchantment of Mpumalanga, the kingdom of the “Big Five” in the north east. All of which took place in the most extreme conditions, with locations that could only be reached on board tough off-road vehicles, against the breathtaking scenery of the Rainbow nation.
From the competitive spirit to a learning mode
In the meantime, alongside those who cannot resist a challenge, there are some who prefer to learn how to grill like a chef. In fact, more and more schools are out to teach that the art of grilling can be taken to a higher level. One of these is the Grill Academy of Weber, which has opened branches in qualified locations in the UK, Italy (at the Università del Gusto in Vicenza, for instance), Luxembourg, Belgium, Canada...
The same can be said for the numerous American barbecue schools, ranging from the Jack's Old South to 'Q University of Southern Thunder Barbeque, both located in the state of Georgia, to the acclaimed "Academie de Cuisine" of Francois Dionot, in Maryland, with his BBQ Cooking School and the California BBQ Institute.