Express & Star

Ross a master of the art of the grill

Summer is here. Well, almost. Between downpours and dashing for a brolly, there are a few gleeful moments of sunshine. And with the warmer weather, thoughts turn to outdoors eating and to making the most of the barbecue.

Ross Davis

Ross Davis, from Telford, is a master of the stove. The 30-year-old engineer is a barbecue enthusiast whose passion for cooking has grown over the past four years.

He bought his first barbecue four years ago, when he got the keys to his first house. He’s never looked back. He cooks outside more often now than indoors. And he says it’s easier to get great flavours by cooking on a barbecue rather than a conventional oven.

Ross says his journey is one that others can follow – by combining a willingness to engage in trial and error, and by connecting with like-minded enthusiasts online.

He says: “I started about four years ago. I purchased my first barbecue when I got the keys to my first home. From there, I found a bit of a community online. Covid happened and that disrupted everything and in the start of 2020 we went into lockdown. A lot of people were confined to their gardens, including me, but that just gave us all more time to cook outside.”

Ross says communities sprang up around the UK and barbecue enthusiasts were remarkably supportive of one another. “It’s funny. I met people online and spoke to them. I developed these friendship groups and these support groups. I’d talk about what I was cooking and sharing tips and information. When things opened up, we’d all meet up at barbecue festivals. I met people I’d only met online. Barbecuing is made up of a great bunch of people who are happy to help each other.”

Ross says the best thing to do when starting out is to keep your money in your pocket.

“People imagine they need expensive equipment to start. But you can buy from Facebook market place and that’s cheap. There’s loads of online resources, Youtube, insta, Facebook, and the like.

“People communicate online. They trust you to give advice. They are more than happy to talk for hours about how to do things. The best advice I can offer is to start asking questions, people will always help somebody new.”

Cooking outdoors isn’t as simple as cooking indoors. But the same rules apply. You should buy quality ingredients and treat them with respect. Take time to learn what you’re cooking on. Ross adds: “Planning means everything. Do your prep beforehand. The British barbecue community takes care and attention to get good results and it’s amazing what you can do with a little imagination and a lot of practice.”

Those who cook outdoors can grill, bake, and smoke – it’s not just about searing burgers and sausages over hot coals. “I cook more outdoors than indoors.

“Anything you can cook indoors you can do outdoors. It’s about using fire and flavours of smoke and the cooking method to elevate the food. You can elevate ingredients by using fire.

“When it comes to steaks, they really appreciate being barbecued – you get a better flavour, rather than just throwing it in a pan and covering it with butter.”

There are some technical aspects, of course, and it takes time to learn about different heat zones, or using a cover to create an oven that bakes your food.

“Any barbecue can be set up to cook on two zones – the direct heat over the coals is fierce. Then, if you use a lid, you’re creating an oven, which allows you to roast and bake. Smoking adds another dimension, too.

“When it comes to steak and beef, I use oak or whisky barrel oak. Chicken likes fruit woods like apple, or beech. Pork is good with cherry wood, which adds sweetness. Some people don’t like the taste of smoke, so it’s about balancing it and not overwhelming it. You can smoke desserts like brownies and cheesecakes.”

The most important thing is to have fun.

“What’s not to love? You can use a barbecue to enjoy the great outdoors, socialise with family and friends, and eat great food. Bring it on.”

You can follow Ross on Instagram rsd_bbq

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