Cooking with Fire: An Interview with Outdoor Cooking Expert Genevieve Taylor
Genevieve Taylor is a live fire cook and BBQ expert, and has written eleven cookery books on the subject including her latest, Foolproof BBQ. We spoke to her about the appeal of cooking over an open fire, and got some top tips for making the most out of your barbecue
What first attracted you to fire cooking?
For me it’s just because I simply love being outside. I’m happier outside than I am inside so it’s a way of making my day to day cooking a bit more interesting. The world is such a busy place at the moment and getting outdoors around an open fire and cooking some delicious food is what it’s all about, it’s a very relaxed and sociable way of cooking. I find it energising.
How has your own fire cooking style evolved over the years?
Every time I light a fire and cook something, I learn something new and build on my confidence. Really learning about how fire works and the physics of heat has been really useful to show me I can cook anything on the barbecue. I love embracing different cultures and take a lot of inspiration from a lifetime of travelling, using spices and herbs in abundance.
It’s definitely becoming increasingly popular - why do you think that is?
I think in the pandemic era, it has become more popular because it’s the most exciting thing for people to do – to get outside and do something a bit different. People are keen to embrace barbecuing and be brave with their cooking. We’ve all had a little bit more time to cook during lockdown and people have been happier to be more adventurous with their dishes. Maybe also, like me, people are trying to escape from their laptop and get away from it – ditching the digital world and getting back to basics and back to nature is at the heart of barbecuing.
What would you say your ultimate outdoor cooking tip would be?
My ultimate tip is to learn how to focus on temperature not time. By creating heat zones in your barbecue, you can learn how to cook both directly and indirectly, as different cuts require different temperatures on the grill. Using a meat thermometer, like a Thermapen, allows you to monitor your internal heat to ensure you don’t under cook or over cook anything.
Tell me about Thermapen’s Eat Messy campaign?
So I’m working with Thermapen because I’m a real advocate of cooking to temperature not time. It’s a really fundamental skill with fire cooking and it’s something I genuinely believe in. I would never dream of firing up my BBQ and cooking a bit of meat or fish without having it in my pocket because every fire is different – my fire changes day to day depending on the weather and the lots of different factors – but the one constant with fire cooking is the internal temperature of your food. So if you nail the temperature, your food is done, and barbecuing is as easy as that. Forget time and stick to temperature.
Aside from the charcoal barbecue, what other methods of cooking over fire do you use?
I generally cook with either charcoal or wood, or a combination of both. The key about charcoal is to use good, sustainable British charcoal because it’s a very pure product (it’s 95% pure carbon) which is completely inert and not sprayed with chemicals, like many service station or supermarket charcoal bags you can pick up. If you want a smoky flavour/taste you need to use a bit of wood as well as charcoal. If I’m cooking in an open firepit I tend to just use wood as my principal fuel.
Barbecuing is typically seen as a meat-oriented cuisine - how can vegetarians make the most of their barbecue?
Anything can be cooked over fire. For me, cooking vegetables is really exciting and the myriad of flavours, colours and textures you get from vegetables is wild. Vegetables are a whole rainbow spectrum of goodness. As much as I love meat, vegetables can be more exciting to cook over a fire because you can layer them up with lots of different textures in big sharing platters, and lots of other exciting things you can do with veg.
Genevieve Taylor is working with Thermapen, the UK’s No.1 meat thermometer brand, on its #EatMessy campaign, showing that messier eaters are happier eaters. Thermapen is giving away six bibs with every purchase to encourage Brits to get stuck in this BBQ season and make sure you don’t spill. To find out more, visit www.thermapen.co.uk
Looking for something to cook on your barbecue? Genevieve has developed this succulent slow grilled porchetta recipe, which will provide an unforgettable feast for friends and family.
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