Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Weber BBQ Cookery Class at the Abinger Cookery School

Our Weber gas barbecue is my husband's pride and joy. We bought it for our first summer in our new house - I can't remember how much it cost, but I know it was a lot compared to other barbecues, but it's so easy to use and cooks food perfectly - a far cry from the barbecues I remember as a child, where you had to wait hours (or so it seemed) for the coals to burn and then there was a risk that food would be burnt on the outside and raw on the inside... which when you're a child doesn't seem like that much of a big deal (other than making sure you get the sausage that is less burnt than your sister's) but obviously isn't very safe.

With a gas barbecue it's almost instant so we can get home from work at 7pm and cook dinner outside; you can regulate the temperature and also which flames burn so you can cook over direct or indirect heat and they are easier to clean. Some people think they aren't as authentic, and you don't get such a smoky flavour - though these days you can buy things to use on gas barbecues for smoky flavour  anyway.

My husband had a gas barbecue at his family's house for years so when we bought our own home it was a given that we would buy one, and more to the point that we would buy Weber.

For me, one of the best things about our barbecue is that my husband loves to use it. He doesn't cook at all, so I'm the one making dinner after we both get home from work every day, but in the summer he's always keen to grill and ends up being the one to cook dinner. Admittedly I still help but it does give me a bit of a break!

He's really good at cooking the basics - sausages and burgers, and over the last two years I got him to be a bit more adventurous - despite some initial scepticism on his part we were barbecuing fish to make spicy fish tacos, and even pizza, which is surprisingly easy. I wanted to take it up a notch and get my husband to take a barbecue cooking lesson, which I thought he would enjoy.

The Weber Grill Academy

Weber runs a barbecue school called the Grill Academy - it used to be in one location but now they have teamed up with cookery schools around the country so you can find somewhere local to you. I booked us both onto a course at the Abinger Cookery School in Surrey - they do all sorts of other cookery classes which look very appealing.

They do a few Weber cookery courses- charcoal grilling, seafood, winter warmers, essentials and classic. The classic course covers sausages, marinated chicken, burgers and beer can chicken - I know my husband is good at cooking most of that (I've even done beer can chicken at home before in the oven). I wanted us to learn something a bit different so we did the essentials course, which included:

  • Stonebaked pizza
  • Beer can chicken with herb and butter paprika rub
  • Sirloin or ribeye steaks
  • Smoked pork loin & crackling
  • Grilled broccoli with chilli and garlic
  • Coal roasted sweet potatoes with salsa verde
  • Chocolate molten puddings

  • The cookery school is in a converted pub in a pretty little village; it has a few rooms where different classes were taking place at the same time plus an outdoor area where we were. Unfortunately we got caught in terrible traffic and were 45 minutes late after the start of the class, so we missed all the food prep - people were marinating, chopping ingredients and so on. I think my husband didn't mind that we missed that part as he was more interested in the actual barbecuing aspect but it was a shame.

    One thing I noticed that amused me was that of the 15 or so people there, I was the only woman! Most people had come in pairs but all male, either friends, father and son and so on. It's the only time I've ever seen so many men in a cookery class!

We went outside and the tutor explained the different types of barbecues that you can get and different types of cooking. I learnt some useful tips like:
  • Clean the grill by heating it up a little and rubbing with the cut side of half a lemon or an onion. It's best to use lemon if you will be cooking chicken or fish, and onion if you are cooking red meat. Discard the lemon or onion afterwards.
  • Sausages are best cooked over an indirect heat so if you have a gas barbecue, have the flame going on one side of the barbecue and cook the sausages on the other side where there is no flame. This will stop them getting burnt!
You can buy all sorts of bits of equipment I didn't know about like a grilling tray to do small pieces of chicken, halloumi and vegetables; you can also buy these very amusing-looking chicken infusers, to do the beer can chicken I mentioned above.

It's not particularly easy or probably safe to balance a whole chicken with a beer can up it on a barbecue; Weber sells two types of gadget you can use for this.

The first, the Weber Poultry Roaster, is shown in the left of the picture below. It basically holds a can in place - you can use beer, ginger beer, Coke or Fanta, or anything that comes in a can. It holds the can in place inside the chicken and as it cooks, the liquid steams up inside the chicken, keeping it moist and giving it flavour.

The gadget on the right of the photo above is the Weber Style Poultry Infusion Roaster- this one is more expensive but I think would give a better result. Rather than using a can, you pour liquid into the central container meaning you can use anything - orange juice, red wine etc - and there is a cap in the top to stop the steam escaping. This means the juices run down into the tray underneath which you can use for basting.

We watched both types being cooked; the class ran for four hours, with the first hour being spent on prep; this sort of chicken will take about an hour and a half to cook; you can find a similar recipe on the Weber website.

The tutor had already made the pizza dough and demonstrated what to do; we then took it in turns rolling out a piece of dough, topping it with chopped tomatoes and mozzarella, and using a wooden paddle to place it on top of a pizza stone on the barbecue. You can find a recipe here. The pizzas only took a couple of minutes to cook and were really good.

Here's the tutor demonstrating:

And here I am stretching and tossing my pizza dough!

My finished pizza - I can never seem to roll out dough into a neat circle!

The steaks were marinated or rubbed with something, I wasn't sure, and simply placed on the barbecue. My husband got to help the tutor by turning the steaks... and that was as hands on as he was able to get in the whole class, which is a shame - it was more a case of watching demonstrations than actually cooking.

The pork loin had also been rubbed with something and was cooking in a roasting basket that I haven't seen before on a barbecue - it's a useful bit of kit as you can cook a large joint of meat to feed a lot of people.

I don't recall seeing the broccoli being grilled I don't think, and the sweet potatoes were simply wrapped in foil (probably rubbed with salt and oil) and put on the barbecue.

We also watched the tutor cook a paella that a couple of the other attendees had helped prepare and they helped cook. I didn't know you could do paella on the barbecue - some Weber barbecues have a grill with a removable circle in the middle and you can take this out and put a pizza stone in (though we managed fine by putting the pizza stone on top of the grill)  or you can put a big round dish like this into the gap. The pan is very large though so this isn't something you would cook for only a couple of people, but it seems a really nice alternative to a traditional meat-feast barbecue if you are having non-meat eaters or just want to do something different. Here's a recipe for a seafood paella from the Weber site.

Once everything was cooked it was sliced up and we got to try a bit of everything - it all tasted fantastic and we have definitely got lots of ideas for our next barbecue!


While we were eating the tutor made dessert; it was a shame we weren't involved in the prep or even the cooking as he did explain afterwards what he'd done but we were too busy eating at the time! Did you know you could make chocolate fondant on the barbecue? I didn't! Here's the Weber recipe - they are really good!

We both really enjoyed the barbecue course and learnt lots of useful little tips as well as some different things we can cook on the barbecue. My only criticism was that it wasn't very hands on - for the money (£99 per person) I would have expected a bit more actual cooking and less time just watching. When I've done barbecue cooking classes before, we had one barbecue to two or three people and everyone cooked their own food - I know this wouldn't be possible with the bigger joints of meat that we did but a group of a dozen or so people watching one man cook isn't what I imagined. Having said that this was a really good course and I do recommend it if you are either new to barbecuing or considering whether to buy a Weber (as a couple of people on the course were - as we used three or four types of their grills) or if like us you want to expand your barbecue cooking repertoire.




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