Yes, I know what you're thinking "Another post on BBQ? Girlfriend needs to get a gym membership." But this was too good an...August 09, 2013
AT WORK WITH THE PITS BBQ
For this BBQ feature I chatted with Jeff, the founder of The Pits BBQ in Cardiff. Jeff gives some great insights into his BBQ-ing style and the techniques and tricks he uses for that smokey goodness.
"I've been making 'cue for years and use the traditional methods, perfected in the deep South of the USA. I became aware of Southern barbecue around ten years ago, when I spent some time on the upper-east coast of the United States. I had a wonderful stay over there and have endearing memories of the various 'cue shacks that I'd frequented. The flavours and textures of the food were quite unlike anything else I'd eaten before.
When I returned to the UK, I couldn't find my beloved Dixie 'cue, and so set about learning how to make it myself. My family had always been big barbecuers (in the grilling sense of the word), and I felt that I'd be able to turn my hand to low 'n' slow cooking."
Perfecting his style and technique:
"I found that one of the biggest hurdles when graduating from grilling to indirect cooking was the apparatus required. To make juicy, succulent 'cue, you need to have accurate control over the temperature of your pit. This control can only be afforded through the fine regulation of airflow into a fire, which standard barbecues do not allow. I remember wrapping my parents' grill entirely in aluminum foil, plugging all the small gaps, just to try and keep the brazier ticking over as a smoulder! Over the years, I've used more and more advanced apparatus, and today I cook on my own, home-built UDS (ugly drum smoker)."
Why he started to sell BBQ:
"There were a few factors that led to me bringing my cooking out of the back garden and into the markets.
Primarily, I was looking to take a break from a long-term R&D project. I wanted to try something completely different, and come back to the longer project refreshed. I am an independent games designer, operating as Stargazy Studios, and have been working on creating my own games for a few years now. The process is long, arduous and highly technical, which makes it easy to burn out. A short sabbatical was exactly what I needed.
The need for a break also coincided neatly with the completion of a weekend project of mine: to build a large barbecue from a 55 gallon steel drum. The oven is affectionately known as W.O.P.R ( the Wide Orifice Pig Roaster). I had previously been using Weber kettle barbecues to low 'n' slow, but wanted to be able to do long cooks without having to restoke the fire. A drum smoker can run for over 12 hours on a single charcoal basket, and has twice the shelf capacity of a standard grill. I had my charcoal, wood and meat suppliers already in place, and now my potential cook size had doubled."
"Location also had a large part to play. I've been living in Cardiff for two years, after moving from London for my partner's work. Having been avid Borough Market goers in London, we quickly routed out Cardiff's farmers' markets. I think the pop-up market culture in Cardiff is one of the most interesting aspects of the city, and gives potential small producers, like me, an informed and curious audience.
I ran the numbers to see whether it was feasible to sell the extra meat that I could cook, and let more people in Cardiff enjoy great Dixie 'cure. I saw that I could make it work, and, encouraged by my friends, decided to take six months away from Stargazy Studios to set up The Pits BBQ. Being a huge fan of the RCMA Markets, I got in contact with them and arranged to set myself up as a stall. They've been really supportive throughout the process and I've been trading for almost three months now.
On what sets The Pits BBQ apart:
"Because I don't own a car, you'll see me pedaling my entire market stall around on a Y-frame bicycle carriage. Cardiff has a fantastic range of accessible services, which means that I don't feel the need to go far to find anything that I could want. This attitude is embodied in The Pits BBQ, which relies on quality meat and wood that is sourced locally.
I think this is part of what distinguishes The Pits BBQ: it's a community business. The Crucorney Energy Group operates around Abergavenny, providing me with logs and charcoal harvested from local farmers' woodland. I use this to cook only the best meat from farms that prioritise animal welfare. For instance, our pork comes from Lower Nex Farm, thirty miles east of central Cardiff, where Helen Tongue has been rearing her pigs traditionally, outdoors, for decades. The use of local, sustainable produce, and an authentic, artisanal cooking process, results in the very best barbecue. This is what makes The Pits BBQ unique."
"Now that the administration of setting up a new business has been taken care of, I'm able to just cook and sell delicious 'cue. The time commitment required to run The Pits BBQ is moderate, so I'll be returning to full-time development at Stargazy Studios. Both businesses can coexist in my life, and offer me the satisfaction of doing two of the things that I love the most: barbecue and games development."
On the emergence of BBQ in Cardiff:
"There are a few BBQ places around Cardiff now, which is amazing, as there were none this time last year. I'm not sure where the sudden prevalence of Dixie cuisine has come from, as I decided to take my 'cue to market independently of any external factors. However, the more barbecue the better in my opinion!"
You can find Jeff and his Dixie 'cue at Riverside Market the 1,3 and 5 Sunday of the month. To find out more, including the sauce recipes, then head to the website - The Pits BBQ.