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A Guide to Different Kinds of Barbecue

A kettle barbecue with smoke coming from it

There are a lot of different styles and types of barbecue to explore – and that’s part of what makes barbecuing such an exciting method of cooking. By trying regional styles, different kinds of barbecue and even different types of cooking, you can experiment on your barbecue and wow your guests.

To help you get started, we’ve created this guide to some of the main methods and styles of barbecue cooking. Remember that there’s plenty more inspiration out there, so look out for our blogs on other styles of barbecue cooking in the future.

Direct and indirect cooking

The two main types of barbecue cooking are direct and indirect. Most other forms of barbecue cooking are varieties of these two groups.

Direct cooking, sometimes known as grilling, is the practice of cooking food over heat directly. This is what many people in the UK will traditionally think of as barbecuing, where foods like burgers, sausages or chicken are cooked directly over hot fuel. For direct cooking, the fuel needs to be very hot, and cooking times are typically quick.

Indirect cooking, often referred to as ‘low and slow’ cooking, or smoking, is a different style of cooking in which the food is not placed directly above the fuel. More popular in the US and South America, this style of cooking is gaining popularity in the UK. With indirect cooking, a lower temperature is used and food is cooked for significantly longer times, hence the name ‘low and slow’.

Master direct cooking

Many barbecuers in the UK have lots of experience with direct cooking, but there are lots of ways to experiment if you’re fed up with bangers and burgers. Try our range of recipes for inspiration, from basil prawns to sardines with coriander and lime.

For other kinds of direct cooking to try, look to Japan. Japanese cuisine has a long tradition of using small grills to cook skewers and seafood. Robata grilling typically uses stick charcoal in a pyramid fashion to create a very hot fire, and foods like yakitori (chicken skewers) are cooked. Try Big K’s Flama charcoal for a robata-style charcoal that makes it easy to try out this style of cooking.

Try cooking ‘low and slow’

A type of smoking barbecueSmoking or indirect cooking is less common in the UK, but quickly becoming very popular as an exciting way to try different flavours and cuts of meat. There are lots of different styles of smoker barbecues, but all you really need to get started is a kettle barbecue with a lid. The lid is vital to smoking, as you need to be able to trap the heat inside the cooking area.

You can cook simple indirect recipes by simply dividing your barbecue area into halves. Build a fire on one side, and place your food on the other. Then, just close the lid and let it smoke! Remember that with smoking, you may be cooking food for hours, sometimes even all day, so it’s important to plan ahead and be prepared for this.

For more complex smoking recipes, you may want to invest in a barbecue specifically designed for smoking. Offset and bullet smokers are popular, as are larger oil drum models for cooking big meals. There’s a lot of models to choose from, and some are better than others at different kinds of smoking, so it’s worth researching which would suit you best.

Smoking ‘low and slow’ is a very varied method of cooking, and there’s a huge regional variation in the styles of spices and meats used. From Tennessee BBQ pulled pork to Kansas City burnt ends to South American churrasco, there’s a wide range on offer. While this sometimes leads to arguments among smoking pros, it’s great for you as it simply means that there’s so many options to experiment with.

To really experiment with your barbecue, you need charcoal you can trust. Big K’s range of charcoal is perfect for professionals and home use, with a range of options across lumpwood and briquettes. It’s easy to find the perfect charcoal for your next barbecue with Big K.