The Big Meat 2016

August bank holiday weekend, we went to the The Big Meat, BBQ and Beer festival, in Farnham. It was recommended to me by the winner of the Gower BBQ competition, and as it was just down the road from us, I figured it could be fun. Plus it was only £35 for a family camping ticket - which seems like really good value for a nights camping for the four of us and entry to the event both days (which included live music, cooking demos, a kids area and then on the Sunday, loads of free meat from the competitors in the BBQ comp).

Luckily the weather was pretty good too - the Saturday was pretty hot and sunny, there were a few showers on the Sunday, but not enough to really affect anything much.

It's a fairly fledgling event, only in its second year, so it wasn't as big as it could be (in terms of vendors, there was only BBQ food and one or two drinks vendors really) and as you might expect none of them were up and running for the 7am campers, but that wasn't really a big deal. In terms of the competition they managed to attract 20 teams and it seemed like a very impressive setup - they had a decent judging panel and all competitors seemed to be provided all they needed (space and electricity).

Honestly, all of the meat that I ate from the competition (and there was a lot of it) was really high quality - After the chef's special on the Saturday (which I missed because I didn't realise they were turning any food before Sunday) the main four rounds were chicken, pork ribs, pulled pork and brisket, and was some of the best BBQ food I have ever eaten (including compared to authentic American BBQ joints).

One of my reasons for going was to go and chat with the competitors, taste the food and check out their set up (and generally get as many tips as possible), so here is some of the stuff I learnt:

  • Chef's special are impressive. Once again, just expecting people to do some piece of meat for this round, a lot of people were really creative - one competitor did veal on gnocchi, another did a giant burger and another did smore-brownies with a white russian to wash it down (using fresh, raw milk from the dairy farm that the festival was being held on)

  • Chicken round: everyone does thighs. Severeal competitors I spoke to said this same thing. The judges know what to expect with thighs, and going off piste with this can result in your scores getting tanked if just one judge takes a dislike to whatever it is you try (which also makes sense given me gripes with low'n'slow cooking chicken)

  • Almost everyone has a temperature controlled BBQ system. BBQ Guru being the most popular choice I saw. Which makes sense, being as there were several rounds to cook for hand in with in two hours of each other, and most competitors putting on their brisket around 22:00 on the saturday night.
rob hinds Shambolically fumbling my way around the kitchen

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