How to cook barbecue in all seasons of the year
PUBLISHED: 00:00 23 October 2018 | UPDATED: 13:31 23 October 2018
BBQ doesn't just have to be for the summer. Expert Richard Holden shares his advice on how to cook outdoors in all seasons
‘Delia saved my life,’ joked Richard Holden. ‘But she kind of did really. I was cooking a fruit cake, her recipe, just before Christmas and it was the first time I’d ever done it. It was during a time where I’d lost my way a bit, struggling with mental health and depression.
‘I spent hours nurturing this recipe, it took a long time to make. This meant I couldn’t leave the house either. I was able to switch off from everything outside my front door. It was the perfect escape.’
It wasn’t the most obvious route into becoming a barbecue expert. But for the 37-year-old, born in Eaves, it was that initial spark that lit his enthusiasm for a career in food. He was living in Canada working in health and safety including in the oil rig industry. But it was after a few years he realised it wasn’t for him.
‘I had a great life,’ said Richard. ‘I had a brilliant job and on paper it was perfect. But I wasn’t happy, it didn’t excite me. I felt like I was keeping a seat warm and preventing someone else who really wanted that kind of job from doing so.
‘I didn’t want to carry on that way. I was spiralling down and I had to do something about it. I started cooking more for friends and family and it just gave me that breathing room, that escape and those moments to think.’
Richard started to formulate a plan. He handed his notice in and soon after moved back to the UK. He spent the summer working at Honeywells Meats learning how to properly break down carcasses as well as general shop work before doing an intensive 22-week course in classic French cooking at the Tante Marie Culinary Academy in Surrey. It was an experience that not only gave him the skills he needed but it also helped him find his passion again.
But it was an interview with Weber BBQ – after a five month stint working on the London 2012 Olympics catering team – that took him into barbecue. During his time with the major brand he toured the country doing demonstrations as well as working at high profile events including The Big Feastival, Carfest and Grillstock. It was also here he discovered his love of teaching.
The talented cook, who set up his business Richard Holden BBQ in 2015, now spends his time extolling the virtues of year round outdoor cooking. His drive is to show people how to barbecue in the correct way and also to encourage those people to steer away from preconceptions of what barbecue food should be.
‘It is so much more than burnt sausages and burgers and being scared you’ve not cooked your chicken properly,’ said Richard. ‘I’d started to notice that chefs on TV were doing barbecue more but not explaining the basics, which is really important.
‘If you can’t get those right, it will be really difficult to cook your food properly. People are scared of cooking outside the norms but once you know the tips and techniques, it really is very easy.’
Today, Richard works hard to banish barbecue myths like it’s not healthy and it’s only for the warmer months. He hosts masterclasses as well as dining experiences – including demo and dines at The Cartford Inn – to help people see the full potential of cooking outdoors. He also does private catering, corporate events and is currently planning classes at John Whaite’s Cookery School in Wrightington. These will focus on barbecuing in autumn, winter and at Christmas.
‘When I lived in Canada no one let the weather get in the way,’ said Richard. ‘The barbecue was an extension of the kitchen. There could be several feet of snow but people would still cook outdoors.
‘I’d love for people to see that a barbecue is another oven, there to be used, not something that you pull out four or five times a year. You can even cook your Christmas dinner on it.
‘People are put off because they think it’s messy. But barbecuing outside, particularly with meat, means you can keep all of the fat and smells away from the oven and your kitchen oven can be used for vegetables or other sides. It works really well.’
Richard has ambitions to host masterclasses around the country as well as launch his own cookery books alongside his commitment to make barbecue more mainstream.
‘I really want people to see how easy it is to cook with a barbecue,’ said Richard. ‘I want people to come away from one of my classes armed with all the skills they need to cook up a world class feast.
‘It’s a really exciting time for me. I’m so looking forward to doing more classes and sharing the joys of barbecue with more people.’