Barbecue is a serious business. And for anyone who thought barbecue was about big, bearded blokes toiling over hot coals, think again: the Hang Fire girls are the real experts.
In 2012 Sam and Shauna ditched their jobs and embarked on a 6-month road trip around the best barbecue joints in the southern United States. From Texas to Tallahassee, they learned the insider secrets of what makes barbecue great, were captivated by the thrill of smoke and fire, and back home in Cardiff they set out their meat manifesto in the form of Hang Fire Smokehouse.
Following the restaurant Sam and Shauna are regulars on TV in such programmes as Sam and Shauna’s Big Cook.
Hang Fire’s approach is simple: get the best ingredients, cook them low ‘n’ slow, and tuck in.
- What got you into BBQ’ng?
As keen cooks, we’ve always been backyard BBQ’ers, albeit fairweather ones and mainly cooked out in the Summer. But really it’s our love of Americana, bluegrass and food from the deep south (and Dolly Parton!) that inspired us to be able to potentially do this for a living and so we headed to States for 6 months in 2013 to learn all about the culture of BBQ. We were also inspired by Neil Rankin, Tom Adams and Jamie Berger. They had the Pitt Cue food truck on the Southbank in 2011-2012 and their BBQ (and picklebacks) were mind-blowing. They had a huge part in inspiring the creative culinary aspect to Hang Fire.
- How many BBQ’s do you have at home and what is your favourite method of cooking?
We’ve tended to build our own BBQ’s as you may have seen from our BBCTV show Sam & Shauna’s Big Cookout. But right now, there may be half a dozen or so different styles and types of BBQs lurking about in the garden! The more unusual ones are the wee Flat Dog from Pro Q (always in the boot of our car with a bag of charcoal ready for a guerrilla BBQ) and we also love our Ascua Parilla from Blackbox. Huge fans of beautiful, and considered, engineering in BBQs.
- What is your favourite piece of BBQ equipment? This can be a BBQ or an accessory and we want to know why.
Surely it has to be a really good pair of ‘Texas maracas’ aka BBQ tongs. So called because you always have to click them thrice when you pick them up! We’re also a bit late to the party, but our minds have been blown away by the ingenuity of the Meater. Why didn’t we have a dozen of these when we had our restaurant?!
- What was the best BBQ food you have ever eaten?
Asides from what Pitt Cue were doing back when, it was probably everything we ate at Franklin BBQ in Austin. On our travels in the States, we ate at something like 70-80 BBQ joints; from streetfood to restaurants. We kissed (ate?) a lot of frogs in in order to find the Prince of BBQ, Aaron Franklin. It really was transcendent. Incredibly delicate smoke flavour, the most tender meats and the seasoning sat back to let the quality of the meat sing out.
- Tell us about your worst BBQ disaster?
This is an easy one to remember as it was so painful. Just when we started Hang Fire, I was training my chefs on slow and low. We filled a smoker with around £250 of thick-cut St Louis ribs for a very low temp overnight smoke so they could be finished in the morning for lunch time service. We had a grease fire in the smoker overnight and we came in to every single rib looking like a petrified fossil. Black, burned and you could crush them to dust with a light squeeze. We all learned a lot about keeping your smoker cooking chambers CLEAN!
- Name a dish you have never cooked but would love to try?
Without wanting to sound churlish, there probably isn’t a dish we’ve had the desire to cook and haven’t yet (Sam can be very impulsive and suddenly show up with a bunch of ingredients and say ‘we’re cooking this today!’). However, there are definitely people we’d like to cook with and places we’d like to cook in.
- Who is the person you would most like to cook with?
We had the privilege to meet Miss Tootsie of Snows BBQ while we were in the States but would love a chance to cook with her. In fact we would love to cook with any of our great BBQ heroines like Desiree Robinson, Melissa Cookston, Amy Mills, Leanne Whippen and Danielle Bennett.
- What is your favourite song to cook to?
Not sure there is one song this pair of musos could choose. But a good bluegrass, country playlist isn’t very far away when we’re lighting the coals. Something up beat with a story and music with history always inspires us when we cook.
- Best toppings for a BBQ burger?
For us an Oklahoma style pattie with American cheese and crispy (streaky) bacon will always be our go to. Oooh, can we add some of Dublin’s Pitt Bros bacon jam too?
- What’s your favourite non-BBQ food?
We cook A LOT of Asian food at home. North to southern Indian, Thai, all sorts of Chinese food, tons of Indian food. We eat a lot of vegetarian and seafood too.
- What is your favourite dish from your book?
C’mon, it’s like asking a mother to pick her favourite child! They’re all amazing to us as they all come with a story of how we learned it and when we tried it and the people we met. It really does chronicle our time in the States through food and hopefully a road map for anyone wanting to make the same pilgrimage.
Link to book
Sam & Shauna of Hang Fire®
Watch Season 3 of Sam & Shauna’s Big Cook Out on BBC IPlayer
Watch Sam and Shauna’s TEDx Talk on Pop Ups
Watch Sam & Shauna cook in Gower Salt Marshes
FB – @TheHangFire