Blue's Smokehouse: Championship BBQ In Twickenham
Right now, we live in a London that seems obsessed with young male BBQ chefs photographed holding knives next to large pieces of meat. We have taken our eyes off people like Jackie Weight, who was one of the first people to popularise the American low 'n' slow style of cooking in the UK. Ahead of the London Grillstock festival this weekend, we visited her Twickenham restaurant, Blue’s Smokehouse.
Jackie fell into food by accident, after she was given a BBQ cooking class gift certificate, which she didn’t particularly want in the first place. She fell in love with the style of cooking and went on to start a competition team, called Mad Cow’s BBQ; looking for another way to make a living after exhausting a career in IT with a sideline in farming, she increasingly became hooked on the world of smoke. When her team was put forward for what is commonly known as 'The Jack'— the world's most prestigious professional BBQ competition — in 2003, she went along pretty much just for fun, and did a lot better than expected. When invited back in 2004, she won.
The Americans, used to dominating their own competition, were unimpressed. Jackie’s team remains the first and only non-American team to win, and at Londonist we can’t help feeling pleased that not just a Brit, but a female Brit won a competition in such a male dominated field. She went on to build the status of American BBQ in the UK by importing equipment such as smokers, supplying meats, and consulting.
So what makes really good low 'n' slow American style BBQ? There are four rounds in a standard competition: chicken, brisket, ribs and pork. Pulled pork is everywhere nowadays, so much of it poorly cooked. Believe it or not, pulled pork shouldn’t be mushy like cotton wool or claggy with sauce. Brisket should come sliced, not stringy, and should just pull apart so you can see the ‘grains’. If it falls apart it's overcooked, if it's tough, then it's under. Chicken should be juicy and tender, with crisp skin and a sparing amount of sauce or rub. Ribs should have a soft bite, but the meat shouldn’t fall off the bone — that means they’re very overcooked. Now apply these rules to a lot of supposedly good London BBQ food and you’ll realise how many places are going wrong.
It’s a relief that the food at Blue’s Smokehouse then, is very good indeed. We try brisket, which passes the pull test with ease, and burnt ends (from the point of the brisket) which are full of flavour, tossed in a sauce that, crucially, isn’t too sweet. We’re a sucker for a link sausage too, so it’s relief to hear that those at Blue's are made to Jackie’s own recipe; they’ve full on spice and a dense texture, with an excellent snap from the smoking and natural casings. Wings are great too, and correctly jointed (it’s amazing how many places don’t bother), just tossed lightly in a sauce that has a lingering heat and tang — a combination of Louisiana sauce and Carolina mustard.
A shout out must also go to the accompanying ‘onion bundle’ — like a cross between onion ring, an onion bhaji and a blooming onion. The slices are coated in a spicy flour mix and then deep-fried to make a big tasty mess. No knife and fork necessary. This is another of Jackie’s own inventions, because despite her traditional background, she’s open to interpretation when it comes to a good plate of 'cue, believing that if it tastes good, then experimentation should be embraced. We're very pleased to tell you then, that at Blue's Smokehouse, it tastes fantastic.
Blue's Smokehouse, 11 London Rd, Twickenham, TW1 3SX
Last Updated 11 September 2015