Americans and Brits differ in countless ways: they say tom-ay-to, we say tom-ah-to. And when it comes to cooking outdoors, the Yanks are far more daring.
While we like to think we know our way around a barbecue, we generally just throw a few burgers and sausages on the grill a few times a year when there’s a heatwave. But for our North American cousins, barbecuing is a way of life that goes on long after the sun has set on summer.
Christian Stevenson, aka DJ BBQ, is an American on a mission to keep us all barbecuing long into autumn and winter.
“Brits are embracing barbecuing but the supermarkets aren’t helping,” he says. “People think, ‘Summer equals BBQ’, but that’s not the case. Barbecuing should be 365 [days a year] and the supermarkets need to stock charcoal or wood all year long.”
The 46-year-old father-of-three, nicknamed DJ BBQ, is a bundle of energy who’s been living in the UK for 18 years. His background is presenting extreme sports, but he also DJs and barbecues (hence the nickname) at festivals around the country, cooking and mixing tunes for up to 20 hours a time in what he calls ‘catertainment’. He’s now making a big impression on Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube network, with his larger-than-life personality and star-spangled catsuits earning him thousands of hits.
“My favourite Food Tube videos are the brisket, which is an 18-hour cook, and bacon firebombs. We shot those in November and it was chucking down with rain. Everyone said, ‘What are you doing?’ But even though it’s England and it rains a lot here, this is what I do.”
Stevenson learned to barbecue when he was just eight years old from his dad, who learned from his father before him - and their recipes are among those that feature in his new cookbook, The BBQ Book.
“My grandparents were great cooks, so when my grandfather passed away, my father went to all his siblings and asked for all the recipes, and made a book for everyone in the family of grandma and grandpa’s recipes, so there’s a couple of them in there as well.”
Listening to him talk, it’s almost impossible not to drool, especially when he describes his favourite dish.
“Whenever I went travelling, my father would have the same recipe waiting for me: two flank or skirt steaks in a big ziplock with a bottle of Italian dressing, something you buy in the grocery store, and you shake it up and throw it in there. The vinegar would tenderise the meat and then he’d get the charcoal cooking and throw a bunch of potatoes in there and he’d grill that piece of meat and slice it, and that, to me, is the taste of coming home,” he says.
“And it’s something everybody always loves. They can’t believe that Italian dressing can make that piece of meat taste that perfect, but it’s got the oils, the peppers, the vinegars, it’s the perfect marinade and it’s easy.
“And then I always do more potatoes than I need because the next day, I make home fries, so onions, peppers, chorizo, crack an egg on there, so I’ve got breakfast with these smokey potatoes.”