Let's get this BBQ started!

We're tucking in to the science of BBQ...
04 August 2020

Interview with 

Tristan Welch, Parker's Tavern; Eleanor Drinkwater; Barry Smith, SAS; Jane Parker, Reading University


photo of a man cooking meat on a bbq


It’s August, the sun is shining - at least, for the minute - and we’re in the holiday spirit! So what better way to celebrate than with a BBQ! Cooking and eating outside can feel and taste like a real treat. First up, Chris went outside to his sunny garden and got the BBQ lit...

Chris - Guess what, in traditional British fashion - it's raining! It has literally gone from sunshine to rain. You would not believe it. I am of course, here with Tristan Welch. And he's been actually knocking up this cake because we are going to cook a cake on a barbecue. If you didn't believe that it was possible, keep tuned in to see history being made. It can be done. So just remind us, what have you put into these cakes Tristan? And how are we actually doing this?

Tristan - Right. Well, first of all, I've got to say, this is not the first time I've ever cooked a pineapple upside down cake on a barbecue, but certainly is the first time I've cooked in the rain! So I've taken the butter and now what you can hear is the sugar and butter in there together. That's being creamed together, so it's a basic sort of sponge mix. To that I add our eggs. Give that a jolly good mix. Then our flour and we're using self raising flour. Now I've taken tinned like individual small little tins. I think they're 250 grams, 240 grams of sliced pineapple. I've taken the top off, poured out the juice, drank it actually, put a one slice of pineapple back on the base with some golden syrup and a cherry in the middle of the pineapple slice. And I'm just about to pop this cake mix on top of it.

Chris - Just the quick rundown of the ingredients in terms of what sorts of proportions? How much of each?

Tristan - 150 grams of unsalted butter, 150 grams of caster sugar, so there's equal quantities. To that I added two eggs and now I've just added 150 grams of self raising flour. We give that a jolly good mix, and that will be quite a tight mixture. So then we add a couple of tablespoons of milk and that loosens it up. In the bottom of the tin I put in about a tablespoon of golden syrup, and one slice of pineapple with one cherry in the middle.

Chris - And then you're going to spoon in, what, fill that in to the brim with mixture?

Tristan - Yeah, take this mix. And this mix fills about four tins up quite nicely.

Chris - Okay. And that then goes - we've got a barbecue with the lid - that's probably important is it? Cause we're basically using the barbecue as an oven.

Tristan - It's vital. So the actual thought process behind it is the heat from below is quite aggressive. So that's going to boil the syrup and the syrup will protect it and prevent it from burning. The lid creates the oven like effect. So it will bake as an oven, but be able to take the aggressive heat from below.

Chris - Temperature gauge says about 200. Is that, 200C, bit hot?

Tristan - That's about right. That's about right. With barbecuing it's about using your senses and feelings and you know, after five minutes you can see it starting to bubble up. If it's not burning it's okay. But definitely around about the 200 mark is about perfect.

Chris - How long do you anticipate we're going to need to put this on for?

Tristan - I'd say about 15 to 20 minutes.

Chris - OK, thanks Tristan! Also with me is biologist and champion of the world of creepy crawlies, well known to The Naked Scientists, that's doctor to be (soon), Eleanor Drinkwater. She's just a gnat's whisker from handing in her PhD thesis. Welcome to the show, Eleanor, you've brought along something for the feast. What is it?

Eleanor - Yeah. So I brought along some edible crickets. In a variety of excellent flavours as well! So these guys haven't actually tried them to my knowledge. Is that right?

Chris - You're going to make me and Tristan eat in insects?

Eleanor - Yes. You're going to discover how wonderful insects are. It's probably going to change your life.

Chris - I have to say Katie, that actually I knew Eleanor was on form. Cause I came out to start the show and she's already caught us a wasp and got it under a glass buzzing around on the table. And I said, " are we going to barbecue that?"

Eleanor - No, no, no, no, no, no. You have to watch it and admire it before letting it go very gently. That's what you have to do when you find a wasp.

Katie - You're very brave for catching wasps. I am not a fan. Sadly, no barbecue for me over here in the studio! But to console me down the line is a flavour chemist Jane Parker from Reading University. Jane, what does a flavour chemist get up to?

Jane - Well, we do a lot of sniffing and our job really is tied to identify the key aroma compounds that are in the foods and work out how they're formed and how they interact with other components in the food. And how they're released and eventually how we actually perceive them. So it's the whole story really.

Katie - Sounds delicious. And we'll come back to you very soon. Also with us is sensory scientist Barry Smith. Barry, how does your research relate to food?

Barry - Well, I'm interested in finding out what happens in us once these wonderful flavour compounds have got together in the way that Jane described. So I look at the science of tasting and I'm looking at how our senses work together, touch, taste, smell, maybe sight, maybe sound, to give us that unique experience of the flavours of foods that we like.


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