Published: 16:07, 07 September 2021
| Updated: 16:16, 07 September 2021
Meet Britain's best BBQ-er who owns 21 grills and even barbecues her Christmas turkey – and she's got some tips to enjoy the last days of summer.
Jackie Weight, 58, fell in love with the outdoor cooking style when her late-husband bought her lessons at a cookery school for her 40th birthday.
Soon she was firing up the barbie at every opportunity and discovered she was a dab hand at grilling the perfect chicken breast and sizzling the most succulent pork ribs.
The BBQ queen is the only non-American to be crowned winner of the most prestigious international BBQ competition in the world.
She said Brits need to up their game when it comes to outdoor grilling and offered some top tips ahead of the sizzling last days of summer.
Talented Jackie, who has BBQ-ed for Heston Blumenthal and Michel Roux Sr, said closing the lid on the BBQ is crucial to getting the perfect banger.
Her hot tip is only putting coals on one side of the grill and waiting until the flames die down before throwing on the meat.
Jackie, from Bethersden, near Ashford, who now teaches lessons, said: "There is a whole art to barbecuing which Brits don't realise – it's so much more than throwing a few sausages on the grill and burning them.
"Actually, pretty much anything you can cook in an oven, you can also barbecue – it's even how I cook my Christmas turkey!
"It's huge in America, but I think barbecuing is becoming more popular across Europe.
"Barbecuing is all about getting a group of people together and enjoying spending time together outdoors - of course while enjoying lovely food."
Jackie first tried her hand at American barbecuing in 2003 after her late husband bought her lessons at a barbecue school in Lynchburg, Tennessee, for her 40th birthday.
She said: "I'm pretty sure we only went to that cookery class because my late husband liked the sound of it and I certainly wasn't thrilled at the idea of it at the time.
"But when I got there, I actually loved it – and it all grew from there!"
She began entering and winning national and international competitions, sometimes beating as many as several hundred cooks – mostly blokes.
She said: "Sometimes men would look over my shoulder and try to advise me on how to cook. Luckily that doesn't happen so much now!"
Competitions would see her cook large cuts of meat over several hours, or even overnight, and her top dish to cook was melt-in-the-mouth beef brisket.
She cooked in around 15 competitions across the US between 2004 and 2013.
Her highlight was The Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational BBQ Competition in Lynchburg, Tennessee, in 2004, where she beat around 80 other teams to secure the title of 'Grand Champion'.
The competition saw contestants 'low and slow' barbecuing a series of different meats for judges to taste, including pork shoulder, pork ribs, beef brisket and chicken.
She described it as the "Super Bowl of barbecue competitions in the USA" and she remains the only non-American grand champion.
As her name became more well-known, she stopped competing and began working in restaurant consultancy.
"I cooked for Michel Roux Snr in his back garden," she said. "I still can't quite believe that."
She now also has a business selling barbecue seasonings and has a business running a barbecue school from her home called 'BBQ Workshop'.
Jackie, who lives with partner Dave Hughes, 62, said: "It's about taking tough cuts of meat, like a beef brisket, and cooking it 'low and slow' until it's lush and tender, and melts in the mouth.
"That being said, we cook everything at my barbecue school – from grilled bacon butties and macaroni cheese to brownies and fruit cobbler – and I make sure nobody goes home hungry."
Jackie, who fires up the barbie three to four times per week all year round, shared some of her expert tips on how Brits can impress guests with a knockout back-garden grill-up.
'The best thing to do is build the fire to one side and put your food on top of the grill on the opposite side – and then, crucially, put on the lid.'
She said: "Brits don't realise barbecuing is so much more than throwing a few sausages on the grill and hoping for the best. You need to go low and slow to get the tastiest cook.
"Some people pre-cook their food then just grill it for a few minutes before you serve, but why would you need to do that if you have a barbecue in front of you anyway?
"Others aim to build a fire with huge flames, but barbecuing is not really about the flames at all – it's about gently grilling, rather than burning!"
She said one of the biggest mistakes people make is not using the lid and added: "The majority of people think it's only there to keep the rain off, but it's there for a reason!
"The best thing to do is build the fire to one side and put your food on top of the grill on the opposite side – and then, crucially, put on the lid.
"It circulates the heat and helps everything to cook nice and evenly, which is why the food doesn't need to be directly over the flames – that's one of my top tips."
She has cooked everything from enormous beef briskets to flatbreads, chocolate brownies, and even her Christmas dinner.
"I have the turkey sat outside on the grill, while I cook the vegetables and potatoes in the kitchen," she said.
"The turkey tastes amazing and it frees up space in the oven!"
But she says barbecuing should be about more than just the tasty food – it's about bringing people together.
'I really hope British barbecuing does make a comeback, because it's what we need after the pandemic.'
She said: "It is all about getting a group of people together and enjoying spending time outdoors - of course, while enjoying lovely food.
"I really hope British barbecuing does make a comeback, because it's what we need after the pandemic."