“Unfortunately, grilling is still too much about meat”

BBQ professional Ralph de Kok combines the techniques of the United States with the culinary traditions of Europe

[SPECIAL: BARBUCUE] CUIJK – Just as grilling is one thing, answering the question “I’m a grill man” is quite another. Ralph de Kok is therefore a barbecue enthusiast by heart and soul and has been for seventeen years. How does the professional, including watching TV and his own YouTube channel Ralph’s BBQ Tube, see the barbecue area in the supermarket? What strikes him and where are the opportunities?

“The passion for cooking has always been there,” says De Kok, who asked for a cookbook for his birthday when he was five. He liked to grill the most, also because of the association it has with coziness. But it was only when he toured the United States with his band at the time that he saw how it could be done. De Kok: “They put big pieces of meat on the gas grill that I had never seen before. We went to baseball games where the grill was taken out of the cars and lit in the parking lot, with the sound of the game in the background. And in the north of the country, I saw a T-bone being turned while it was -30 degrees outside. In the United States, I discovered that barbecue is a way of life. “

Is America the place where it all happens when it comes to barbecue?
“I must say: in the end, they can not grill there as well as we think. They are ahead of the slow work, but their repertoire is limited. Pulled pork, brisket and spare ribs, that’s it. So I took the techniques to Holland and applied them in the European, more refined cuisine. I have also devised many techniques and flavors myself and learned a lot from top chefs from all over the world. This is how I have perfected the culinary grill over the years. ”

Who is the average barbecue fanatic in the Netherlands?
“It is a very diverse group, from lawyers to truck drivers. So it’s certainly not just men with beards in plaid shirts; everyone thinks it’s cool to make. Especially when they learn the techniques. Anyone can grill with a Kamado, such as the Big Green Egg. It is also very exciting. What’s striking: it remains a men’s business. Men claim the grill. Some men can’t boil an egg yet, and if you send them off for a cucumber, they come back with parsley. But the grill, it’s theirs. I have been trying to change this for years, but in vain. “

What do you think about the grill range in the supermarkets?
“Of course it varies from supermarket to supermarket, but I am very charmed by Jan Linders. There is a large store with this formula in Cuijk, where my Grillpalads is also located. There is a giant fresh food department and there is even crocodile meat and ostrich steak in the store. I have also seen a large côte de boeuf. In addition, several Albert Heijn entrepreneurs have surprised me with special barbecue products. There are definitely supermarkets that think with the grill. ”

What strikes you about the average BBQ range in supermarkets?
“You often see the pre-marinated things. It always tastes the same, and so does every piece of meat, whether it’s bacon, chicken breast or steak. Many people still have the idea that ‘grill’ is a dish, rather than a piece of kitchen utensils to cook. ‘We grilled yesterday’, they say. The barbecue meat in the supermarket is also always cut thin into slices. For years I have tried to explain that you can also grill with thicker pieces of meat, which are cooked at a lower temperature. ”

Have you not seen the range develop at all?
“It’s not always good, but I can definitely see a change happening. The better quality butchers have already done the trick, they now recommend other cuts of meat. “

What do you think are options for supermarkets?
“Grilling does not only have to be about meat, I argue for more vegetarian options on the grill. At the moment, we primarily associate the grill with meat and guys. But we should see the grill as a cooking appliance that can create something wonderful. And you can do the same with fruits and vegetables. In terms of meat, supermarkets could also expand their repertoire, for example by including succade, bavette and tenderloin in the grill range, in thicker slices. Eller en cote de boeuf. Make it a party! “

And what about sauces?
“Barbecue sauces should complement the taste of the meat. The ready-made barbecue sauces are often too overwhelming, too sweet and too ‘smoked’ in my opinion. I sometimes use a sauce as a base, which I ‘tweaker’ to my own taste. I make it more spicy by adding sambal or tabasco, sweeter with a little brown sugar, more fruity by adding raspberry vinegar, etc. It would be nice if the producers came up with sauces that tend to be a little more sour. “

What are the current barbecue trends?
“Low and slow has been the trend for a few years now, so let larger pieces of meat fry slowly at a lower temperature. This is very easy in a Kamado and works well. One sees that more and more people are grilling and they will of course try new things. Product awareness is also growing and that’s nice. I wish vegetables were more of a trend, I’ve been advocating that for about ten years. “

How does barbecue food relate to the trend towards more plant-based food?
“Unfortunately, it’s still too much about meat. The interest in vegetables on the grill is really much less. I notice this immediately from the number of views on my YouTube channel. When I post a video where I make a bavette, it immediately gets thousands of views. But if I put a cauliflower on the grill, the number of viewers gets stuck very quickly. ”

And if you put plant-based meat and fish alternatives on the grill?
“I have been working with meat substitute products for five years, especially in my TV show I BBQ for you on SBS6, but it is different. To make the products reminiscent of real meat, ingredients are added that, for example, give shine or add fiber structure, but which are at the expense of taste. Tens of thousands of dollars go into developing these products and they keep getting better, but in the end it’s highly processed food when I want to try to eat as little processed food as possible. I prefer to make my own vegan burger with fresh ingredients. ”

What do you still miss about the grill range in the supermarket?
“I would love to see many more beautiful, fresh herbs like dill, fennel, tarragon and sage. They are sold, but I often misunderstand. Then I’m going to the wholesaler anyway, for one or two little things. Herbs are so important to the grill; with different herbs you can cook the same basic product very differently each time. I have been working on my own herbal series for years, three balanced blends that you can sprinkle on your barbecue afterwards. I see them as a very good basis for lifting your meat, and which you can adjust in the direction you want to go, by adding something yourself if you wish. ”

Source: Madavisen

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