Lighting the Fire Under London’s Barbecue Scene

Salmon cooked on a cedar plank

British chefs have lit a fire, so to speak, under the traditional North American barbecue, with U.S.-style smokehouses cropping up across London, and using wood and smoke to create flavors that are pushing culinary boundaries.

According to Foodism, when most Brits think of barbecuing, they think of cooking over charcoal, but an innovative segment of the London restaurant scene is redefining this cooking technique. These chefs view wood as more than just a heating source – it’s an actual ingredient.

"Charcoal is essentially refined," Tom Adams, Pitt Cue's executive chef, told Foodism. "It's wood cooked with no oxygen to the extent that it's carbonised, whereas wood is a completely unrefined product. It's as unrefined as you can get – it's as it was in the ground. So, like with anything – unrefined sugar or flour, say – the less refined, the more impurities that are in there, which is where the flavour comes from."

The flavours range from fruit like applewood in pork dishes to silver birch and chestnut for fish, vegetables, and delicate meats to oak, which works well with most everything. The Blues Kitchen uses plum wood to pull out the flavour of hickory smoke. Read more