About Me and This Site

A collection of bbqs and smokers on a tiled patio

Hi, I’m Mark Jenner, the founder of FoodFireFriends.com, a website started with the simple mission to help people around the world cook and enjoy great food outdoors, with fire and smoke.

I’m not a professional chef and don’t have any formal training, I’m just an average guy who loves outdoor cooking and if I may say so myself – confidently or arrogantly, haha – I’ve become quite good at it.

My Background

I’ve just hit my 40’s, and I’ve been cooking regularly since I was an early teen. I’ve always enjoyed trying new foods and flavors, and genuinely love creating great food from raw ingredients, following recipes and adding my own twists.

Now, like most regular guys, I’ve always enjoyed a good BBQ party: Surrounded by friends, sport on the TV, beer flowing, music playing, meat on the grill, a few frames of pool, there’s definitely worse ways to spend an evening.

However, for decades, all I ever really served from the BBQ was sausages, burgers, kebobs and chicken pieces. And of course, all the while lying to myself that I was ‘The Grill King!’ Hey, we all do it.

And then…

My First Smoker

In early 2015 I went to a food fair where a few stalls were selling ‘proper BBQ’. We’re talking low n slow smoked brisket, pork ribs, and pulled pork rolls, all cooked on what seemed to me the most amazing looking outdoor cookers that I’d never seen: Very large, trailer mounted offset smokers, Weber Smokey Mountains, I even saw my first ever ceramic Kamado style grill – a Big Green Egg.

After tasting the food served there, it was clear to me I had little clue what I was doing on the BBQ, but that I loved the smoky delights I’d just tasted, and this style of cooking was something I simply had to learn.

So when I got home, with almost zero research, I bought a cheap offset smoker and set about learning to grill and smoke properly.

A cheap offset smoker, against a concrete wall background

I Had a Lot to Learn!

I now know that the cheap offset I bought was kinda terrible. It was leaky, burned through an incredible amount of fuel, couldn’t maintain consistent temp, and was generally a pain in the ass to cook on.

So my first efforts were hard work – but the flavors? Oh my, the flavors. I had to learn more.

So I hit google – Hard!

The Start of an Obsession

I read loads of forum posts, blogs and joined a few Facebook groups. I purchased numerous books from Amazon. I read, and cooked, and read, and cooked, and slowly but surely, I was beginning to turn out lots of decent BBQ.

But I also knew that for many reasons, I needed and wanted a better grill. So started looking for a new model, which leads me to a mildly entertaining story:

Smoking and Grilling Almost Cost Me My Relationship (Joking of course!)

I was looking at a WSM for about $400, but my Mrs said it was too much to spend after everything I’d already spent on the hobby. And to be honest, I really wanted a Kamado Joe anyway.

We went camping with a few friends and while there, me and another guy also called Mark went to the campsite bar, and I was saying how Wendy won’t let me spend $400 on a new smoker. So instead, I have a cunning plan.

Right there and then, from my mobile phone, I bought a kamado Joe Classic and a fair few accessories, spending a total of about $1350. I took a screenshot of the invoice, sent it to her, and turned off my phone for safety!

About an hour later when we met up…yes, she was pissed.

And to cut a long story short (too late for that?) once home, and I REALLY got into grilling and smoking on my new toy, she enjoyed the food so much that I was quickly forgiven, and I even got the green light to buy much more equipment.

Happy days!

Meet the Family

As you can see in the main image top of this page, I now have a small collection of outdoor smokers, grills and ovens that allow me to cook almost any type of food outdoors, with smoke and / or live fire.

As well as the equipment seen in the pic, I also have many accessories such as remote monitoring thermometers, a temperature controller (flame boss 300), griddle, pizza stone, dutch oven, Looftlighter, rotisserie, Vortex…to name but a few.

I truly love cooking outdoors, and am happy to spend money on grills, smokers and good value or fun accessories. I suppose it’s an addiction:

Question: “How many BBQs, grills and smokers do you REALLY need?”

Answer: “However many I have now…plus one πŸ™‚ “

I’ve got my eye on a Traeger pellet smoker next, but also want a UDS and a proper offset ‘stick burner’, so I’ll then have one of each of all main types of smokers. Do I need them? Yes…and you won’t convince me otherwise, haha. I will definitely have one of each by the end of 2018, so watch this space.

Anyway, let’s take a step back from my fantasies for a moment to take a quick look instead at the grills and smokers I do already have, plus what I tend to use them for.

Kamado Joe Classic

Me standing behind my Kamado Joe classicThis has somewhat become my go to smoker and grill, it getting way more use than any of my other equipment over the last year or so.

This is mostly because I have a ‘FlameBoss 300’ temperature controller for it that when used, makes it truly hands off so I can set up overnight cooks and sleep while knowing my temperatures will remain constant, or monitor and control my cooks from the golf course.

Of course, it also keeps food fantastically moist, is fuel efficient and can do everything including sear, roast, smoke and bake. It’s an all-in-one, multi-purpose cooker that gives great results every time. What’s not to love about it?

Weber Smokey Mountain 47cm

Me standing behind my Weber Smokey Mountain

One of the most popular and most used smokers in the world by professionals and beginners alike, I just had to have one myself!

I mostly use my Kamado Joe for hot smoking these days, but when I have a large crowd to cook for – which is unsurprisingly quite often – this comes in handy for providing extra smoking capacity.

This is also what I use in combination with a CSG for doing my cold smoking during the winter months, making home made bacon, smoked cheeses, nuts, garlic, chillies, honey and more.

Weber Mastertouch 57cm With Gourmet BBQ System

Me and my Weber Mastertouch

Affectionately known as my ‘sausage and burger grill’, because when we have a large party and my Kamado is in use smoking, it’s this I use to cook burgers and sausages for the kids. However, it is of course used for far more than just that!

I have the ‘Weber Gourmet BBQ System’ grate and the Weber GBS dutch oven, making this my go to cooker for smokey chilli and stews cooked outdoors.

It also gets use for searing steaks, cooking chicken pieces and a lot of other smaller pieces of meat, as I find it’s quicker to get going, and easier to clean after use than my Kamado if only doing smaller cooks.

Weber Original Kettle 57cm – With Weber Rotisserie

Me with my Weber Original Kettle, set up with the rotisserie attachment

Since I have a grill or smoker to cover most other needs, my Weber Original Kettle is set up for and pretty much used exclusively for rotisserie style cooking.

This is a technique I’ve only just scratched the surface of, but I’m loving it so far and intend to get into it more over the coming years.

I’ve so far used it to spin ducks, chickens, rib roasts, legs of lamb and of course – rotisserie porchetta! This alone is worth the price of admission. If you haven’t tried rotisserie Porchetta yet, please do. I haven’t the superlatives to fully describe it.

Wood Fired Oven – Mezzo 76 Go

Me showing off my refractory material wood fired oven

A man’s got to have pizza right? Yes, and especially if a family man with kids who would likely live on pizzas exclusively if they could! (Don’t worry, I won’t let them.)

I’ve made many a pizza in the kitchen oven over the years. I also have a pizza stone for my Kamado Joe that I really do like, the KJ actually does a decent job of cooking pizza. But I always wanted something a bit more ‘authentic.’ So this year, I finally splurged out on a proper wood fired oven.

Of course this is mostly used for pizza nights, but we’ve also cooked many different breads, roasted entire ‘Sunday Lunch’ dinners in there including the meat and veg, even done the odd cake and pudding.

I love cooking in my WFO so much that to be honest, I’m always looking for an excuse to get it fired up for some component of a meal or other, usually roasted vegetables or a bread of some sort. I just love the simplicity and ‘back to basics’ feeling of cooking in the WFO, seeing and tending to the flames, and the delicious wood fired flavors this oven produces.

Weber Smoky Joe & Weber Go-Anywhere

Me holding both my Weber travel BBQs: The Smokey Joe and the Go-Anywhere

I originally bought the ‘Smokey Joe’ to take with us camping, a pursuit we enjoy a few times each year. Because what better is there than a bit of BBQ while relaxing on the beach or chilling in the woods?

But to be honest, I didn’t really get on with this BBQ. I found when cooking with the lid on, even with all vents fully open, the fire had a tendency to go out, temp control was difficult and results not always good because of it. So now, the Smokey Joe is used for only small meals directly grilled, or the odd side dish to go with foods cooked on my other equipment.

So, with the Smokey Joe fallen out of favor, we needed another grill for travel. And that’s where the Weber Go-Anywhere stepped in. And I highly recommend it!

It’s just large enough for 2-zone, indirect cooking, and temperature control is relatively easy, while it’s small enough for travel, folding easily into a rectangular shape that’s easy to pack into the car. And it’s also built to last.

I also sometimes use it as a ‘table top grill‘ at home, for small and simple meals when cooking for just me and my wife. That’s because it’s relatively fuel efficient and I can use it sat right on my garden table, while I’m sat in a chair, lazily enjoying a glass of wine or a beer while cooking.

Why I Started This Site

I’m an electronic engineer by trade, so have always been deeply involved in IT, programming and related disciplines. My day job has mostly been in security: CCTV, alarm systems, fire and access control. But I’ve also always had a little sideline in web design, SEO and content marketing for other people. I enjoy it.

I’ve always had the thought that I wanted to create a site of my own. Somewhere I could share a passion of mine. To build something I could be proud of that is bigger than just me, that would be super useful to other people and help as many as possible to ‘do something better.’

Also, many of my friends now ask me for advice on how to BBQ and cook outside on charcoal and fire properly, how to smoke foods low n slow, how to grill the perfect steak and so on.

So of course something clicked, I saw this as the perfect opportunity – and the idea for this site was born.

Site Name and Purpose

The mission for this site is:

To create the absolute best resource that I wish I could have found when I was searching for advice on BBQ, grilling, low n slow smoking, and all and any aspects of cooking and eating outdoors.

I had to cobble together all the info I needed from multiple websites, forums, Facebook groups, books and of course years of trial and error while at the helm of the grill.

So I decided to create this site, where the aim is to build the most actionable, educational, factually correct and highest quality resource on outdoor cooking that I possibly can.

Also – mainly due to my cooking having gained some notoriety in our friendship circle – we tend to have lots of visitors over for garden parties, and that’s what lead me to my site name:

Great Food, Cooked over live fire, enjoyed with friends = FoodFireFriends.com

I know, it’s not great, but the quality content will make up for the lack of a decent site name I hope?! Haha.

To be honest, the name was also chosen because the first 136 (approximately πŸ™‚ ) other names I came up with and preferred were already taken, most of them not even being used. Sigh. It’s hard finding a good domain name.

But yes, this site is all about the art, science and enjoyment of cooking and eating outdoors with friends. It’s gonna be a cracker!

Final Thoughts

I want this site to be a small part of a larger overall online community, of which I can be a part. I would love to make connections with other people in the BBQ, smoking and grilling space. So if you want to reach out, either to ask for advice, to give me advice, or purely just to say hello, then please do so!

I am creating some social properties on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter…come say hello and contribute.

Or if you have any comments, questions or feedback concerning anything on this site, please do reach out to me via my contact page here: Contact me. I will answer everything as best I can.

Happy grilling!

20 thoughts on “About Me and This Site”

  1. Hi Mark:
    Joie Seifried here to share a comment on your website. Wish I found it sooner. After researching many videos and. tutorials on line, I finally decided to get a Kamando Joe Classic ll (18”) and ordered it through Home Depot, using my 10% Military Discount , retired USAF nurse, which helped a lot, (got lots of toys to play/cook with. Your website would have saved me a lot valuable time not to mention concerns on what to end up buying in the ceramic BBQ/Smokers category. All the bells and whistles have arrived but the cooker was promised later but should arrive this week. Whoope!! Will be sure to follow your blogs and suggestions. Thanks loads for your great advise. Joie

    • Hi Joie,

      Thank you for your comment, it’s nice to hear people find the website useful πŸ™‚

      And welcome to the club! The Kamado Joe is my favorite grill and the one I use the most of all the ones I own. I’ve only got the version 1 classic, so you’ve got a more up to date and advanced version than me. I must upgrade some time soon!

      When you cook something decent, share it on our Facebook page, I’d love to see how you get on with it. Best of luck…you’re going to love it!

      Thanks,
      Mark

  2. Hi Mark,

    I just came across your post and kind words and wanted to thank you.

    John

    • Hi John,

      No worries, they’re cool products πŸ™‚

  3. Hi mark
    As a beginner I always wanted to learn how to use a smoker,so going forward you will be my number one tutor.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Lloyd. I definitely recommend reading and learning from many different sources though, from many books, many websites, Youtube, Facebook groups and more. I’m still learning from many people at all of these sources every day πŸ™‚

  4. Absolutely great information for one(me) just starting out on smoking meats. I really love it and I’m a sponge for info right now….

    • Thanks Ron, always nice to hear the site is useful πŸ™‚

      I’ve lots of good instructional stuff being published in coming weeks, and am planning a huge year long ‘outdoor cooking challenge’, so I’m really looking forward to 2019.

  5. Mark, I have been β€œfairly” (and I use that loosely) successful smoking meats. But…. Ive ruined hundreds of dollars of meat also. So thanks for creating this resource. After looking at your website I knew I’d found someone that can help and educate a long time β€œrookie”. Again, thank you for your site. Looking forward to receiving all the help you can give

    • Hi Randy,

      Thanks for the kind words, glad you’re finding the site useful πŸ™‚

      And hey, ruining the odd bit of meat is a rite of passage, haha. I still get less than stellar results sometimes when trying new things, every day is a school day as they say πŸ™‚

      Something that really helped me: A couple of years ago, one of my friends who is a professional chef stressed to me the importance of using a notebook to record your cooking adventures, and as a tool for improvement. When you try new things, record in it things like times, temps, rubs/sauces/herbs/spices used, fuel used, any wood used – and the quantities of all the above. Then when done, try to note down anything that went wrong: Temp soared, or dropped; what you loved about taste and texture, or hated about taste and texture; Anything that was great, or disappointing; Whether too dry, too moist, too salty, too spicy, too much of this herb, or that spice; too smoky / not smoky enough (use less or more wood, or a stronger or milder type) etc. You get the idea πŸ™‚

      Then when you go to do the same or similar cook later, you can refer to the notes and make an appropriate tweak. Honestly, for me, it was the best advice I’d ever been given. I’m 40 years old, and only started using notebooks 2 years ago or thereabouts, so bit of a late game changer for me, where I always did everything from memory…which sometimes is not good to be honest! With notes, I can iterate and make each cook better each time I do it, and get much better results over time. Works for me anyway πŸ™‚

      Best of luck…and I should be starting my facebook group and page very soon, you’ll have to drop in some photos of successful cooks πŸ™‚

  6. Great article on prime rib vs rib eye, at the end u mention rib eye with a cap. Can u explain that, also I am 5 month liver transplant receipiant and have been sentence to a life cooked food and well done steaks when my liking was medium to medium rare. Is there an expert who could talk to these subjects. Tuna steaks , poke, even sushi has been affected. Thanks for ur time and thanks again for ur articles. I think i finally found a site with the truth and one i can understand.

    • Hi Joe,

      Thanks for the kind words, I’m glad you like the site and find it useful πŸ™‚

      ‘Cap of ribeye’ is a particular cut. If you google ‘cap of ribeye’ and check the first few results, they’ll be eable to explain what it is better than I can in a few words in a comment reply.

      I’m afraid I don’t know of anybody could help with dietary help for a liver transplant recipient. I’d also be hesittant to ask anybody over the internet if I was in that position as the wrong advice could prove to have very bad consequences if followed! I think consulting an actual, professionally qualified expert who truly, inarguably knows what they are talking about and can back it up with years of study and experience is the only way to go here. Sorry I can’t help more πŸ™

  7. Awesome information

    • Thanks Henri πŸ™‚

  8. Hi Mark

    I am beginning to think you and I are alike. This year I have bought a ton of things, from an Italian Grinder. German Espresso Machine to TWO BBQ Grills and eyeing on a third one that does a bunch of things at one time – An insulated BBQ cabinet smoker. I guess you can say I am no different than Kevin Costners Field of dreams …. “If you build it, they will come.” I should build a web site too, seeing I have been doing this for over 20 years.

    • haha…spend in haste and repent at leisure! I just love outdoor cooking, and love playing with new grills and smokers all the time. I feel a few weeks or months of excitement every time I try something new, so I tend to swap things in and out of the collection regularly. As I said in a previous thread, I have the kamado Big Joe V III coming this weekend.

      My last buy only a few months ago was a ‘kadai firebowl’, cooking over live fire in a firepit essentially. Getting back to basics, and fun trying to learn how to control a fire, the heat zones and hot spots etc. with a live fire. I’ll be writing up a couple of cooks I did on that in the next few weeks, when I’ve caught up with other things. Here’s a couple of images to show the general gist (forerib of beef and veg – which will be a write up in the recipe section soon enough):

      Forerib of beef hanging over an open fire on a kadai

      Forerib of beef and veg cooking over a kadai fire

      Forerib of beef with 3 veg on a plate

      If you fancy doing a website, you definitely should. It is a ton of work, but I get A TON of enjoyment out of it. Let me know if you do kick one off, I’ll follow along. πŸ™‚

  9. Hi Mark – looking online at YouTube videos and Google searches to learn how to BBQ new things – and ran across your Webpage.

    WOW! You have ALOT of BBQ’s!! I thought my husband was bad! He has 2 Weber Kettles – an old one and a brand new one with a temperature gauge on the lid and an ash catcher bucket. He also has a rotisserie attachment for the Weber – and a rotisserie basket, and a rotisserie shish kabob attachment. He also has a Jumbo Joe And he has a Green Mountain Davey Crockett pellet smoker – it is the small one – but fine for the 2 of us. It is digital – so you push a button and set the temperature – and it maintains a steady temperature for hours. It can cook as low as 180 and high as 500! If you don’t have a pellet grill yet – YOU HAVE TO GET ONE! End of summer – may get one on sale. : )

    So, since I just found this site I haven’t had a chance to look at your recipes. We have been playing with the rotisserie – we did some chickens – AWESOME! Then we tried an inexpensive beef roast – Shoulder Clod/Cross Rib roast. I was skeptical. We like beef on the rare side – and not hard to chew. Well – I watched videos on rotisserie for tougher roasts – Eye of Round, Rump etc – so we followed the directions – and it was GREAT!! On sale for $3.59 a lb too!

    Tomorrow we are going to try a Beef Tri Tip on the rotisserie. We have not done that yet. One video said indirect with coals on both sides – 20 to 25 minutes for rare. That sounds too hot and too quick to me. So we’re going with the guy who had coals on just one side – indirect – and check the temp at 35 to 40 minutes – and checked again until it was 125 – med rare – beautiful! Then he wrapped it in foil for 20 to 30 minutes. Then he made very thin slices across the grain – and had a beautiful toasted roll – and some garlic aoli – and made a delicious looking sandwich!.

    Your suggestion about keeping notes is right on! My husband’s the BBQ’r – I’m the note taker. Every time we BBQ or smoke Chickens, or Ribs, or anything besides steaks or burgers, I put down everything about it – weight – how we prepare it – what rub – what we cook it on – how hot – how long – and if we put sauce on or not. And comment on what worked, and what we didn’t like. Helps us to fine tune. : ) I’ll be coming back to your site to read about what you’ve tried and learned. Thanks for taking the time to make this site.

    • Hi Chris,

      Your husband sounds great and has the right idea, you can never have enough BBQs and accessories πŸ™‚

      I really do want a pellet grill and one is certainly on the cards, but a couple of things I’ve recently bought are a Kadai firebowl with accessories and the Kamado Big Joe V III. I need to spend some months playing with these properly before I get any new kit.

      I sometimes (often maybe? haha) have the problem of ‘shiny object syndrome’, where i buy something new and I then use that almost exclusively for a long while. This means if I buy new things too quickly, I don’t get to really use and master the thing(s) I bought before. Right now I really want to get to grips with live fire cooking on the kadai firebowl, getting into some home made curries and what not, as well as hanging meat over a wood fire. Heat control is kinda difficult, but I’m getting better.

      Your cooking sounds really good: Well planned, thought out, note taking and iterations, I really need to get some social pages going so we can all share our cooks. Time has been a rare resource though sadly, however I definitely will do this in the next couple of weeks…then you can post up some results for us to drool over! (And I can post many cooks too more to the point…so many done, almost none written up as they take so long.)

      Thank you for the kind comments, I’m glad you enjoy the site πŸ™‚

  10. Hey Mark,

    We just came across your site. It looks great! Excellent photos too. I’m jealous that your have so many BBQ grills to play with.

    Norlea and I wish you much success.

    Bill & Norela Grover
    groverscopywriting.com

    • Thanks, Bill. I hope all’s good with you?

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