15 fire-cooking courses to hone your skills for barbecue season

Natalie Paris (R) took part in a fire cookery workshop hosted by Ana Ortiz (L)
Natalie Paris (R) took part in a fire cookery workshop hosted by Ana Ortiz (L) - Heathcliff O'Malley

With the evenings getting lighter, it won’t be long before we’re reaching for the tongs and sparking up the year’s first barbecue. But before getting finger-deep in meat marinades and dry rubs, it’s time to improve your grilling skills.

Workshops that teach fire cookery are now popular up and down the country, with many classes selling out quickly. Students can gather tips from grilling experts and meet like-minded fire enthusiasts, all the while wolfing down hot, smoky morsels that have been cooked in front of them.  You don’t even need to be a carnivore to get involved, with vegetarian and fish grilling courses available too.

Ana Ortiz teaches asado barbecue with traditional South American techniques
Ana Ortiz teaches asado barbecue with traditional South American techniques - Heathcliff O'Malley

The grilling gear and the recipes rolled out on them are more varied than ever: at a recent asado masterclass taught by Ecuadorian chef Ana Ortiz using traditional South American techniques, I discovered I could cook a skirt steak by laying it directly onto glowing coals. I also mastered an impressive party trick by heating a flambadou of butter until it burst into flames and drizzling the molten liquid over sizzling pork chops.

Each workshop below specialises in different equipment so whether you’ve got a kettle barbecue, a ceramic number or a full-blown fire pit at home, you can seek out a session that suits your style of cooking.

Fire Made, Wiltshire

Fire Made
Students at Fire Made learn salt-baking and plank cooking techniques - Fire Made

Using grills designed for a South American asado (a term used to describe both the cooking method and the social feast itself), Ana Ortiz and her husband Tom Bray lead masterclasses that culminate in a whole lamb being skewered on an asado cross and suspended over an open fire to cook.

Students are shown methods for grilling beef ribs, as well as for salt-baking and plank cooking, while aubergines, sweet potatoes and tomatoes are rested on coals until their skin splits, for use in sauces and salads. Workshops at The Stalls, the couple’s idyllic farm cafe in Wiltshire, start with a woodfired brunch then sit down to a feast at lunchtime. Ortiz and Bray’s aim is to make cooking over fire accessible, dispensing tips on how to correctly position meat and how to make the perfect chimichurri. Drinks are included in the price.

Various dates, courses £180, Fire Made 

The Salt Box, Surrey

The Salt Box
The Salt Box focuses on smaller classes, capped at 12 students - Salt Box

A 35-minute train ride from London, this set-up showcases local food produce with a sprinkle of wild ingredients. Workshops are held in a woodland glen at Priory Farm, with groups capped at 12 students. The Seasonal Cooking Over Fire course is Salt Box’s most popular and includes skillet cookery, coal baking and fire management. Those with more experience of flame-grilling can join the Advanced Cooking over Fire course (August 9) to pick up tips on using hanging frames and smoking. For something different, try the Wild Venison Butchery and Cookery course (June 21).

Various dates, from £175, The Salt Box

Bristol Fire School

Bristol Fire School
These classes offer a 'machismo-free' environment - BenLuckmanProjectXCreative

Run by Genevieve Taylor (author of 13 cookbooks whose latest, Scorched, is a guide to barbecuing fish), these classes offer a “machismo-free” environment in which to hone your skills, grilling everything from meat to vegetables. “Women light brilliant fires,” she says. “Fire is the original cooking tool, going back many thousands of years, and women were the ones who did the cooking.” She is running a kamado (ceramic barbecue) masterclass on June 12, creating Mediterranean dishes over the fire on June 20, and hosting Fish and Seafood over Fire on July 5. The latter includes tips such as how to make your fish go further.

Various dates, £150, Genevieve Taylor

Big Green Egg, UK-wide

Big Green Egg
Classes in May and July include slow-roasting pork belly - Matt Austin

These egg-shaped grills offer a precise form of temperature control, and require some knowledge to be used properly. Classes run by the brand that demonstrate the Egg’s smoking and barbecuing capabilities are being held in the kitchen garden at Lainston House hotel in Winchester (the BBQ Basics course, July 28, covers smoking burgers and chicken drumsticks), while at Chewton Glen, a hotel in the New Forest, classes in May and July include slow-roasting pork belly.

Various dates; Lainston House, £99; Chewton Glen, £210

Auldton Stoves Cook Schools, Kilmarnock

Auldton Stoves Cook Schools
Lessons include drinks and celebrate Scottish ingredients - Auldton Stoves Cook Schools

Staff at this farm and stove shop in Dunlop invite live fire and kamado chefs to host their Cook School sessions. Students build up confidence with new techniques and take home recipes and contacts for local farms, produce and charcoal suppliers. Scottish ingredients are celebrated, and drinks are included. A BBQ Masterclass led by Adam Purnell, aka fire fanatic Shropshire Lad, takes place on May 31, then The Smokin’ Elk leads a workshop on American Classics on July 5 and one on kamado cooking on July 6.

Various dates; £160, Auldton Stoves 

Weber Grill Academy, UK-wide

Weber Grill Academy
There is a Barbecue Classics course for straightforward meat grilling

This barbecue brand operates classes at cooking schools across the UK. Students can learn how to use the Weber with its lid on to grill, bake, roast and smoke, or there is a Barbecue Classics course for straightforward meat grilling. One of the nicest course locations is The Grand, a statuesque hotel in central York. The hotel has a state-of-the-art cookery school and students can get hands-on experience on a Weber barbecue, with Weber Classics, Essentials and Smoke House courses planned for the summer.

Various dates, from £109, Grill Academy

Harts Barn Cookery School, Gloucestershire

Methods learnt include slow smoking and cold smoking
Methods learnt include slow smoking and cold smoking

Children are encouraged to get involved in barbecuing safely at this school in the Forest of Dean and chefs source mini ceramic grills for Family Fire and Cook classes. For adults, the Cooking by Fire and Smoke workshops utilise a range of grills, from clay ovens to fire pits and fire cages. Methods learnt include slow smoking and cold smoking, plus there are recipes for different rubs. There is also an option for vegetarians and vegans (August 3) that includes grilled and stuffed vegetables, dips and even barbecued fruit desserts.

Various dates, courses from £50, Harts Barn Cookery School

High Grange, Devon

High Grange
Students learn how to prep meat, fish and shellfish - Nick Hook Photography

Not only is the woodland setting, with its views across hills, appealing, but High Grange’s Fire School courses are award-winning too. The outdoor kitchen includes a braai (a South African grill), Kamado Joe ceramic barbecues, a Vulcanus fire pit and a pizza oven. Students learn how to work each of them, prepping meat, fish and shellfish, then making condiments and sides before helping with a long, slow cook to eventually eat together.

Various dates, Fire School £225, High Grange Devon School

Jericho Kitchen, Oxfordshire

Jericho Kitchen
A pop-up school in the Oxfordshire countryside - Jericho Kitchen

This pop-up school likes to combine fire cooking with foraging walks in the fields of Oxfordshire. This summer, at Hollands Farm in Great Milton, those signing up for a Fire Cooking class will prepare their ingredients and cook up a feast over fire pits. Foraged nettles can go into a nettle gözleme Turkish flatbread to accompany dishes such as rack of lamb, crispy bream and ash-baked beetroot. Fish lovers should book onto the June 22 session, when they can try planked trout, butterflied sardines and smoky moules marinières.

Various dates, £130, Jericho Kitchen

Cambridge BBQ School, Cambridgeshire

Gozney ovens here can also be used for pizza
Gozney ovens here can also be used for pizza

Gas ovens are sometimes used in these masterclasses, held in a repurposed farm building beside a garden furniture showroom. Gozney ovens, which can also be used for pizza, feature too, alongside a Traeger Wood Pellet grill. Alternatively, students could opt for a four-hour kamado course or a Wood Fired Masterclass with Marco Biasetti, who is the chef-ambassador for Delivita outdoor pizza ovens. Two drinks are included in the class and there is a discount in the farm shop afterwards. The kamado course is led by Jack Rowbottom, aka Jacksmeatshack, and will be suitable for any ceramic barbecue owner.

Various dates, from £99, Cambridge BBQ School

Hunter Gather Cook, Sussex

Hunter Gather Cook
Lunch features a two-course menu at Hunter Gather Cook - Hunter Gather Cook

This well-established school runs Seasonal Days (with one coming up on June 22) – relaxed gatherings celebrating what’s growing and being reared in Sussex that month. Groups of up to 22 join a butchery food camp and go wild food foraging in woods and meadows. Lunch features a two-course menu and is followed by an afternoon of cooking outdoors with wood, accompanied by wild cocktail-making. A DJ joins the group on Meaty Madness days (May 25), where workshops cover making fires, slow cooks on a Weber, specialist meat grilling and feast preparation.

Various dates, from £180, Hunter Gather Cook

Daylesford Cookery School, Gloucestershire

Daylesford Cookery School
Daylesford Cookery School offers classes for beginners - Daylesford Cookery School

Daylesford Farm’s Fire Pit cooking courses use asado-style grills set in a courtyard. Students work on large joints, seasonal vegetables and marinades, while discussing different techniques. The class pauses to enjoy lunch together and has access to chilled wine, cider and beer throughout the day. Students can buy meat and other produce afterwards in the farm shop for a discount. Another course, called Mastering the BBQ, is suited to beginners and runs on July 27 and August 3.

Various dates, £210, Daylesford

Embers Cafe Fire Classes, Shropshire

Embers Cafe Fire Classes
Embers Cafe Fire Classes are ideal for social occasions, when groups can share food and sit around the firebowl for warmth - Embers Cafe Fire Classes

Kadai firebowls, hailing from India, are used at Embers Cafe in Telford. They provide a wide scope for cooking, offering different temperature zones and a range of easy-to-master methods. They are also ideal for social occasions, when groups can share food and sit around the firebowl for warmth. Beginners will want to try Embers’ Introduction to Fire Cooking but the woodland cafe also runs kamado masterclasses, using Kamado Joe barbecues. For advanced learning there is an Intermediate fire cooking class (July 31) and a vegetable-focussed one (August 13).

Various dates, from £160, Embers Cafe

Fire and Feast, Suffolk

Fire and Feast
At Fire and Feast, students are sent home with a recipe pack - Fire and Feast

Learn to whip up lunch amid wood smoke or how to tend a fire and cook with your family (June 22) at this school, where meals are shared in a tipi in the Suffolk countryside. The entry-level workshops are the Cook your own Wood Fire Lunch sessions, cooking over seasoned hardwood in small groups of up to 12. Skills covered in the 2.5 hours include coal baking, pot cooking, grilling and using a Dutch oven. Students enjoy a rustic lunch and are sent home with a recipe pack.

Various dates, from £40, Fire and Feast

Northcote BBQ Cookery School, Lancashire

Northcote BBQ Cookery School
Classes are run by head tutor Rick Ogden, who has Michelin-star restaurant training - Northcote BBQ Cookery School

Elevating barbecuing to the level of fine dining, Northcote’s cooking school is run by head tutor Rick Ogden who has Michelin-star restaurant training, and is overseen by executive chef Lisa Goodwin-Allen. Students on the luxury hotel’s BBQ: The Art of Fire course help prepare for a barbecue dinner party. Dishes might include Moroccan spiced lamb shoulder and jerk beer can chicken. After lunch, the day’s cooking finishes at 5pm, with students getting to keep their aprons.

Various dates from July, from £270, Northcote Cookery

Find the grilling gear to suit you

Asado grills

Also known as fire cages, these are South American-inspired, standalone grills, with crosses, shelves and baskets that can be attached for hanging meat, cooking fish and roasting whole chickens. Ana Ortiz’s Fire Made company produces handmade portico grills in different sizes for big-name chefs such as Jamie Oliver, Marcus Waring and Gordon Ramsey, but sells to the public, too.

From £775, firemade.co.uk

Outdoor ovens

These versatile ovens can be used for roasting, smoking and searing meat, as well as for making pizzas, and can be wood-fired, gas, or dual fuel for flexibility. Gozney makes premium outdoor ovens, such as the Dome.

From £1,799, gozney.com

Big Green Eggs

Used for grilling, smoking and as a precise outdoor oven, these weatherproof eggs are based on Japanese kamado grills. They are built with NASA-grade ceramics and come with a thermometer gauge and an optional ceramic plate.

Minimax from £795, biggreenegg.co.uk

Kamado Joes

This is another ceramic smoker based on a Japanese kamado. They are red with a thermometer gauge but have two grill levels and a slide out ash drawer.

Joe Jr from £499, kamadojoe.com

Kadai firebowls

Also known as fire pits, these Indian barbecue bowls enable guests to huddle around them while you cook on a grill shelf, or from a pot or basket hanging from a tripod. Cast in Style’s are made from recycled oil drums, with accessories available.

From £99, castinstyle.co.uk

Weber barbecues

Great for portability, Weber’s grills on wheels have a lid for smoking too. They are charcoal grills but the brand also makes larger wood pellet, gas and electric grills.

Charcoal Smokey Joe from £92.99, weber.com