Health concerns are gradually ruining our daily lives. Alcohol is bad. Smoking is bad. Sugar is bad & fat is bad. Coffee is bad & energy drink is bad. Even milk is bad. Every substance that changes or disturbs (or stops, sometimes) the normal wavelength of our body energy is gettin' labeled and what we find normal today will be banned tomorrow. Today you'll be like everyone, tomorrow you're an outlaw.
And no, I don't even smoke. But I live in Belgium, that in itself says enough. And don't worry, I'll be the first to promote a healthier lifestyle. But don't touch my coffee. And don't even think about staring at my beer.
Whatever. I don't know how it's in the US, but over here there's a BBQ-war going on. There's growing concern about the classic way of getting your stuff grilled. We're talking about charcoal powered bbq's, not propane or rocket fuel.
The issue is about fat that drips from the meat into the flames, about dioxines that are created and thus food contaminated.
I believe there's something true about this story.
I heard also that a few smart guys came up with a new 'vertical' style of bbq - like a chicken- or kebab-grill, kinda. Food would be placed vertical, at a distance from a kind of 'firewall', and fat would drop safely to the bottom of the device, the storytellers told me.They told me also the trolls were preparing a raid to the local brewery and that they would kidnap all the small dogs in the region. Set aside.
All that sounded logic to me, and instead of looking on the net how others did it I started thinking how Bricobart would build such a device - I mean a bbq, not an anti-troll gun. And since I didn't want to spend any money I decided to build it from scratch.
The project failed in the first trial, but ran like a small dog chased by a beeswarm in the second.
Enjoy my poor men's vertical birdcage-based bbq!
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Step 1: Gettin' Stuff
I looked around in my workshop and I found a nice wooden tripod - here's how to make one, pieces of a kitchen range and a bird cage I once found in our garden. Yes, a bird cage.
Step 2: Prepping the Base
I chose to build it minimalistic so that everyone could easily replicate the results. And because I don't want you to spend hundreds of euros or dollars to a highly engineered device. And because I'm a generous person.
Minimalistic meant that I decided to use only the base of the kitchen range, a kind of 'box' that would prevent ashes and pieces of burning wood falling on the ground and set the region on fire. Okay, this is Belgium, but you never know.
Advantage of the kitchen range scrap: it's coated, so the plated steel won't burn (or less) than a classic metal box.
Screw the base of the range to the tripod - I used a few metal angles, screwed into the tripod & riveted into the base - to get it all more stable. There'll be wood in it, heavy wood. And meat, heavy meat. And cats, sometimes. Make it sturdy.
Step 3: Prepping the Cage
That birdcage will become our firewall - but I'm pretty sure you already guessed that.
Advantage of the cage: the fire will be highly ventilated and burn almost smoke free.
If you put the cage in the base without modifications: it won't work because there'll be no place left for kind of essentials like food. So: saddle the cage on the side of the base and you'll gain a lot of space.
Put the cage upside down - quite obvious, cut some stuff right & left, ply a piece of the back back to form the 'elevated base' and rivet or screw the whole to the base.
Important: put the entrance of the cage at the back side of the build.
Step 4: How It Doesn't Work
My first attempt to grill stuff was a disaster. It was a real slaughter field, just because I was yet too much into 'classic bbq thinking'.
Who says bbq says metal grill, I thought. And so I was so proud of myself that I managed to modify such a thing so that it could stand upright.
Blinded by this achievement I didn't think about the most important step: how the hell do you place food on it?!
So the day of the first trial I decided to use inox skewers to kinda 'weave' those saucages on the grill. It looked terrible from the start, it got worse later.
Yes I got some grilled saucages, but no I didn't want to use that grill again.
But yes I decided to keep those skewers. Skewers would become my future.
Step 5: Birdcage BQ 2.0
The key feature of version 2.0 is a thick wooden board that I made by assembling a few planed beech blocks together (just a wooden stick that goes all the way through).
In this board I drilled a few thousand holes (diameter is obviously the same as a skewer) - not because I want to put a few thousand skewers, but because I want to control the distance to the firewall with the precision of a swiss - a swiss what? oh yes, a swiss cow.
To prevent the board from starting to burn I screwed a metal plate to the front side - which reinforces the whole, also.
A wooden edge, screwed to the base, finishes the whole. And gives it a much better look. My opinion.
Step 6: Go Vertical, Literally
Time to put this device to the test, again!
On the menu: stickmeat aka shaslick aka 'brochette' & 'stokbrood' aka stickbread.
What to say? It went just perfect! The bread baked fast & deeply and the meat was grilled slowly into perfection.
I learned that a lot of small wood is much better than just a few big blocks (no need to put charcoal), that the food is absolutely smoke-free and that it's just a pleasure to use. No burning fat, no burning eyes, no stinking cloths, no burned meat. Absolutely summerproof, and almost for free!
Let me know if you built your own, I want to see more variations on this theme!
Have a great summer everyone!