As we (hopefully) head towards barbecue weather this summer, one Co Antrim man is showing everyone just how it should be done.
Jim Moore (45) from Newtownabbey runs Only Slaggin, an online video account across social media in which he records himself grilling everything from racks of ribs to pancakes to toasties — and even a full Christmas dinner.
His TikTok account has more than half-a-million followers and over 50 million views, while his Instagram page isn’t far behind those numbers.
“I’ve always loved barbecuing,” he explained.
“I couldn’t wait for the good weather to get it out and then start grilling.
“It was actually around eight years ago after a trip to the United States, where I got to see how they barbecue, that I thought: ‘I’m going to start getting into this’.”
Inspired, Jim treated himself to some good quality grills and kettles when he returned and thus began his open air culinary adventures.
He later took to Facebook to post some videos of his cooking skills.
They proved so popular he moved onto Instagram.
This brought him to the attention of barbecue maker Weber, which hired him for some in-store demonstrations and PR appearances.
He said: “I just find it relaxing, but also quite exciting.
“I love being outside, and when the charcoal lights up and you get that aroma... and to see it’s all coming together.
“It’s like normal cooking, but it’s more engaging.”
It was one of Jim’s children who suggested he post on TikTok.
The app saw a surge in popularity over lockdown as people turned to it for comedy, tutorials and cooking tips.
He explained: “I had, like, 5,000 followers on Instagram before lockdown and thought that was pretty good, but then when lockdown hit and people were online more, it just grew and grew in popularity.
“It was actually one video of me cooking a burger which just went mental — the next thing I was looking at my phone and my followers were going up in the thousands.”
Going viral has led to deals with various brands and companies.
However, he dislikes the term “influencer”, insisting he only works with firms whose products he uses and therefore trusts.
Jim’s social media fame led to him representing Ireland in an online grill-a-thon involving barbecue exponents from across the world.
He modestly admits he can’t quite put his finger on why his videos have been such an online success.
He says he aims to tell a story in his videos, adding he purposely doesn’t speak or narrate them, rather letting the visuals of his cooking do the talking.
He explained: “I always approach them like they’re mini-movies.
“Outside of the story aspect, I don’t know why they’re so popular.
“It still amazes me so many people want to watch a middle-aged man from Northern Ireland cook on a barbecue.”
Only Slaggin, of course, is a local saying familiar to us all, though it has caused a little confusion among some foreign followers about what it actually means.
Jim has no professional cookery training and learned all he knows via YouTube and advice from other barbecue enthusiasts.This encouraged him to share his self-taught skills with others, and prior to the pandemic he launched a series of classes for those wishing to get behind a grill with confidence.
He said: “Just before lockdown the classes were selling out in minutes.
“There is a real appetite for this — people were travelling up from Cork to attend them, and the class was made up of couples who used to come along with a bottle of wine, wanting to enjoy themselves.”
He’s hoping to resume them soon, and is expecting a lot of interest considering his online popularity.
In the meantime, he’s happy to share what he’s learned with Belfast Telegraph readers.
He explained: “Your charcoal and fire are important ingredients.
“There is no point buying two brilliant quality steaks and then low-quality charcoal.
“You always have to think of the fuel — buy the best charcoal you can get.
“And it has to be natural, none of this stuff that is covered in lighter fluid.
“Plus, always make sure you work in zones and are able to move your food across to other areas.”
And a final piece of advice: “If you’re cooking something thicker than your hand, keep the lid down.”