How Germany's barbecue champions do it

Martin Schulz is the Germany's Barbecue King of 2017. He talks about his great passion and warns against a popular trick using beer.

Best Barbecue Team of 2017: Martin Schulz and the 'Grill-Doch-Mal' team
Best Barbecue Team of 2017: Martin Schulz and the 'Grill-Doch-Mal' team

Germany. Barbecuing is one of Germany's favourite leisure-time activities. After all, anyone can grill sausages. But when it comes to top-level gourmet barbecuing, it's about conjuring up a six-course menu – including a dessert. Martin Schulz is a master of this art. The 38-year-old from Neumarkt in Bavaria is Germany's Barbecue King 2017. With his 'Grill Doch Mal' ('Get the Barbecue out') team, he has just won the German Barbecue Championships in Fulda.

Martin Schulz
Martin Schulz dpa

Mr Schulz: first of all, congratulations on winning the German Barbecue Championships. What did you and your team barbecue so well?

We barbecued six courses, each with eleven portions: 1. fish, 2. vegetarian barbecue, 3. belly of pork, 4. our 'improvised course': a secreto (which is a 'secret' cut of pork), a beef flap steak and a dessert.

What was the biggest challenge?

Getting all the dishes ready at precisely the same time. You were disqualified if you were five minutes late with anything.

Good team work is probably essential, right? How big is your 'Grill Doch Mal' team?

Eight men and two women.

So the men are in the majority – is barbecuing still a male domain?

That has changed. Every team at the barbecue championships includes women. Mostly, families compete in a joint team. That's the nice thing about this competition.

Do you meet regularly to train?

Yes. We usually get together in February for the year's first training session. After that it's once a month. Sometimes we practice only side dishes, sometimes it's all about putting several courses together to produce a well-balanced meal.

Do you still sometimes barbecue quite spontaneously with friends?

Of course. When we do, we simply put some sausages and steaks onto the grill.

Speaking of sausages: is it true that they are barbecued more frequently than anything else in Germany?

In my eyes, bratwurst (fried sausage) really is the typical German barbecue dish.

You've also taken part in international barbecue championships. Do different countries have different barbecuing traditions?

Yes. The aim at the German Barbecue Championships is to barbecue in a way that is 'aesthetically pleasing', to prepare a well-rounded dish. By contrast, there is a series of competitions in the USA that focuses exclusively on meat, for example.

Winning menu: Bavarian barbecued pork belly meets Asia burger
Winning menu: Bavarian barbecued pork belly meets Asia burger dpa

What appeals to you most about barbecuing?

Cooking outdoors. I just love being out in the countryside, sitting for hours around the barbecue with friends, drinking a beer, waiting for the coal to heat up.

That reminds me of the ancient camp-fire ritual.

Yes, a good analogy; it's a great get-together.

Can you give our readers an expert tip?

Sure: whatever you do, don't deglaze barbecue meat by pouring beer over it! This is very popular in Germany, but it's a big mistake, because the beer washes away the marinade, puts the fire out and whirls up the ashes, which then stick to the meat.

Facts about the popular recreation of barbecuing

  • Barbecuing is a popular leisure activity in Germany, but it's also taken very seriously: the highest authority on the subject is an organization with an English name: the German Barbecue Association. The GBA's aim is to "actively promote recreational barbecuing in Germany and to improve quality levels on the grill." Every year, the association stages the German Barbecue Championships according to official competition rules.
  • 14% of Germans barbecue once a month, according to a survey conducted by the Statista website.
  • It's usually men who do the barbecuing (63%)
  • The most popular items for grilling are steaks, cutlets and sausages
  • Conflicts with neighbours over smoke and smell are common. In 1997, Bonn District Court ruled that it was admissible to barbecue on your balcony once a month if you informed the neighbours 48 hours in advance.