In the southwestern German state of Saarland, people take barbecuing very seriously - and they've all got that swing. Find out why grilling marinated pork to perfection belongs to the region's identity.
The fire is burning, the smoke is rising and there is a smell of grilled meat in the air. Four men are crowded around a swing barbecue and arguing about how long the meat will take to cook. Michael Schwenk and three friends all come from the Saarland. They teamed up and made the regional 2015 barbecue finals.
The meal included hamburgers with pineapple followed by fillet of beef with a whisky marinade and to round off the meal muffins with vanilla and blackberry sauce. The entire meal was cooked on the barbecue.
Saarland, a barbecue needs to swing
But what is a swing barbecue exactly? It's a triangular construction with a grill attached to a chain. In order to cook the meat evenly, the grill is swung backwards and forwards over the heat. The meat is normally marinated pork.
The best way to serve up the perfect Saarland barbecue is to use beer, preferably locally brewed, bread and beech wood, also locally sourced. Michael Schwenk says people in the Saarland learn to barbecue meat from an early age und the barbecue season lasts all year round. If you hold a barbecue in the snow the meat has a special flavor.
A long-lasting tradition
Barbecues are popular throughout Germany but for the inhabitants of the Saarland they are a real love affair with a long tradition. And they must be taken seriously. Saying someone is no good at the barbecue is a serious insult in the Saarland.
Klaus Marx has been selling swing barbecues near Saarbrücken for some 20 years. He sells an average 500 to 600 swing barbecues every year. Some orders even come from Saarland residents living abroad who long for a taste of home. Marx said that when he started out, people smiled at the idea of selling swing barbecues. Back then, you didn’t buy one, you swapped a crate of beer for one.
The Saarland is known for its iron and steel industry. Marx says that after World War II, workers started to use scrap metal from the workshops to make barbecues at home. These days, there is no scrap metal left over, so people now have to buy a barbecue. Or they head for one of the many restaurants where you can watch an expert.
Klaus Marx sometimes gives barbecue lessons - but they're for tourists. He says a true native of the Saarland wouldn't dream of taking lessons. Marx likes to talk shop and swap tips while grilling.
Marx says the meat must reach a temperature of 65 degrees Celsius on the inside and there should be a grill pattern on the meat. He serves his barbecued meat with potato salad. Michael Schwenk prefers baked potatoes. He waits for the embers to die down before barbecuing the meat.
And like everyone else in the region, he swears on family recipes for the perfect barbecue.