From the cradle to the kitchen

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Mike Corcoran, proprietor, Mike’s BBQ & Catering, Spiller’s Lane, Clonakilty.

When I was growing up in Chicago, evening supper was something that always brought our large family together on a nightly basis. My father was a police officer and worked the night shift for many years when I was young, and like so many others of his generation, he had a second job during the day. Dinner would be the one time where I, the youngest of five kids, could be sure to see Dad, as well as my older brothers.

My grandmother Corcoran was an excellent cook and handled all the holiday meals. She in turn taught my mother, who taught me. The first thing mom taught me to make when I was about ten, was pancakes. On birthdays and holiday mornings mom would make them special by filling them with cherry or blueberry pie filling and sprinkling them with powdered sugar. We would skip the maple syrup on those days!

There were also tried and true Corcoran recipes which I believe came from Ireland, generations earlier. Things like mashed swedes and carrots with parsley sauce were not dishes that many of my friends’ families enjoyed with their Christmas turkeys.

Grandpa only got involved with cooking when it was barbecue. At family gatherings, he would ‘tend the pit’, a converted 50 gallon drum which he used to turn out the most fantastic food.

My earliest food memories are of watching him add cherry limbs to the pit and the incredible smells that emanated from it. When I became old enough to be around fire, he would show me how it was done, giving tips and suggestions. He instilled the love of barbecue in me and from the time I was 14, I’ve only had one job outside the restaurant industry.

Chicago is a very ethnically diverse city and my father — having a strong appreciation of food and an excellent knowledge of the city and it’s neighbourhoods — would treat us on occasions. Going to Little Italy and getting a freshly made Italian ice from a street vendor was a hot summer afternoon thrill. It was about a 6 ounce semi-frozen treat studded with lemons, raspberries or other seasonal fruit. Greektown would be the place for a gyros sandwich on pitta bread with tzaziki sauce, a delicious cucumber dressing. He also had his favourite Chinese restaurant in Chinatown. We lived only a few miles from the Polish neighbourhood and smoked kielbasa from Harczak’s Deli made great sandwiches.

Favourite sweets growing up included the traditional Sunday coffee cake we’d get after mass from the Gladstone Bakery. It would be freshly baked and still warm, sprinkled with walnuts and tiger-striped with a delicious white frosting. Around the Holidays, Grandma used to make fantastic homemade lemon tarts, little flying saucer shaped pastry cups filled with a tangy lemon filling and topped with a dollop of freshly whipped cream. An everyday favourite was Jello, especially lime and raspberry with whatever fruit was in season at the time suspended in the cool gelatin.

Perhaps one of the fondest childhood memories was that of the Good Humor Ice Cream man. May through September, the fleet of Ford Trucks driven by men in crisp white uniforms would trawl the city’s neighbourhoods, bringing delicious frozen treats to young and old. You would hear the bells jingling from about a block away, and that’s how much time you had to plead for 25 cents to try to make it out to the kerb for a Toasted Almond or Strawberry Shortcake ice cream bar before he passed. You always hoped he would be slowed by sales further up the block!


What better way to prove your BBQ credentials this week than with a Bulmers-flavoured marinade to complement your drinks? JOE met the BBQ expert behind its creation.




JOE meets the man crazy enough to create a delicious Bulmers BBQ marinade



What better way to prove your BBQ credentials this week than with a Bulmers-flavoured marinade to complement your drinks? JOE met the BBQ expert behind its creation.

When one thinks of typical BBQ marinades, Bulmers is not usually the first one ingredient that springs to mind but then not everyone is American barbecue chef Mike Corcoran.

Having married an Irish girl and re-located to West Cork, he now produces his own Mike's BBQ Sauce and BBQ Spice Rub throughout Cork and Dublin, in addition to his one catering and wholesale BBQ meat business.

What really caught our eye, however, is that Mike is the creator of his very own barbecue sauce (currently just for personal use at his home) using Bulmers' cider. We’ve heard of cider being perfect accompaniment to a BBQ but becoming part of the meat itself?

We had to hear more and thankfully Mike was only too happy to oblige, while also informing us where Irish people tend to go wrong when behind a grill.

JOE: Can you tell us a more about your background and how you came to be an expert on all things BBQ?


MC: Barbecue has always been a part of our family gatherings. I remember being about seven years of age when my grandfather, who was from Tennessee and himself the son of a County Cork immigrant, began to show me how to tend the 'pit.'

He had fashioned this out of an old 50-gallon oil drum and I remember him stoking the coals and explaining to me how he used hickory wood as a "seasoning" for the meats. These usually consisted of chicken, ribs; pork shoulder which he called "pulled pork".

This was because after hours of smoking in the pit, the meat was tender, it just pulled from the bone, nearly melting in your mouth. I think he liked it because he had so few teeth…

This sparked my interest and love of barbecue and I've been doing it ever since. In America, I've studied under two of the most legendary pitmasters of all time, Paul Kirk and Mike Mills.

JOE: Where do Irish people get it wrong when it comes to BBQ marinades and what would you be your top bits of advice?


MC: There are a few misconceptions I see in Ireland about marinades. The first is that it must be liquid.

In American 'low and slow' pit barbecue, the marinade is almost always a dry spice mixture, referred to as a "rub". This rub is applied liberally and allowed to penetrate the meat, often overnight. Most pitmasters have their own secret recipe, and many barbecue enthusiasts a favorite brand.

Another is in the use of liquid marinades and sauces. In many applications, their uses may be interchangeable. A sauce (barbecue, teriyaki, etc.) may often be used as a marinade, but the excess sauce should be removed after it is done marinating using a rubber spatula or plastic glove. This excess 'marinade' can then be simmered separately and used as a 'sauce.'

I frequently see people applying barbecue sauce too early in the grilling process. Barbecue sauce should only be applied the last three to five minutes of grilling to prevent the sauce from burning.

JOE: So we hear that you're especially proud of a barbeque sauce that you created using Bulmers' cider. How did you first realise that Bulmers' would work well in a marinade?


MC: My favorite barbecue is pork ribs and pork shoulder. The flavour of pork and apple work exceptionally well together, and I use applewood when I'm smoking. It was a natural progression to use Bulmers' cider in a marinade and sauce. Sometimes I even inject the meat with it.

JOE: What is your favourite marinade to use and if you had to include the Bulmers variety, where would that rank too?


MC: I can't say I have a favorite marinade, as it depends largely on what kind of meat I'm eating. A marinade I use for chicken would likely be different than what I used for beef.

It needn't be over complicated; some of the best I've tasted contain only four or five ingredients. Again, my Bulmers' marinade would likely be the go-to for pork chops, spare ribs, and a pork shoulder joint.

JOE: If people out there want to get creative and try test out their own marinade concoctions, what advice should try and what should they not even attempt?


MC: A typical marinade contains an acidic component such as vinegar, lemon juice, or wine, combined with some type of oil, along with herbs and/or spices.

It not only flavors, but the acids tenderise tougher cuts of meat. The wrong marinade could make a tender cut of meat mushy.

Keep it simple… and a homemade marinade recipe will almost always be better than the sodium-laden, mass-produced jarred products you see in the supermarkets.

JOE: Finally, where can our curious readers pick up this Bulmer's barbeque sauce of yours?


MC: Mikes' BBQ Sauce is currently available in finer butchers throughout Cork and at many specialty shops throughout the rest of Ireland.

If readers 'like' Mikes' BBQ Sauce on Facebook and request or reach me at, I'll happily forward them my recipe for Mikes' homemade barbecue sauce/marinade with Bulmers' cider.






Barbecue king tells Ireland to quit moaning about rain


Friday, August 10, 2012

By Eoin English 

Ireland’s ‘barbecue king’ has urged the nation to stop complaining about the rain and get grilling outdoors.

“Irish people feel that it has to be sunny to eat grilled food,” pitmaster and professional barbecue chef Mike Corcoran said.

“But a barbecue is more than a garden party. It’s a style of cooking.

“And after all, Irish people have no problem standing outside in the rain for a cigarette, so why not barbecue under an umbrella?”

With forecasters predicting a mini-heatwave today and tomorrow, the Chicago native, who is based in West Cork, said it’s the perfect time to give grilling a go.

Given the Irish climate, Mike said he is working on bringing indoor barbecuing to Ireland. He has sourced a special liquid smoke product in the US that can be used indoors and gives the same flavour as an outdoor barbecue. “It’s a completely natural product that would work well in this climate,” he said.

Mike hails from Chicago, Illinois. His grandfather, who was from eastern Tennessee and the grandson of a Cork native, was a true barbecue enthusiast. He cooked and smoked his barbecued meats all day in his pit — a converted 50-gallon drum cut in half, hinged and fitted with racks — for family get-togethers.

If it rained, Mike said his grandfather would just move his pit under a patio umbrella near the back door, and the party would move indoors.

After high school, Mike went in to the restaurant industry, where he worked and managed for Marriott and Stouffer Hotels, and the Chart House Restaurants.

He studied grilling and barbecuing under world champion barbecue chefs Paul Kirk and Mike Mills.

His close friend and mentor, Chicago-based Dave Raymond, aka ‘Sweet Baby Ray’, is a barbecue legend whose barbecue sauce range is one of the largest selling in the US.

Mike relocated to just outside Clonakilty a few years ago and has studied at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. He has also developed his own Mike’s BBQ Sauce and Spice Rub, which are available in butchers and speciality shops, and his own BBQ Pork and Mike’s Applewood Smoked Streaky Bacon for the catering industry.

BBQ recipe

Mike’s soy-lime marinated flank steak (serves 2):

This quick and easy steak marinade is one of my favourites. It is great on any cut of meat, but I like it on flank steak, a thinner cut which grills in just minutes on a very hot grill.

* ½ kilo flank or your favourite cut of steak;

* For the marinade:

200ml olive or sunflower oil,

2 tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce,

2 scallions, or one small red onion, sliced thinly

2 cloves garlic, minced,

Juice of one lime,

¼ teaspoon chilli flakes,

¼ teaspoon cumin,

1½ tablespoons brown sugar;

nMethod: Combine all the marinade ingredients and whisk briskly until well incorporated. Place in zipper seal bag along with meat, and allow to marinade for at least two hours, or overnight. (If using a baking dish or other vessel to marinate, flip meat occasionally).

After removing from marinade, pat steak dry with paper towel. This will help the meat sear, instead of steaming, over the hot grates. Grill over medium high heat to desired doneness.

Flank steak has a slightly tapered shape, so when the thinner side is medium well, the thicker side will be medium rare.

Allow steak to rest for five minutes after grilling. Slice thinly against the grain of the meat.

Thrill of the grill

Learn how to cook it low and slow at a masterclass with Pitmaster Mike Corcoran at Inchydoney Island Lodge and Spa

Sat, Jun 1, 2013, 01:00

Marie Claire Digby



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I f the selection of barbecues and equipment in our What We Like selection on page 8 has you reaching for the charcoal, but your grilling technique could use a little work, sign up for a weekend stay at Inchydoney Island Lodge and Spa on June 14th-16th. Pitmaster Mike Corcoran will be doing a masterclass on Saturday, June 15th, sharing the secrets of low and slow American- style barbecue, as well as how to get the best out of charcoal and gas barbecues, and how to smoke with hardwood.

Corcoran, who produces a range of barbecue sauces and spice rubs under his Mike’s BBQ label, honed his craft in Chicago, before coming to live in Cork. He runs a BBQ Academy in Ballinascarthy, Co Cork and also visits would-be cooks at home to show them how to master their barbecue, and cook their favourite dishes on it – without falling into the carbonated crust, raw interior trap.

At the Inchydoney masterclass Corcoran will cook steaks, burgers, pulled pork and ribs, and participants will be expected to bring healthy appetites to sample the taste of real American barbecue.

The weekend, including the barbecue masterclass, two nights’ B&B in an ocean view room and access to the Lodge’s spa, costs from €220 per person. You can add a spa package to the barbecue weekend for an additional €80 (reduced from €120).
The stunning views are free.