No more burnt saussies, raw meat or charred veg
When you think of summer you think of sunshine, blue skies, cold beer… barbecues.
Getting your friends and family over.
Firing up the barbie and have an al fresco evening of fun and laughter.
With great food.
It can often ‘go a bit Pete Tong’ (*for the non-Brits; rhyming slang for ‘a bit wrong’).
The sausages usually come off the best, once you’ve covered them in tomato sauce.
But we all know that a few of them slipped through into the coals or rolled off onto the ground before making it to the table.
The chicken; always the scariest to cook.
Is either undercooked or cooked within an inch of its life.
Let’s not forget the veggies which are often forgotten about.
And are presented as charcoal (“just scrap it off”) or arrive 10 minutes later.
The fact is, bbq-ing is fun but there are challenges to really getting it right and actually enjoying it.
So here’s a few tips.
Setting your BBQ up
This is being a bit of a purest but…
To really get great barbecue food and the smoky flavours of a barbecue, you need charcoal.
I’m afraid gas just won’t add that extra flavour. That’s not to say gas isn’t fun in the sun 😉
You also need a lid for your barbecue so it locks in that heat and flavour.
Think, beer can chicken, smoked brisket, burgers with melted cheese… they all need to be under a lid.
We’ve all done it.
The sun comes out and we fly into panic mode about having a barbecue.
Jump into the car and do a dash to buy charcoal from the petrol station.
But to really make your food taste great and have better controlled temperatures you need better quality charcoal.
I admit, I thought this was a bit of rubbish but if you really do enjoy cooking outside, then you’ll notice a difference.
Lumpwood charcoal gives the best flavour as it’s not had anything added and is natural.
You can find bags of it on the internet so get prepared early for your barbecue season, order some and leave the panic-petrol-station-buying to the amateurs.
Lighting the BBQ. Patience required.
Often people make the mistake of not lightning the barbecue early enough.
It tastes patience and a bit of focus.
You need to wait for the flames to die down.
Trying to cook when you’ve first lit the barbecue results in burnt outsides and raw insides.
It takes about 30 mins to light a barbecue and wait for it to come to the right cooking temperature.
You want the coals white hot i.e. grey and glowing.
This gives you the hottest and evenest heat.
Getting the temperature spot on
Jamie Oliver uses the ‘hand test’. It goes like this…
Hold your hand about 12 cm above the grill and see how long you can hold it there comfortably (i.e. without screaming).
- 6 seconds = low heat
- 4 seconds = medium heat
- 2 seconds = “hotter than a goat’s butt in a chilli pepper patch”
- 0 seconds = Hospital. Now.
Controlling the temperature across the grill is another important barbecuing technique.
Split your barbecue half and half i.e. put all the coals to one side
You will then have a mega-hot-direct-heat on one side and a no-direct-heat side on the other.
Use the best tools
The heavy-duty oven glove
I have some and they’re invaluable.
Saves the hands when picking up that rogue sausage as it sneaks through the grill onto the hot coals.
A decent pair of tongs
An extension of you hand so you need ones that will give you the most control.
Use a digital thermometer
It takes the stress out of the ‘not-quite-sure-if-it’s-done’ (65°C for pork and beef and 70°C for chicken)
Sneaky tip: you could also pre-cook sausages a little so you just need to brown them on the BBQ.
Food prep tips
Prepping food before everyone arrives will make life easier
Make your own burgers: Homemade burgers are better. Use good-quality meat with plenty of fat so they are juicy and flavourful.
Marinade! Leave for a few hours, ideally overnight. Super important for barbecue meat to get great flavours and not just smokiness.
Make extra marinade and brush your meat every 10 minutes with the marinade as it cooks.
It will add moisture and caramelise gently as it goes.
Dry rubs: Don’t forget to use some lovely dry rubs.
Don’t ruin the vegetables
Slice vegetables thin and grill straight away – no oil, no seasoning.
Once cooked you can add the flavour in some quality olive oil and a bit of vinegar.
Wrap potatoes in foil and put directly on the embers whilst everything else cooks.
No one wants average sides
Sides should never be an afterthought but they often are.
You could go for the classic potato salad, grill some Mexican Street style Corn on the Cob, baked potatoes from the coals…
It’s meant to be fun
The whole point of a barbecue is a social occasion outside in the summer sun.
So don’t overstretch yourself.
Follow these simple tips, organise and prep early.
And enjoy a fun day of cooking and being with family and friends.