Techniques, Tips and Tools
Barbecue season is here. The longest day of the year is upon us, otherwise known as the Summer Solstice, and with it comes the return of festivals, longer evenings and outdoor eating.
It may have felt that summer was already here with us, ignoring the recent thunderstorms, however summer officially starts today. The sun is out, awful t-shirt suntans already abound, and people are picnicking.
It’s grilling time
Most of us, let’s face it, are terrible at barbecuing. Chucking a few snags on the barbie and cremating them while poisoning our friends on occasion. Why do we pick this difficult method of cooking when really all we want is a beer in the sunshine?
Master of the Flame
Cooking, and cooking well over a fire, does take a little bit of skill – you can take some pride in wowing your peers by mastering a few techniques, choosing the right equipment and taking some of our tips.
Let’s get fired up!
1 Choose the right barbecue
Sounds easy right? Firstly, don’t choose a gas barbecue. There’s nothing wrong with them but you may as well shove the food in the oven. You don’t get that extra smoky flavour you get from decent charcoal.
Stick a lid on it. Lock in that flavour, keep the temperature just right and, when you start getting adventurous, use it for those advanced techniques – such as getting that cheese melted!
How often have we grabbed a bag of charcoal from a station forecourt, thinking ‘that’ll do (pig)’? Being prepared will make all the difference though as the fuel you use dramatically changes the taste of your food. Lump-wood charcoal is highly recommended, natural and full of flavoursome goodness.
Going Pro? Add some fruity wood chips, like cherry or apple. Oak and hickory taste great too. Just soak in water before chucking them on.
Don’t forget to wait for the flames to die down – you want white hot coals (glowing and grey). ‘Flame-grilled’ really isn’t what you want. And if you’ve used a firelighter or fluid, it allows this to burn off and not spoil the taste of your grub.
3 Easy cleaning
We all hate cleaning so a little student tip here. Lining the base of the barbie with some foil gives you the quickest clean-up. Pop some on any trays you’re using too, will save you a few minutes every time.
4 Becoming Lord of the Tong
Tools! Get the right ones. A decent fish slice, heavy glove and the all-important pair of tongs. Stop losing that sausage down the grill. Get something that lets you flip and turn easily.
5 Homemade burgers
They are just so much better than anything you can buy in a supermarket. Buy some mince with a decent amount of fat and add it to some minced chuck or flank, your local butcher will help you out. Even if you just add salt & pepper, you’ll have the juiciest and tastiest of burgers.
Add other seasoning when feeling adventurous, garlic or chilli work very well or even adding caramelised onions or other veggies. We love them pink in the middle but feel free to cook right through.
6 Test and Rest
Again, simple tips. Make sure that meat is cooked, beef is perfect with red juices but chicken not so much, you want it clean and clear.
Rest it. We all want to jump on that tasty food but leaving that meat on a foil-lined metal tray for a moment allows it to reabsorb those tasty juices and become even more tender. Quick cleaning with the foil too!
7 Feeling fishy?
Don’t forget how great smoke and fish are together. We all love smoked salmon, don’t we? Jam a bunch of lemon and herbs inside a whole trout, peppered of course. Wrap in soaked newspaper if you’re feeling fancy, and cook.
Wrap some scallops in bacon, skewer and lightly grill. A fantastic winner with any group of friends, and you look like a barbecue hero.
The barbie isn’t just for us carnivores. Vegetables are amazing when cooked properly on a barbecue, just get your techniques in order.
Get those sliced veggies charred along the bars, it looks great and tastes amazing. No oil or seasoning until cooked, and then drizzle with oil and vinegar.
You won’t know you love barbecued lettuce until you try it. It’s good.
9 Marinades, Sauces and Rubs
When it says ‘leave to marinade overnight’ then leave it overnight, or for as long as possible. That smoke will override anything subtle so give it a big punch of flavour. Rubs and glazes work just as well, even add it while cooking for an additional hit – it will help hold in moisture while cooking too.
Forget the supermarket ketchup. If you’re spending all this time preparing and cooking, marinating and glazing then give your grub something special. There are a host of amazing sauces available in every supermarket these days.
Prepare in advance and never leave as an afterthought! We don’t normally look for a balanced meal while barbecuing, beer and a burger goes down a treat, but try something extra.
Potato salad, a classic. Corn on the cob. Simple couscous. A decent salad. Fill your chops with goodness as well as great cuts of meat.
Don’t forget to give a beer to the guy stood next to a screaming heat source on an already-hot day. Fabulous.