Ready for the summer at last? Here are my top tips for the perfect barbecue this summer
When the weather is sunny, I love to make the most of it and cook on my barbecue as much as possible. It tastes great, and I love not being stuck in the kitchen cooking dinner!
I’m quite a new convert to barbecue cooking, and have only really got into it in the last few years. But our BBQ has had plenty of use this summer, and here are my tips for getting the most out of your barbecue.
Top Tips for your BBQ
Choose the right meat
Choosing beef that has a good marbling of fat through it will mean that it’s basted from the inside as it cooks. This will help to keep the steak nice and juicy.
Chicken and pork work well on the BBQ, but it’s a good idea to marinade it first and make sure you baste the meat so it doesn’t dry out.
Of course, you don’t just have to stick to meat for a barbecue. Veggie kebabs work well, as does the classic corn on the cob. And you can even grill slices of juicy pineapple for pudding.
It’s important to pick the right charcoal for your grilling requirements. Lump charcoal lights quickly and burns for around an hour, while briquettes can keep a consistent temperature for up to three hours. This makes them good for grilling large joints of meat in a covered barbecue.
And the charcoal you choose can add extra flavour to your food, so give the quick light charcoal a miss if you don’t want your food to take on the flavour of lighter fuel. Look out for oak charcoal for sweet caramel tones.
And you can even get wood chips that you soak and add to the hot coals for extra flavour.
Light it early
If you want to avoid food that’s black on the outside and raw in the middle, it’s really vital to make sure that you light your coals well before the time you plan to cook.
The coals should be mainly ash-grey on the outside by the time you are ready to cook on them. I usually light my BBQ at least 30 minutes before I start cooking.
Arranging the coals
Once your coals have been burning for about 20 minutes, you can start to arrange them ready for cooking.
Generally you will spread the coals out evenly if you are planning to cook thin cuts like steaks, burgers and sausages. Cooking like this creates high temperatures and the right conditions for searing the meat.
You can also push all of the coals over to one side of your barbecue. This creates high temperatures on one side of the grill and cooler temperatures on the other side. It’s perfect for searing the meat on the outside but allowing a slower cook, which works well for thicker cuts.
The final method involves separating the coals into two piles at either end of the grill, with a drip tray under the grill and in between the two piles of coals. Obviously, you’re going to need specialist barbecue gloves and tools to do all of this. Then you put the meat on the grill in the space above the drip tray. This method is perfect for large joints of meat that need slower cooking over a low heat.
Take the meat out early
Make sure you take meat and fish out of the fridge at least 20 minutes before you plan to cook it. This give it time to get to room temperature, and reduces the risk of it being burnt on the outside and raw in the middle.
Obviously this is vital for chicken and pork produce to avoid food poisoning. But it’s also important for steaks as it gives you better control of how well done it is.
Oil your meat
If you’re not cooking meat that has fat marbled through it, then it’s important to lightly oil the meat before you cook it. Either brush the meat with oil or use an oil-spray to make sure you don’t add too much.
You could even use a bunch of woody herbs like rosemary or thyme to brush the oil on, to give added flavour.
Marinading the meat before you cook it will also help to keep it from drying out on the grill. But be sure to shake off most of the marinade before you put it on the barbecue.
If oil or marinade drips down to the coals, your food will end up with a bitter, acrid flavour.
Test the temperature
This one is pretty important, especially if you are cooking a lot of food at different times.
It’s hard to judge how well cooked the meat is just by looking at it. So be sure to either use a temperature probe to check the internal temperature or cut into the meat to check if it’s cooked through.
If the meat is cooked on the outside but needs a little longer to cook through, push it to the outside of the grill so that it’s away from direct heat.
Rest the meat
We’re all used to resting the Sunday roast nowadays, but it’s just as important to rest your BBQ food as well. Resting the meat allows it to reabsorb its juices, making it more tender and delicious.
Either rest the meat on the top rack of your BBQ if you have one, or pop it on a plate and cover with foil for a few minutes. Bigger cuts will need longer than burgers and steaks.
Have a back up plan
The only reliable thing about the UK weather is how unreliable it is. So make sure that you have a back up plan for cooking your food in the oven or on the hob just in case it starts to rain.