Summer is fast approaching so it’s time to dust down the barbecue and dig out the tongs. Just around the corner are long summer evenings filled with friends, family, beers and smoke-filled gardens as the first steak hits the coals. Here are our top ten tips to make sure your barbecue goes off without a hitch.
1. Tools to help you become a serious barbecue connoisseur
If you want to move from beginner to seasoned barbecue chef we’ve got a few tools that will help. A long handled pair of tongs make moving heavier cuts easy and safe. The extra length of the tongs keep your arms further away from the grill, reducing the chance of any nasty burns. A temperature probe is a great investment for outdoor cooking as it can be harder to tell if meat is cooked through. Make your own herb brush to add extra flavour by gathering your chosen herbs (we like rosemary, thyme and parsley) and attaching them to the end of a wooden spoon with some twine. Simply dip the herbs in some olive oil and brush over your meats before grilling. We like to use a grilling basket when barbecuing flat fish like our whole plaice. Secure your meat or fish in the basket and place on top of the grill for an easy, even cook. And the final tool for the barbecue connoisseur are barbecue gloves. Their heat resistant material keep your hands safe from the flames so you can move hot pans and food or even rearrange the coals.
2. Preparation is everything
Working out how much meat you need is key. A sausage, a burger and a lamb skewer per person is a good starting point. If you do over-cater the leftovers make for an easy mid-week meal. Burgers and fish don’t tend to keep very well, but chicken, steak and chops do. Sausages and skewers are a great idea if you’re catering for kids. Chop up the sausages into more manageable pieces once cooked so they can eat as little or as much as they want. Cold meats, salads, pies and cheeses are guaranteed crowd pleasers. Our Somerset Cider Chorizo with Smoky Paprika is always a favourite.
3. Marinate that meat
Inject some instant flavour into your cuts by marinating them. Marinating overnight is the best way to ensure the flavours permeate the meat. Or keep things super simple and add some of our ready marinated options into your box. Don’t forget to shake off any excess marinade before the meat hits the grill, especially if it contains oil. If it’s too saucy the meat is more likely to burn or flare causing that bitter smoky flavour.
4. Avoid fridge chill
Taking the raw meat or fish out of the fridge at least 20 minutes before barbecuing gives it long enough to lose its chill and get down to room temperature. If the meat is too cold when it hits the grill there’s a danger it could burn on the outside before it’s cooked through to the middle. This is especially important with chicken, sausages and any other pork for obvious reasons. It’s still important to do this with beef burgers and steaks to ensure your meat is as rare or well done as you like it.
5. Choosing your charcoal
Charcoal choice is important. Lump charcoal is fast lighting with a burn time of around an hour, a good choice if you’re cooking a wide range of meat. Briquettes on the other hand can burn for up to three hours at a consistent temperature, making them ideal for grilling roasting joints. Charcoal can infuse different flavours into your meat depending on which tree it has come from. Charcoal created from oak trees can release subtle smoky caramel tones, while coal from orange wood carries a deep marmalade flavour that compliments duck, chicken and turkey really nicely. We like to soak oak wood chips in water and put them on the hot coals when we’re ready to barbecue. The water creates steam which sends a gorgeous oaky flavour up into the meat. This works especially well with pork, as do hickory wood chips. Try apple wood for a sweeter flavour.
6. Direct and Indirect Cooking Methods
Direct cooking is the most common method on the barbecue. It’s great for thin cuts like steaks, burgers, fish and sausages as they’re placed directly over the heat. One of the main advantages of direct cooking is the high temperatures within the barbecue create the perfect conditions for searing, resulting in great flavour and texture to the meat. Indirect cooking methods are a little more advanced than direct cooking. Place the meat next to, not directly over, the heat source. Once they’re warm separate your coals into two piles at opposite ends of the grill. Place a drip tray underneath the grill, between the coals. Your meat goes on the grill in the space over the drip tray. With this method the barbecue acts like an oven so is ideal for cuts like roasting joints that require slow cooking on a lower heat.
7. Test the meat
An obvious one but so important, especially if you’re cooking for a lot of people. It can be hard to tell how well-done meat is on the barbecue by sight alone. Be sure to cut into chicken and pork and check whether the juices run clear, or invest in a temperature probe.
8. Rest the meat
Once the meat is cooked to your liking it’s a good idea to rest it for a few minutes. This allows it to reabsorb its juices and become more tender. We like to rest our meat on a warmed, foil covered tray on the top rack of the BBQ, away from direct heat. The bigger the cut, the longer you rest it. This is also when we make sure Arthur the dog is out of the way.
9. Have your kitchen pans prepared as back-up
And finally, be prepared for the weather to turn on you. With British temperatures temperamental to say the least, have your griddle pans and oven prepped to finish off any items that get caught in a sudden downpour.
10. Our recommended cuts
We love to barbecue steak and would always recommend Ribeye as the grass fed fats are well suited to a hot grill. The fats melt, keeping the steak nice and juicy. Meat skewers are also one of our favourite things to barbecue. We would also recommend a selection of burgers. It’s nice to offer a variety of flavours alongside the traditional beef. As for vegetables, we love the classics like corn on the cob and vegetable kebabs made with pepper, courgette and tomato. If you fancy something sweet after the main event try some grilled pineapple, it’s delicious!