Us Brits love a bank holiday barbie and with this glorious weather we’re having, it’s time to dust the cobwebs off your grill, crack open some beers and get cooking. Though we can’t prepare your marinades and coal for you, we have prepared these tips on how to elevate the humble barbeque into something exciting and delicious. Here’s 10 IDEAL tips for triumphant barbeques at home this Bank Holiday.
INGREDIENTS ARE KING
If you buy a cheap sausage and a dusty bun, don’t expect fireworks of flavour. Take the time to go to a local butchers, buy a really nice cut which is suited well to grilling (your butcher will be happy to point you in the right direction) and less really is more. The ingredients will sing and you’ll waste less time and money on elaborate dips, salsas, salads and anything else needed to cover up the taste of lousy meat.
If you wish to permeate the middle of a thick joint of meat, or tenderise a tougher cut, marinating is essential. Kick this off a day early for best results, but be careful with more delicate meats – acidic marinades will start to cook them, salty ones will cure them. It’s advisable to boil off the alcohol if using wine to marinate – the flavor of raw alcohol brings nothing positive.
GAS DOESN’T CUT IT
Choosing the right vehicle for cooking is vital. Gas, whilst being easier to moderate, doesn’t impart the essence of the barbeque into your flavours. The whole purpose is to taste smoke and char – it’s primitive and unpredictable and that’s the fun! Natural fire lighters are preferable as chemical varieties impart an unwelcome aroma to the food. If you’re feeling adventurous, flavoured wood chips – such as hickory – add real sparkle and intrigue to the final product. That said, if you’re choosing a portable one for camping, natural gas and propane grills are a lot easier to transport.
Once you’ve opted for coal it’s important to understand the basics of temperature control. The first thing is to let the coals get really hot – white hot – before commencing. From there, a number of small tricks help you raise and lower the heat according to necessity.
If using a lid, open vents will promote greater heat and closed will lead to cooling. Even more basic, toying with the height of your grill will moderate temperature. Tactical positioning of coals, for instance all forced to one side, will also give greater scope for heat variance.
A light spray of water from a bottle will dampen excitable flames.
Seasoning at the start of the cooking process and the end have very different effects, so pay really close attention to this aspect. Never, ever use a spoon for salt, simply use your fingers – you’ll have far more control and awareness of how much you’re using. To give depth of flavour, season early. When the meat comes off the barbie, a few flakes of rock salt will give a different, delicious finish.
Glazing during the cooking process – usually a sweet mixture applied with a brush – encourages caramelisation of meat. Chefs are always looking for the elusive Maillard reaction, which gives browned food its distinctive flavour, and glazing is a good way to achieve this.
Honey based glazes with touches of sourness and zest from citrus work brilliantly with pork and poultry.
IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE MEAT
Charred, smoky notes suit vegetables really, really well. There’s nothing better than seeing a few black lines scorched across a courgette. Equally, some firmer cheeses, like halloumi, hold up very well to flames and are ever popular if you’re having vegetarians round. Lightly blanching veg, shocking it in ice water and then finishing it on the grill works every time.
A few ideas for amazing veg on the barbeque….
- Lightly blanche some asparagus spears then shock in iced water. Brush them with olive oil then grill until lightly charred. Serve with a poached egg. Delicious simplicity.
- Make a few incisions into an aubergine and insert small slivers of garlic. Wrap in foil and place in amongst the coals. After roughly an hour, take the out the now smoked aubergine and cut in half. Scoop out the middle and mix with a little greek yoghurt, some dill and a touch of toasted cumin. Crush with a fork to make a wonderful puree.
- Heat up a pan with olive oil a few centimetres deep. Quarter a bulb of fennel, and cut a small triangle out of the core where it appears pithy and and tough. Confit the fennel in the oil on a low heat for around 45 minutes, making sure it maintains its structure. Finish over the barbeque until lightly caramelised. So good.
Once you’ve got your good-quality meat, don’t just chuck it with the same old stuff. Different meats are elevated by different vegetables, herbs and so on.
For example, the aubergine puree above, as well as rosemary, pairs wonderfully with lamb. The fennel works with grilled fish, tomatoes and rocket.
Try to be seasonal and use ingredients when they’re at their peak. This handy guide should help.
INVEST IN A THERMOMETER
You won’t know if a big rib of beef, for instance, is done by looking at, smelling or prodding it. Meat thermometers are cheap and allow for precision cooking.
When heat touches meat, all the delicious juices that give amazing flavour and texture hurry to the middle of the cut to hide. After cooking, meat needs an ample amount of time to rest so the juices can re-disperse outward. It’s heartbreaking when you cut into your carefully cooked cut and blood runs everywhere – you know it’ll be dry and tasteless. Rest well for perfection.