Top Tips for Alfresco Cooking
Do you know someone who is a master at BBQing? A quick straw poll here at Bell revealed that most of us feel that we are novices at best – whether cremating the sausages, overcooking the steak or trying not to give our friends food poisoning!
Whether cooking over fire or gas, there are some hints and tips that can help you up your game to the Master Chef of outdoor cooking!
The right tools for the job!
‘A bad workman blames his tools’ so the saying goes. Well in the case of BBQs,
he could have a point!
Your first choice is charcoal or gas. Flavour wise, if you want that traditional, smoky barbecue taste it’s got to be charcoal. If you do prefer cooking on gas, but you still want to get a smoky flavour, you can buy smoking chips especially for gas BBQs.
Whatever your cooking fuel, the main thing you need is a lid. It will allow you to keep the temperature constant and helps to lock in flavour.
You should also consider how you want to use your BBQ. Do you just want a simple grill, or do you want the ability to grill and smoke for example? How big does your grill need to be? If you do a lot of entertaining, a larger grill area will be beneficial.
A good set of tools will also help. We recommend a pair of tongs, a spatula and a wire brush.
Use good fuel
Rather than rushing to the nearest petrol station and grabbing whatever charcoal they have in stock, be prepared and have some ready for when the sun makes an appearance. The charcoal you use can make a huge difference.
We recommend lumpwood charcoal because it gives the best flavour – it’s the kind that looks like burnt wood. You can also add wood chips to your charcoal to give additional flavours.
Clean your grill grate
If your grill is clean you’re much less likely to get food sticking during cooking. Get a grill brush and, after you’ve heated your bbq give the grill it a good brush to remove any remains for the last cooking sessions. Then dip some kitchen roll in oil and wipe it evenly over the cooking area.
When’s the right time to start cooking?
Don’t rush to put your food on! On a charcoal grill, you need to wait for any flames to die down and for the coals to be grey and glowing. Once they are, you’ll have the hottest and most even heat and you’re ready to get started.
Get the temperature bang on
With a gas barbecue, controlling the heat is easily done with the turn of a dial, but how do you judge on a charcoal one?
Some barbecues come with a temperature gauge, however if yours doesn’t, you can test the heat with your hand. Hold your palm about 12cm/5” above the grill and see how long you can comfortably keep it there:
6 seconds = low heat
4 seconds = medium heat
2 seconds = high heat
A good tip is to create heat zones – high for searing, medium/low for cooking. For gas bbqs, have one side on high heat and one side on a lower heat. If you have a round bbq, pile the charcoal in the centre to create a high heat zone the outsides will be a lower heat. If you have a rectangular bbq, use the half and half method.
Use a marinade!
When BBQing, try to marinate for as long as possible beforehand and also save some of the marinade to brush over your meat or fish whilst you are cooking. This will help to hold the flavour of the marinade in the meat and will also add moisture and trap the smoky flavour.
Avoid the flames
As juices drop from your meat or fish on to the charcoal, you are likely to get flaming. If this happens try the following to prevent the black, burnt look:
• Move food from the hot zone to a lower heat zone until the flames have gone down
• Close the lid (and if cooking on charcoal, close the top and bottom vents). This will deprive the fire of oxygen.
• Try to resist poking, stabbing or piercing your meat with a fork to check if it’s done – more juices will escape which will feed the flames and make your meat drier.
• Use a spatula or tongs to move/turn your food.
Clean the grill when you’ve finished
Give the grate a clean whilst it is still hot to remove burnt on bits of food.