The days are longer and the weather’s warming up; that’s right summer’s here – and in keeping with British tradition, that can mean only one thing, a barbecue! We all love ‘em but what’s the secret to a great one? James Miller from The Cookery Tutor shares his tips for success…
As exciting as it is to light the barbecue and worry about what to cook later, a great barbecue needs a little planning. What are you going to cook? For how many people? When should it be ready?
Plan your menu and work out the timings.
Next, the fuel. If you want instant, gas is the way to go but if you want that traditional smoky, charred flavour, charcoal is the best choice. Briquettes burn the longest and give real heat but are tricky to get going; charcoal gives flavour and moderate heat but doesn’t last that long. So my suggestion is to mix the two for heat, smokiness and cooking time.
Light the barbecue about one hour before you want to start cooking. Use firelighters, newspaper or dry sticks to start with and place these on top and around to ignite the charcoal. Once the charcoal starts to turn white add the briquettes and spread them out. When it’s all white and glowing hot, it’s ready to start cooking.
Things like ribs and chicken drumsticks take more time, so you may want to pre-cook these and finish them on the barbecue. Burgers and bangers burn quickly – so move the charcoal to one side to create a cooler patch. A water spray can also help cool things down. Ensure frozen food is defrosted in the fridge
Do not follow the trend of pink burgers – mince must be fully cooked! Have some water close by – just in case!
However you do your barbecue, food safety is vital. Raw meats, cooked meats, salad and lack of water can be a recipe for disaster. To avoid poisoning everyone, try the following: 1) pre-cook your meats just before and finish on the barbecue, 2) Make sure you use different utensils for raw and cooked meats (use colour stickers), 3) Use different trays or plates for cooked and raw. 4) Try to wash your hands frequently – have a bowl of water and soap nearby or use a bacterial hand gel.
It doesn’t have to be all meat. I like roast vegetables either on kebabs or loose. Here’s how to do them: take some peppers, mushrooms, courgettes and aubergine. Cut them into large 2” cubes, place in a bowl. Add some crushed garlic, chopped rosemary, salt and pepper, then drizzle generously with olive oil. Mix, then scatter onto a foiled baking tray and bake at 200°C for 20-30mins. Then wrap in foil or place on kebabs and finish on the BBQ.
A barbecue can be a real treat with a little planning, organising and safety. Take care and enjoy
The Cookery Tutor offers cookery lessons, experiences and gift vouchers for all abilities and tastes. See www.thecookerytutor.co.uk for details.