Now that summer has arrived (and if the weather offers a suitable opportunity), there is nothing more tempting than to plan a barbecue. For complete beginners, this involves a certain amount of nervousness, as knowing to light a barbecue, and how long meat needs to be cooked for, take a bit of practice. Fortunately, these skills are easily developed through practice. The first steps to delicious, perfectly grilled food depend on what type of barbeque you have chosen.
Charcoal or Gas?
There are plenty of different charcoal or gas models available, depending on the size of your garden, your budget, and the number of people in your party.
- Prices range from a few pounds to hundreds
- Can get very hot, as charcoal cooks by indirect heat produced by combustion, which cannot be controlled easily
- Has to be lit manually and takes time to reach cooking temperature
- Produces an authentic, smoky flavour, particularly using flavoured wood chips on the charcoal
- Kettle-shaped charcoal barbecues help to retain heat much better than the disposable types
- Units are more complex and more expensive
- Easy to clean and store
- Convenient, controllable temperature
- Can use wood chips to produce flavour
- Most are equipped with a hood to help retain heat on windy days
General Cooking Rules
- No matter which type you buy, you need to begin by pre-heating the barbeque. Charcoal units take a little longer, but try not to use lighter fuel to accelerate the heat as this will taint the food. Leave to warm up for 10-20 minutes before applying food
- Wipe your grill with a paper towel and a drop of oil, preferably with a high flashpoint, like canola. This will stop the meat from sticking to the grill
- Place your food according to how long it needs to cook – thicker sausages and chops need to be in the centre of the grill, but vegetables and kebabs can be moved off to the side, where they will cook more slowly
- Take your time – nobody likes undercooked food, and nor do they appreciate carbonised sausages. Observe cooking times and don’t be afraid to sacrifice a few pieces of meat to test how well they have been cooked.
Tips and Hints
- Meat cooks best when it retains its juices. Never use a fork to turn your food as it will puncture it – use tongs instead. Aim to turn the meat once during the cooking process.
- Never squeezed food or press it down with the tongs – it will lose moisture.
- Remember to use herbs such as rosemary. Herbs released fragrant oils when they cook and help to flavour the food.
- If you have prepared marinade, use this last of all so that it does not have time to burn.
- Let thicker cuts of meat and steaks settle for about five minutes before serving – this gives the meat time to relax and makes it easier to cut.
The only thing that will be hard to choose is the menu – some of your guests may be vegetarian, so take that into account before cooking. There are literally thousands of amazing dishes that can be prepared on the barbeque, so don’t be afraid to experiment.
Written by Sam Luther, a gardening blogger.
Photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/knittymarie/4962679603/