BBQ Basics: Top cooking tips
When the sun is shining, there's nothing better than a barbecue to bring friends and family together over great food and conversation. Here’s our top tips to get the best out of your charcoal barbeque and impress your guests.
First thing: always wash your hands before and after handling food. Also remember to keep raw meat separate from cooked meat and ready-to-eat foods like salads. Additionally you should always try and keep any food covered when possible.
Start by putting a really good layer of charcoal into the bottom of the barbecue. You can also add some newspaper, firelighters or lighter fluid to get it going. If you’re still struggling get the flames started, grab an empty egg box and fill it with charcoal bricks. It's much quicker and easier.
Split level fire
Once the flames die down and the coals are white hot, you can get started on cooking! A good way to maximise the use of your BBQ is to create a split-level fire. This means having a single layer of coal one side and three to four deep the other, allowing one side to be cooler than the other. This means you can adjust cooking temperatures simply by moving the food.
TOP TIP: If you prefer your food less charred, then try indirect grilling. Place a pan in the centre of the BBQ with the hot coals around it, placing the grill rack on top as usual. Cooking your food over the pan below means fat will drip into the pan, instead of hitting the coals and creating large flames that give food that charred appearance and flavour.
If you don’t have a rack with three different heights on to vary the cooking time, simply shuffle your grilling food around from hot patches to cooler parts of the rack, or place the food on foil to slow things down.
Invest in two types of tongs
One set with grips for turning and handling food - and another with insulated handles for handling and turning coals. This way, your food won't get dusty and the food grease won't make the coals flare up.
Stay with your barbecue
Stay for as long as you are grilling, to get the best results and stay safe. You won't get lonely, barbeque chefs never do! There are always a handful of - invariably male - guests who huddle around giving cooking advice. Barbecuing is theatre.
Test for 'doneness'
Using a small sharp knife, cut into the centre of the meat (down to the bone if there is one), to check that the flesh is cooked and juices are running clear. For flaky fish, such as salmon, press the flesh with your finger or a fork to check that the flakes come apart, indicating it’s cooked.
Rest the meat
Resting meats after barbecuing is an important part too, as leaving it to rest for a few minutes allows the meat sinews to reabsorb the juices. Rest the meat on a warmed tray on the top rack of the oven or away from the direct heat covered with perforated foil.
Caring for your BBQ
Once cold, remove the grill rack and scrub with a wire brush to remove any residue left from food, then wash with a sponge and soapy water. Remove the ash with a brush, then clean the rest of the BBQ with oven cleaner to remove any burnt-on deposits.