CALLING all grill- seekers – it’s barbecue time.
Chances are your hopes of firing up the barbie were dashed by bouts of rain over the Bank Holiday weekend. Well, your expertly marinated meat need not go to waste.
National BBQ Week is in full swing and runs until Sunday. The kids are on half term and the weather is getting better – with meteorologists predicting temperatures rising from a high of 17C today to hit 26C by the weekend.
So now is the time to dust down your grill and plan for your best barbecue ever. We’ve gathered top tips from telly chefs to get you fired up.
Starting the barbie
TO get the party started quickly, use a chimney starter, you can get one for £10. Rocker turned foodie Alex James said: “You simply fill it with charcoal, place it on the grill on top of a couple of lit firelighters and wait until all the coals are glowing.
It saves a lot of time and you’ll soon master the art of filling the chimney direct from the charcoal bag without getting your hands dirty. Once all the charcoal is lit pour the whole lot into the barbecue, ensuring they are evenly spread – a heatproof glove is another worthwhile investment.”
Use wood chips as well as charcoal. Alex adds: “Gas grills are a lot less bother but I love a real fire. Charcoal is the ultimate barbecue fuel, it smells sweet when it burns and the heat is not as fierce as with briquettes. It’s worth investing in a bag or two of wood chips as well.
There are all sorts on the market from oak and cherry to hickory flavoured with Bourbon. You only need a small handful to add bags of flavour. I normally soak a cupful in hot water when I light the coals and chuck them on the coals during cooking.”
Think carefully about location. It is worth putting your barbecue near the kitchen, so you can avoid trotting back and forth all day. Most experts advise keeping it at least ten feet from the house to avoid fires.
Wait until the charcoal is white and a crust of ash has formed. The flames should have died down before cooking – you don’t want to burn your meat.
Heston Blumenthal suggests adding fresh herbs to the charcoal to boost flavour. He said: “Throw some fresh herbs on the charcoal while cooking, spritzing with water every so often to add a fragrant smoke.”
Preparing the meat
ALEX suggests making an easy sauce for BBQ meat. Chimichurri is made with parsley, garlic, salt and oil. He says: “Finely chop parsley and garlic, season with salt and add glugs of olive oil until you get a pesto consistency.”
Most people don’t plan a BBQ in advance, many take advantage of the good weather and get straight on it. If you don’t get a chance to marinate your meat the night before, try massaging it before it hits the grill. Rub all over with a BBQ sauce.
Italian chef Aldo Zilli has a top tip for ensuring sausages don’t burn or split on the barbecue. He says: “If I’m cooking sausages I always boil them in hot water first to cook the inside and release all the fat.”
If making burgers from scratch, do NOT add salt to the mince – it will extract moisture from the meat and result in dry burgers. Instead, sprinkle a little flaky sea salt on to the patty right before you put it on the grill.
Aldo suggests marinating beef in Coca-Cola. He said: “It really breaks all the nerves and cells of the meat – making it really tender.”
You’ll be surprised what some seasoning and a minute on the grill will do to veg[/caption]
CORN on the cob is a barbecue staple. Soak the corn in a large bowl of water for half an hour before wrapping in foil. Cook over the barbecue for 25 to 30 minutes.
Most veg is delicious grilled over the coals – and the grill marks look fantastic. Slice up some peppers, courgette, aubergine or long-stemmed broccoli and cook away.
For zero-effort carbs bake a sweet potato. Rub the taters with oil and salt and wrap in a double layer of foil. Place directly on to the coals. Cook until soft, turning with a pair of tongs.
Offset the meaty flavours by preparing a bright coleslaw, which pairs well with burgers and bangers. Add grated apple and Cheddar cheese to the traditional mix of grated carrots, shredded cabbage and mayonnaise.
Transform singed veg by mashing up 150g of butter with the zest of two limes, a chopped chilli, 100g of feta and some coriander. Mix together with a little salt.
A GREAT snack to make on the BBQ is popcorn. Twist kernels in foil and throw on the coals – they will start popping in no time.
Flatbreads are great paired with barbecued meat or dipped in chimichurri. Make a simple dough out of 500g strong white flour, 10g salt and a 7g sachet of yeast. Add 3tbsp of olive oil, 300ml water and mix. Turn it out on to a floured board and knead for five to ten minutes, until it feels smooth and silky.
Put in a bowl, cover with a warm tea towel and leave to rise for an hour. Tip the dough out again and fold until all the air has been knocked out. Tear off a golf ball-sized piece and shape into a flat disc – throw it on the barbecue and cook for 30 seconds or so on each side. It should puff up.
Keep the kids happy with cheesy fries. Wrap oven chips in a twist of foil with grated cheddar, bacon bits and spring onion – throw on the barbie until melted.
Sear citrus fruit over the coals to add punch to your meat. Slice lemons and limes in half and char over the flame. Squeeze them over cooked meat or vegetables.
How to cook
ALEX James says you should think beyond sausages and burgers – fruit can be delicious after a grilling. He said: “Pineapple slices are great with chicken. Just flip them around like burgers. They get sweeter and juicer when you cook them – kids love them. Watermelon slices are great too, cut them into big, chunky steaks and sear on each side.”
Aldo Zilli has a top recipe for BBQ chicken. Take lemon, olive oil, chilli, sundried tomato paste, basil, garlic and sea salt. Blend them all together then rub over your chicken the night before cooking, cover with cling film in the fridge.
Rather than using a brush to add oil to meat while cooking, use woody herbs. Chef Nigel Slater says the bristles on a brush can easily melt, so use a few sprigs of thyme or rosemary, which also adds bags of flavour.
Jamie Oliver is a big fan of putting fish on a barbecue. Take a whole trout and stuff with lemon, dill and pepper. Throw some wood chips on the coals for a smoky flavour.Lots of people don’t turn their meat. But Heston Blumenthal says a bit of flipping is essential. He suggests turning a steak every 15 seconds to stop the juices dripping out. Cook for two minutes for medium rare.
On a similar note, the late chef Anthony Bourdain warned against one of the biggest barbie mistakes. He said to never press meat with a spatula, as you are just squeezing all the delicious juices on to the coals.
Delia Smith says many people overcook meat on the barbie. Try cooking chicken in the oven and finishing over the coals for the authentic taste.
Indulge your inner caveman by grilling fish on a plank of wood. Soak a piece of cedar in water for an hour and place on the grill, you can put salmon directly on to the board. The plank will singe, but don’t panic – this is how you get the signature smoky flavour. The water means it won’t catch.
To stop halloumi sticking to the bars, dust with flour before putting on the barbecue. Lots of people miss a crucial step when building a burger – not toasting the buns. Baps can be put right on to the grill.
SPRUCE up gin and tonic by adding a splash of elderflower cordial.
A margarita is a fair-weather classic. Mix one part tequila with a half measure of triple sec and a half part of lime juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Roll the rim of a chilled glass in salt and pour in.
Red wine pairs well with fatty meats like steak – but also try bourbon with ginger ale in a tall glass filled with ice. Garnish with a slice of lime.
GRILL peach slices and serve with vanilla ice cream.
Slice a banana in half and stuff with a Mars bar. Wrap it in foil and cook until it is gooey, hot and sweet.
Thread marshmallows and strawberries on skewers for a sweet kebab.
You can also make an easy chocolate dip for barbecued fruit by melting chocolate in a ramekin over the grill.
CLEAN your barbecue regularly – any sticky build-ups could catch fire.
Hopefully you’ve got the barbie out on a hot day. Don’t forget to wear sun cream and a hat to avoid burning yourself.
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Don’t be tempted to place your barbecue under a porch or wooden overhang – yes, you might get wet if it rains, but the structure above could easily catch fire.
Keep a small spray bottle of water handy. If you do get a minor flare-up you can take care of it instantly.
Don’t leave the barbecue unattended. A fire will double in size in a minute, meaning a small fire could easily get out of hand while you nip in for another beer.
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