There’s an art to barbecuing – any veteran will tell you that. It may be winter now, but that’s no excuse to not go out there and grill. In fact, it gives you perfect practise time for all those summer family gatherings and parties. Whether you already have some experience in the field or are a complete barbecue newbie, this guide ought to help answer any of the questions you’ve ever had about barbecuing but been too afraid to ask.
What kind of barbecue should I use?
There are multiple types of outdoor cooking appliances to choose from. Despite what you may here, no type is really superior, so you can choose which one suits you the most. Here are some of the types:
The Disposable Barbecue
This single use barbecue is the cheapest of the bunch. It runs on charcoal and has one use, making it perfect for camping trips or a picnics or uni get-togethers but useless for everything else.
The Charcoal Barbecue
The traditional method of outdoor cooking, this barbecue type takes a bit of maintenance but is generally cheaper to buy than its gas and electric counterparts. You get to play with real fire – which may be a bonus to some, a scary deterrent to others. Charcoal barbecues have to manually lit and preheated for at least twenty minutes – sometimes an hour. Keeping the temperature at the same level is difficult. Cleaning is also a bummer – you have to empty the ash after use. However, due to being more natural, you’re guaranteed a smoky flavour every time. Those who like the challenge a charcoal barbecue presents may also prefer this method.
The Gas Barbecue
Whilst there are very affordable models out there, gas barbecues are generally more expensive to buy. On top of that you have to regularly replace gas. If something goes wrong with a gas barbecue, it’s also less easy to fix. That said its much quicker to use and easier to clean. Don’t be put off by your old-skool uncle who thinks gas barbecues are ‘lazy’. A bit of convenience can be everything you need to take the stress away from a garden party. As for the smoky flavour, you can buy woodchips and put them in a smoker box to recapture the taste of a charcoal barbecue.
Hi-tech grills and smokers
Like every other appliance, barbecues have gone futuristic. The pellet grill has become popular in recent years – a gas powered barbecue that feeds in wooden pellets and smokes your food without you even having to chop up and collect wood. On top of this there are a multitude of electric smokers (find out more about the best electric smokers here). Of course, these types of barbecue are a lot more expensive, but their convenience and capabilities make up for this. You no longer have to spend half the evening chained to the barby – you can walk away and chat with your guest, maybe even pop down to the pub with them and pay a game of pool, come back and the smoker will have cooked it all for you.
What food to grill?
You can grill practically anything. Everyone is familiar with burgers, steaks and sausages – but did you know that you can also barbecue bacon? You can even grill cheese and have a bacon double cheese burger in which all the components are grilled.
A few tasty meat dishes include pork with caramelised onions, teriyaki beef kebabs and roadside chicken. You can buy a lot of food pre-caramelized and pre-sauced, or you can marinate it yourself.
When it comes to fish, nothing beats salmon. Other steaky fish such as swordfish and tuna also work well. These fish also work well slow-smoked. Avoid thin fish that are likely to fall apart.
Vegetarians meanwhile needn’t stick wholly to quorn substitutes. There are many vegetables that taste great grilled including corn on the cob (with the husk still on). Peppers, green beans, carrots and onions also all taste a hundred times tastier when grilled.
Feel free to get as experimental as you can. You’ll soon be grilling everything you can get your hand on from pizza to bananas. Generally as a rule, avoid soft foods that are likely to fall apart and anything too flimsy or small to sit on a grill.
Tips and tricks
There are many pro-tips for maintaining your barbecue and for creating tasty food.
The first things you should never do is use lighter fluid to light a barbecue. Whilst it might seem like an easy method to get the flames roaring it will give your food a chemically taste.
Clean your grill the morning before use with a brass-wire brush. Leave the grease on there after use, this will prevent the grill from rusting. If you have a cover you may not need to do this.
Don’t keep flipping items during the cooking process. Ideally, each piece of food only needs one flip. By continuously flipping you may lose a lot of the juices (particularly with meat), making the food less succulent. The spatula and the tongs are the best tools to flip with – a fork will let out juices. Tasty barbecued food is all about preserving the juicy insides but making the outside crisp.
To bring out the smoky flavour on a charcoal barbecue, throw in some wood chips. These work even better if you soak them first. Be careful of which woods you’re using – MDF and veneered wood will have glues and chemicals in. The best firewood is natural logs or specially designed pellets. If you’re using a gas barbecue, put these woodchips in a smoker box. Instructions should be able to tell you where on your barbecue to place this box.
When using herbs, you can often put these in with the charcoal too. The herbs will rise with the smoke and become infused with the food. This can create a potent smoky flavour that’s sure to wow your guests and have them hailing you as a barbecue master.