Charcoal, charcoal, charcoal. Although gas is my top choice for a kitchen hob, it’s definitely not my first choice for barbequing. I do completely get the convenience of a gas BBQ (as long as you don’t forget to replace the gas bottle!). It’s easy to clean and quick to heat up, but to be honest I would rather wait. You know, drink some wine, hang out with friends. Why am I such a fan of charcoal? Flavour!
Burning charcoals give that charred flavour to your barbeque goodies. Enhance the flavour even more by throwing a handful of fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage or marjoram directly onto the burning coals. It will send fabulous mouth-watering savoury aromas wafting around the garden, as well as helping flavour the food even more. You can now buy flavoured wood-chips, which are in fact suitable for gas barbeques too.
The best kept charcoal barbequing secret is a Weber chimney starter. Set the coals alight quickly and easily in the metal funnel. They take a speedy 20 minutes to heat up and then tip them into your barbie and off you go. There is no need to use chemical lighter fluid either, hurrah!
Have utensils at the ready – you don’t necessarily have to buy a special barbeque set (unless you need the long handles to stretch across a particularly wide barbeque). In fact I find them hard to use. I just love my regular long handled kitchen tongs. My top tip is to have two sets – one for raw and one for cooked meats, marking each set with different colour sticky tape to distinguish, if you don’t have fancy coloured ones. A fish slice is handy for flipping burgers and lifting wobbly things off and then a brush is ideal for brushing marinade over food while cooking.
Take meat out of the fridge about 20-30 minutes (depending on size) before cooking to bring it to room temperature. This doesn’t mean leaving it sitting out in sweltering sunshine though! Keep it in the shade of the kitchen and keep it covered from flies.
Speaking of marinades, be careful if buying ready made ones. Often they come laced with a cocktail of artificial additives and just taste down right chemically in my opinion. Besides, it’s so easy and cheap to make your own. A basic start is a good splash of olive oil, salt and pepper, squeeze in some lemon or lime juice if you fancy and then go for your life with your own combinations of herbs and / or spices. Or be even more adventurous and try Asian flavours like fish sauce, ginger, coriander and chillies. Also, you could try BBQ style with ketchup, honey, Worcestershire sauce and garlic etc. Easy peasy, yummy scrummy! Marinade overnight if possible, but to be honest I’m sometimes cooking lastminute.com and the flavour can still be good having marinaded for a short amount of time.
Don’t brush your marinade, as it is, onto barbequing meat and end up a food poisoning statistic. Remember the raw meat has been sitting in it! So, once the meat is out of the marinade, pour it into a small pan and bubble it for a few minutes, until piping hot and those raw meat bugs have been killed. This also helps to thicken the marinade. Now, it’s safer and easier to brush it onto the cooking meat.
Make sure your meat is fully cooked, unless it’s really fresh and you intend on serving it pink – just make sure it is completely browned all over the outside. Be careful not to overcook your meat either though!
Meat isn’t the only thing you can barbeque of course – not forgetting veggies, some cheeses, fish, bread and fruit.
Invest in a patio heater if you plan for the party to carry on into the night!
Bamboo candle holders are a gorgeous way to line a path in the garden or even just for exotic atmosphere! Fill them with citronella candles or oil to help keep the bugs away.
Don’t forget to get the beer, wine and spirits on ice in plenty of time – a bin full of ice isn’t always classy but works a treat.
Finally, the boring bit. Invest in a wire brush to make cleaning the grill tray easier. In fact, use this to carefully scrape any bits that might be burning while you are cooking. It’s so worth not forgetting to clean out the barbeque, waiting until the next day once it’s completely cooled down, so as to avoid any nasty surprises the next time you get barbeque fever!
Photo © Elisha Clarke