How to cook on a barbecue
There's more to barbecuing than just chucking some sausages on a grill. Our deputy editor Lulu Grimes has put together a guide for the techniques you need for a winning barbecue. Your friends and family will thank you.
Season your ingredients well on both sides; this will make a flavourful crust.
Use far more salt and pepper than you think necessary – lots of it will bounce off anyway.
You need to stay with your barbecue, you can’t just slap food on and walk away. Keep half an eye on the coals at all times – if they start to flare up when fat drips on them, move the food that’s directly over the flames away, until they die down, unless you want a burned flavour.
Move food that looks as if it’s starting to overcook on the outside to an area with a lower heat, and remember that your food will continue cooking after you’ve taken it off the heat. Move ingredients when they need it, and not until then.
Meat should have released itself from the grill so you’ll be able to turn it easily. Don’t worry about making grill-marks, what you want on meat is a nice crust, not char marks and uneven cooking.
Use a thermometer to check the internal temperature of meat; it’s the quickest and safest way to see if anything is cooked. Chefs do it, you should too. As always, rest meat before serving it.
Mince for burgers should be fatty, 15-20% ideally. Lean meat will make a dry burger. If you use chicken or turkey, add some fat or make them thin and cook them fast. Season the meat and form the mince into loosely packed patties so it doesn’t turn into a solid clump that you can’t get your teeth through. Make a dip in the
centre of each. If you don’t, it will dome in the centre as the the meat expands. Season both sides of the burger before cooking.
A word about chicken
Chicken has a different texture to other meat, so cooks in a different way. Cook whole spatch-cocked birds over indirect heat with their legs closest to the heat source. Add any sauce or baste at the end and scrape off any excess marinade, or the outside will burn long before the chicken is cooked.
If you’re cooking chicken breasts, pound them to the same thickness all over so they cook evenly. 30 minutes in brine will help them along, and an oiled grill will stop them sticking.
You should have whole fish ready at room temperature in time for your grill being hot, and remember to oil the skin. The grill should also be oiled and very hot to make it non-stick. Cook the fish with the spine facing the hottest part of the barbecue, and don’t turn it over until the skin releases easily from the grill.
If you use a fish grill, make sure it’s cleaned and oiled. Pieces of fish can be grilled in the same way, but pick the type of fish with care: you need thick cuts of firm fish that won’t fall apart as soon as they’re cooked.
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