It can be tricky cooking food on a barbecue, but the secret to getting it right lies in clever planning and some simple know-how. From the importance of pre-cooking meat to banking coals and the beauty of a fiery, smoky-sweet glaze, get these right and your barbecue game will become unbeatable.
Planning your BBQ
It’s important to plan exactly what and when you want to eat your BBQ food. Schedule the pre-cooking of the meat into your day, as well as the time it takes to prepare, light and heat the coals of the barbecue so you don’t end up eating much later than planned.
Pre-cooking meat for the BBQ
Avoid raw-in-the-middle meat at a barbecue by giving it a spell in the oven first. You may think this is cheating or will
result in a drier end result but pre-cooking at a low heat raises the internal temperature of the meat very slowly. This ensures it will be fully cooked yet still juicy and tender once it’s left the barbecue grill. This is a technique most restaurants employ – pre-cooking and then finishing for service reduces the time customers have to wait for food and the hands-on cooking time without any effect on the finished product.
Banking the coals
Cooking over the ferocious heat of a barbecue is challenging and can get out of control quite easily. A good way to prevent this is to bank the hot coals up on one side so you create a cooler zone on the other. This means you can rotate things around if some bits are cooking faster than others, and have a place for keeping food warm while you finish the rest.
The direct heat of a barbecue can be upwards of 300C when really raging. This causes the sugars and enzymes on the
surface of the meat to caramelise – known as the Maillard reaction – which results in deliciously savoury, umami meat. The other benefit of a barbecue is the smoky aromatic character it brings to food. Fat, marinade and cooking juices all drip down onto the hot coals or gas flame, creating smoke that will impart flavour to what you’re cooking.
Glazing meat for the BBQ
A great way to take your barbecuing up a notch is to make a glaze that will give everything a glossy flavour boost at the end. It could be as simple as some oil, lemon juice, crushed garlic and oregano, or the smoky, sweet and fiery BBQ sauce opposite. Glazes are usually best added at the end as they tend to burn, so make sure meat or veg is fully cooked, then baste everything to get it super glossy.