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.

Direct heat

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.


  • 8 whole chicken thighs and drumsticks
  • 12 sausages


  • 200g American mustard
  • 75g soft light brown sugar
  • 75ml apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp garlic granules
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • a few dashes hot sauce


  • coleslaw
  • corn on the cob


  • STEP 1

    The day before or several hours before starting your barbecue, heat the oven to 160C/fan 140C/gas 3. Season the chicken all over, put onto a baking tray skin-side up and roast for 40 minutes. After 25 minutes, add the sausages. Cool until room temperature, then chill. Remove from the fridge 15 minutes before cooking on the barbecue.

  • STEP 2

    To make the BBQ sauce, put all of the ingredients into a small pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, then cool and chill.

  • STEP 3

    Heat a barbecue to high with the coals banked up on one side. If using a gas barbecue, leave the burners off on one side. Put the sausages and chicken skin-side down over the hot side for 5-10 minutes or until golden and charred, then flip and repeat on the other side.

  • STEP 4

    Pour two-thirds of the BBQ sauce into a bowl and use a pastry brush to coat the sausages and chicken all over with the sauce. Cook and turn every 30 seconds-1 minute for 4-5 minutes or until charred, caramelised and heated through completely. Serve with the remaining BBQ sauce on the side, coleslaw and corn on the cobs.


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