Here are our top BBQ tips – how to make the most out of your BBQ this summer. The barbecue is a versatile cooking tool, it’s an oven and smoker as well as a fierce grill, and we don’t think we’ve been harnessing its true potential. With a bit of planning and care, you can create something truly magical – and here’s how.
Start early. Light the coals or get the gas barbecue up to temperature, and tend it. The trick with low and slow barbecuing is to keep the temperature even. Brits tend to throw a whole bag of coal with a pack of firelighters and cook when it’s raging hot. Don’t. Start with a third of a bag, or find the right level on the gas and keep it there. This is an exercise in restraint and patience. Find your inner Zen. Use breathing techniques. Calmly does it.
The meat is also important. Most cuts of brisket in the UK have been trimmed of almost all fat. You need this fat when cooking low and slow. It’ll keep the meat beautifully moist.
Buy a meat thermometer. There are some people who can tell how the inside of a piece of meat is cooking from 1,000 yards away, most can’t. A meat thermometer lets you know exactly how the meat is cooking and when it’s ready.
Regularly spraying the meat with a mixture of cider vinegar and apple juice will help to create sugars on the surface of the meat and a strong ‘bark’ of further caramelisation. It will also help the smoke cling to the meat and adds a delicious tangy note to cut through the fat. You can pick up a spray-bottle at most hardware or garden centres for this.
After the first test of this recipe I had a good chat with the owner of Pig Dogs and Brisket, a street food van serving American-style barbecue in London. My first attempt just wasn’t as tender as I’d have liked, so I asked where I was going wrong: temperature. Originally I was taking the internal temperature of the brisket to 90C, but this wasn’t far enough. The main connective tissue in brisket is collagen, which needs to be fully cooked and broken down for optimum tenderness. He recommended taking the brisket to 94C for the perfect result.
Adding the smoke is easy. I cooked my brisket on my Weber® Genesis II, which is gas fired, with the aid of a smoking box that you place under the grill, on top of the gas flames, and some soaked hickory wood chips.
If you’re using a charcoal barbecue, then maintaining a consistent ‘oven’ temperature is the necessary skill here. Most barbecues come equipped with a built-in thermometer, but if yours doesn’t, I’d suggest buying an oven thermometer. Too hot and the brisket will be dry, too low and you’ll have given up and gone to bed long before the brisket is cooked. Add a handful of coal every half an hour or so, on top of the burning coals, to keep the heat even. Add soaked wood chips straight onto the coals, but around the edge, so that they smoulder and smoke slowly without altering the temperature.
Home-smoked BBQ Brisket Recipe