When it’s time to haul out the barbecue and the garden furniture from the shed, make sure to brush them down and get ready for the sunshine!
My personal favourite is the charcoal barbecue; I find it gives any meats I cook a delicious, smoke-kissed flavour. However, a lot of my friends use gas barbecues, for handiness more than anything else, as they heat instantly and don’t have to be cleaned out!
To make sure that your barbecue is ready for use, firstly clean the grate. Do this by heating the barbecue, and while the grate is warming up, use a wire brush to remove any debris. Then, use a tongs to dip some kitchen paper in oil, and brush it along the grate. This not only cleans the grate, but also oils it at the same time.
When your barbecue is ready to use, light it well in advance before you start cooking, and don’t start until the coals are glowing and you have a slight layer of ash. It’s also important to have a tight fitting lid - this will allow you to create an oven environment where heat builds up more quickly and surrounds the meats, for a more effective alternative to grilling.
I was lucky enough to visit the Food & Wine Festival in Austin, Texas (which is the home of good barbecue), where I spoke to Aaron Franklin, a man who has barbecuing in his blood. Aaron’s parents had run a small barbecue place in their hometown, and they were his initial inspiration.
I will probably have to spend more time closer to home, perhaps in my pub, ‘The Local’, watching the game with the lads.
He started off in a small trailer in Austin, and now runs one of the most successful BBQ eateries in the city. His secret is to cook good beef well, and not to over-complicate the flavours - as far as he’s concerned, to get the best flavour from his beef, he just seasons it with salt and pepper. In the US, they take their barbecues seriously, smoking mostly whole briskets and turkeys overnight, then slicing their delicious, cooked-to-perfection smoky meats the next day.
In order to hold a successful barbecue, no matter how big or how small, just remember that preparation is the key – plan in advance and defrost food slowly in the bottom of the fridge. As a successful barbecue requires food to be cooked correctly without burning, try and cook indoors where possible, before finishing on the barbecue.
Some of my favourite barbecue recipes are available on my summer barbecue recipes section, and if I’d have to pick one, for me it has to be a burger, with juices dribbling down your face as you bite into it.
I find that one way of getting my children to eat more seafood and fish is to get them involved in the skewer preparation; threading the prawns and vegetables onto skewers gives them a choice to create what they will eat. They also love corn on the cob from the barbecue.
A few of my handy tips for a healthy and safe barbecue would be:
- Preheat your barbecue, whether it’s charcoal or gas. Most charcoal takes up to 45 minutes to heat to the right temperature, and allow 15 minutes for gas.
- Keep salads (especially mayonnaise based salads) refrigerated for as long as possible.
- Preheat the oven to keep foods warm, to be ready for breadslike pittas or tortillas that need to be heated before serving, and for cooking in advance of barbecuing.
- Wash hands regularly as you barbecue, especially when handling meats. Use different utensils for raw and cooked meats. Be careful not to keep prodding meat as it cooks, as this allows the juices to escape; instead, use tongs as much as possible.
- Do not keep uncooked meats out too long in the open air.
- Soak wooden skewers in water overnight to prevent them from igniting. Use rosemary skewers or lemongrass skewers for an additional depth of flavour.
- Keep hot food hot, and cold food cold.
- If you are having a crowd, either precook some foods indoors or finish your cooking indoors as a time-saving initiative, and to avoid a huge staggering of service waiting by the barbecue. It will also help ensure that all meats are cooked through – very handy when catering for large numbers.
- Limit alcohol intake while cooking.
I hope that your barbecue is bestowed with good food, good wine, good friends and GOOD WEATHER!!!
Here's the recipes...now get cooking
Corn on the Cob with Chilli Butter
No BBQ is complete without barbecued corn on the cob.
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Barbecued Curried Pork Chops with Warm Noodle Salad
This is a fantastic pork recipe, which can also be pan cooked inside. Why not try using this marinade on diced pork and thread onto wooden skewers as tasty kebabs.
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Barbecued Salmon with Lemon Herb Marinade
This salmon recipe couldn’t be simpler, a taste of summer on a plate.
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Sticky Chicken Wings
These wings are fantastic for a picnic as well as finger food for a party.
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