With summer here, the air should be awash with the smell of BBQs cooking up a range of treats and delights. Make sure you don't miss out on a great BBQ this summer - and become a BBQ King/Queen by following the advice outlined below.
The BBQ - Make the Right Choice:
BBQs come in all shapes, sizes and with various price tags, so it is important to make sure you get the right one for you. When selecting a BBQ think of it as an investment.
It's recommended you ditch the disposable, these may seem perfect for an impromptu get-together, but they're often not worth the money. Not only are they smaller than reusable BBQs, but many are difficult to light, some have coals which have been treated by chemicals and more importantly they cannot be reused.
With the disposable out of the equation, you need to decide whether you want to go for charcoal or gas? This is a long standing debate, but personally, charcoal is the way to go. Not only does it give you the authentic BBQ taste, but you can switch your charcoal for wood to add an extra flavour.
Once you've selected your BBQ of choice and set it up, it's time to light the charcoal. There are two methods for this. The first is for those who have a BBQ chimney starter, simply, fill the chimney starter up with the required amount of charcoal and either firelighters or fuel gel, place it down on a slab or metal drain cover, and light. Once the coals have become white hot, spread them out in the BBQ.
If you don't have a chimney starter, you can ensure you get an even heat amongst your charcoal by piling them into a pyramid along with firelighters or lighter fuel, in the middle of your BBQ. Light and leave them to become white hot, before spreading them across your BBQ grill.
Your Food & Drink - It's More Than Cheap Sausages and Warm Beer:
When it comes to cooking on a BBQ most of us will do one of two things... cremate the food or burn the outside and leave the middle raw, and due to our culinary skills on a BBQ lacking, many of us also opt for cheap meat.
But for a successful BBQ with glorious food, ditch the cheap meat and visit your butchers for great cuts of meat. You should also follow the points below to ensure you become a BBQ King / Queen and not a pretender to the throne.
• If using meat from the freezer, make sure it is thoroughly thawed out before placing it on the BBQ. Failing to do this will increase the risk of your meat being burnt on the outside but raw in the middle. If possible you should allow all meat to reach room temperature before cooking.
• Don't wash your raw meat, despite what you may have previously heard this won't remove the germs. Instead, make sure your food is cooked correctly. [Source: food.gov.UK]
• Keep your chilled food (salads, dips & desserts) in the fridge until they are needed. Leaving these out in the heat for too long can result in them spoiling.
• Make sure your BBQ is hot enough before you start cooking. The charcoal should be white hot. You can test the temperature of your BBQ using nothing more than your hand and time. Simply place your hand roughly 12cm above the BBQ and see how long you can hold it there for, 0-2 seconds it's too hot to cook on, 4 seconds is a medium heat which is OK to cook on and 6 seconds is a low heat which again is OK to cook on. [Source: jamieoliver.com]
• Watch out for dripping meat juices. Meat juices dripping during the cooking process can result in flare-ups which increases the risk of food becoming burnt. If flare-ups occur, move the food to the side until the flames die down.
• Enhance your BBQ platter with chicken and chorizo, or mixed vegetable kebabs. These are simple to prepare, easy to cook and are something different. But remember, metal skewers will retain the heat from the BBQ - so be careful when handling - whilst wooden skewers will need to be soaked fully in cold water for at least half an hour to prevent them from burning.
• Lock in the moisture of your meat and add flavour by spraying it with a little bit of fruit juice. As the fruits natural sugars cook they'll caramelise the meat, whilst also locking in the moisture. Apple juice works really well with pork. [Source: wellhungmeat.com]
Having a successful BBQ isn't just about having great food. Drink also plays a large part, and this means more than warm beer. There are loads of cocktail / mocktail recipes available, as well as recipes for refreshing yet simple homemade lemonade. Alternatively, for the ultimate BBQ you pair your food with the right drink.
Some great examples include a black IPA with beef burgers, nutty brown ales with veggie burgers, German ale with sausages or a blonde beer with chicken. Please drink responsibly - and if you'd prefer to stick to one alcoholic drink for your BBQ, consider brown ale.
At The End of the Night Comes the Clean Up:
As the BBQ comes to an end and the charcoal embers have cooled, it's time to clean the BBQ and the sooner you do this, the better. There are a few ways you can do this which are quick, efficient and cost-effective.
Use Food to Clean:
Food is a great tool to use when cleaning, and surprisingly either an onion or potato can be used to clean your BBQ. The potato technique involves cutting a potato in half, covering the cut end in washing up liquid and then running it over your BBQ to remove the gunk which has built up, before rinsing.
If you're opting to use an onion, your BBQ will still need to be hot, then simply cut the onion in half before pushing a BBQ fork into it. This will allow you to scrub the BBQ and the acidity will cut through the grease, all that's left to do is rinse. [Source: tescoliving.com]
An oven cleaning kit can also be used to clean your BBQ. In the same way you'd place your oven racks into the bag provided, place your BBQ racks in there (when cooled) and add the cleaning liquid - leave for 24 hours before washing in hot water.
Whilst using such a kit to clean your BBQ racks, use a hard bristled brush to clean the base of your BBQ, before wiping with a clean damp cloth to remove any grease or stubborn dirt.
Whether you're looking at having a midweek BBQ to make the most of the weather or an all day family event with an open door policy, keep these tips in mind, start and finish with a clean BBQ and make sure you have food and drink which will tantalise the taste buds - getting all of this right, will make sure the food, fun and laughter lasts well into the night.