By Derek Adams
How to BBQ meat properly
Summer is almost upon us, and, excluding the odd torrential downpour, that means we'll have the perfect weather to dust off the apron and light up the Bar-B-Q.
If you're currently notorious for your burger burning, food poisoning, and flapping around with incompetence, worry not. We've got top barbie wranglers DJ BBQ, Ben Tish and Neil Rankin on hand to dish out expert advice. What these guys don't know about fire cooking isn't worth knowing.
To kick things off T3 will get things started: If it your food falls on the floor, that's fine so long as you obey the medically-proven five-second rule, if blood is still coming out, give it a few more minutes.
If you're inspired to start cooking by these tips and tricks, be sure to check out T3's guide to the best BBQs available.
Expert 1: Ben Tish
Ben Tish, Chef Director of the Salt Yard Group, provides hot tips on how to get the most out of your summer barbecue:
What's best? Charcoal or briquettes?
Lump wood charcoal is superior in flavour to briquettes due to the fact there aren't any chemicals or binders in there to mask or skew the flavours. Most charcoal is from South Africa and will have been compressed so it travels better and doesn't break up in transit. I'd suggest British charcoal which is much lighter and burns better. Apple, hazel and oak all have their differing flavour qualities.
How should I lay out the charcoal?
A single base layer of charcoal and a couple of fire lighters on top is all that's needed. How much depends on the size of the BBQ, how much food you want to cook and how long the food is cooking for.
How far in advance should one light the barbie?
If it's good charcoal then 25-30 minutes before cooking and wait until it turns an ashen grey and there are no flames.
What's the best way to grill?
There are different methods of cooking on a barbecue. Without a lid is known as grilling or direct cooking. You'll need to keep an eye on the food as it's hard and fast and there's a danger of over cooking or burning quickly. Indirect cooking under a lid is what purists call proper barbecuing. Its using the smoke to flavour and slow cooking process. I use a plant spray or mister to tame any flare ups.
Which ingredients should go on the grill first?
Chicken legs will take a while so put them on first and then sausages depending on size. Fish is very quick to cook and kebabs, too, if cooking them medium rare.
What's the best type of wood chip for a classic smoky flavour?
It depends on what you are cooking really but if you want that Southern style then something like Mesquite.
What are your personal thoughts on charcoal vs gas?
There's a huge difference in terms of flavour. Gas doesn't create the smoky barbecue flavours that you only get with charcoal and wood. Gas certainly has its place in terms of consistency and convenience when cooking outside, but it defeats the object for me!
Expert 2: Neil Rankin
Neil Rankin, barbecue sorcerer and Executive Chef at Chiswick's trendy Smokehouse, is quite literally Top Rankin when it comes to BBQ recipe tips.
Ask your butcher for (unbrined) pork knuckle. It's cheap and delicious. Get him to remove the skin but keep some of the fat on if possible. Place your charcoal to one side, put some oak, apple wood or hickory chips in foil bags and poke holes in them (do not soak the chips).
Then place the foil bags on the hot charcoal. Season your knuckle straight from the fridge in Malden salt and some cracked black pepper and place on the barbecue. Cook for up to six hours until it can flake off in your hands (you'll need to add more pre-lit charcoal periodically if using a small BBQ). Add more wood chips for the first four hours only.
Serve on the bone and eat like Asterix.
Burnt leeks with parmesan, fried egg and truffle
Here we burn the exterior of the leek on hot coals to cook the middle and give it a strong smoky profile. Set the barbecue up with a bed of hot coals with the lid off. Trim the green ends of the leeks and once the coals are red hot with no flame, place your leeks on the grill until they are soft and black outside.
Remove the black outer layer and place on a plate. Cover with heaps of grated parmesan, a few drops of truffle oil and serve with two fried eggs with runny yolks.
- Got a hankering to start some grilling yourself? Head over to T3's guide to the best barbecues available.
Expert 3: DJ BBQ
DJ BBQ is an ace food blogger and part of Jamie Oliver's 'Food Tube' gang. He's been working with pressure washer kings Kärcher to provide some top barbie cleaning tips for the summer. No, that makes no sense to us, either, but we're just gonna go with it.
1. Try to use charcoal and not briquettes.
Many briquettes contain chemical binders. If you do use these, then please make sure they have gone grey before cooking on them. Otherwise, they can taint the taste of your meat.
2. Always keep your BBQ/smoker clean.
The hardest part about cooking slow and low is heat maintenance. It's like babysitting charcoal and wood. You need your cooker to be as efficient as possible so keep it clean of ash, grease, and debris. You should use a tough, outdoor-friendly vacuum cleaner to suck up old ash, coal and debris, and a steam cleaner or pressure washer to blast off grime and dirt. [NB: Kärcher makes pressure washers, steam cleaners and an outdoor-friendly vac.]
3. Always use two pairs of tongs.
If you are cooking on a BBQ you need two pairs of tongs. One to handle the uncooked meat and a clean pair to deal with the cooked meat. Cross contamination is not fun. Most food poisoning visits to the hospital happen in the summer due to bad BBQ'n.
4. Never ever serve warm beer at your BBQ.
I see a lot of people who don't use coolers and ice when having outdoor BBQ's. They eat their meat with warm beer. Invest in a cooler and throw ice on that beer.
Here's DJ BBQ's recipe for Beer Can Chicken (NB: this WILL involve warm beer)
- 3 free range chickens, Rub 1 (use with beer 3)
- 3 tblsp salt
- 3 tblsp pepper
- 1 tblsp chilli flakes
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- Rub 2 ( use with beer 2)
- 3 tblsp salt
- 3 tblsp pepper
- 1 tsp cinammon powder
- 2 tsp garlic granules
- Rub 3 (use with beer 1)
- 3 tblsp salt
- 3 tblsp pepper
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1/4 tsp clove powder
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper