British-style BBQ grill cooking can be rudimentary at times. The traditional summer BBQ normally involves sausage, burgers and if you’re lucky, some kind of kebab. While times are changing, thanks to the best barbecues that are on sale, they don’t compare with the outdoor cooking skills of our neighbours over the pond, or indeed those down under.
That’s not to say all UK outdoor cooking enthusiasts lack skill. Those opting for one of the best gas barbecues are used to a level of control that gives them more options and I have to admire those smoker fans that take the effort to cook big chunks of meat for hours over wood pellets.
When I lived in Chicago, I had my British BBQ expectations blown, thanks to the permanent gas grill that was shared by our condo. When the weather heated up – which it really does in the summer – some of my neighbours would cook almost every meal on the outdoor grill, and it wasn’t just burgers and sausages. All kinds of meat and veg would be cooked on the grill, including many that I thought shouldn’t be cooked on the barbecue. Fish, mushrooms and even curries turned out great.
So how do you cook all these things properly without turning them to charcoal or losing them down the grates? There are a number of tools you need to add to your grilling arsenal that will change your cooking forever, and it won’t cost you a fortune either.
1. Cast iron skillet
The absolute best way to cook anything fiddly on a BBQ grill is to place a pan onto the grates. This allows you to cook in much the same way as you would a hob in the kitchen and with almost as much control. Of course, you can’t just put any old pan on there – plastic handles won’t work for starters – and you need something hard-wearing that will cope with some serious heat.
The best answer is a cast iron skillet. These things are designed to stand the heat from an open flame and will last for years even if you leave it outdoors. Basic models will cost you as little as £25 / $25 (you don’t want to be putting a Le Creuset outdoors) so it won’t break the bank.
2. Oven gloves
That metal handle on your skillet is going to get pretty hot sat on your BBQ grill, so you will need something to hold it with. Look for a really good thick pair of oven gloves – nothing silicone that might melt in the heat – or even better, go for a pair of specialist BBQ gloves that are designed for high heat.
3. Aluminium foil
One of my favourite BBQ grill creations is a Thai curry from Joe Wicks that you wrap all the ingredients together in tin foil, along with a can of coconut milk, and cook it directly on the flames. To avoid the foil bursting, I tend to place it on a tray first and then shove the tray on top of the grill. Wrapping anything from mushrooms to bananas in aluminium foil makes it easy to cook on the BBQ grill.
4. Hot plate
If you really want to get creative with BBQ grill cooking, a hot plate certainly gives you options. You can get either smooth or griddled pans or hot plates that you can place over the grates and cook easily. This works in much the same way as a skillet pan but the larger size can give you more room to work with. Some larger gas grills now come with a hot plate side attachment to cook on, in addition to the main grill, so these are worth considering if you’re looking to upgrade.
When can you cook outside?
Cooking outdoors doesn’t need to be just a summer thing either, we’d fire up that BBQ grill even in the snow – after all, why smoke out your apartment when you can cook easily in the open air. This is obviously easier with a gas-powered grill that you can get up to temperature in minutes. However, now you know that you can cook anything at any time of the year on it, you can more than justify an upgrade.