Barbecuing hot tips
Don’t be afraid of your barbecue – just follow our easy dos and don’ts, be sensible, and go in for the grill!
Lighting a charcoal barbecue
- Remove the lid and cooking grate and open the air vents. Tip enough charcoal onto the bottom charcoal grate to make an even layer, then add the firelighters.
- Using a long match, light the firelighters, then use a long pair of tongs to swiftly pile up the charcoal in a mound over the burning firelighters. Leave to burn for 30 minutes.
- The coals are ready when they have a light covering of grey ash with a barely visible glow underneath. Rearrange them in an even layer, replace the grill and put the lid on.
Direct and indirect heat
It is important to understand the difference between direct and indirect cooking:
- If you’re barbecuing anything that’s boneless and no more than about 3-4cm thick, you can cook it directly over the heat source (charcoal or gas).
- If you are cooking something with a bone in, such as thick-cut joints, cook them indirectly, so they’re not immediately over the heat.
- In a charcoal barbecue, this means moving the hot coals to the sides and cooking in the middle of the grill.
- On a gas grill, get the barbecue up to full heat, then turn off the burners directly underneath the meat.
- In both cases, keep the lid on at all times.
cooking can take longer – if you’re roasting a large piece of meat, you’ll need to add more charcoal each hour to maintain a constant roasting temperature. Place a foil tray, in between the coals, under the meat to catch the fat and juices when cooking indirectly. This will prevent flare-ups, and the drippings can be used for sauces and gravies.
Barbecue tips and hints
- Make sure charcoal and gas grills are up to temperature before cooking.
- Always cook with the lid down, and only take off the lid to add, turn or remove food.
- Grilling times in charts and recipes vary depending on the amount, size and shape of food – and even the weather. Allow a little more cooking time on colder days.
- Trim excess fat from steaks, chops and roasts – this helps avoid flare-ups.
- Soak wooden skewers in cold water for at least 30 minutes before using them.
- If your cooking grate is crowded with food, cook for longer than the specified time.
- Make sure that individual pieces of food do not touch, so the food cooks on all sides.
- Because food cooked in a kettle barbecue is out of sight, it can be out of mind. Use a kitchen timer to remind you when to turn the food and when to take it off the heat.
- Be patient with charcoal. It takes 30 minutes to reach cooking temperature.
- Avoid frequently turning or peeking at the food, as heat escapes when you open the lid. For direct cooking, turning the food halfway through the cooking time is usually sufficient.
- Keep the air vents at the top and bottom of a charcoal grill open while cooking.
- Don’t use a fork to pierce and turn small cuts of meat or all the juices will flow out.
- Many people think that grilling meat for a short time at a high temperature ‘seals in’ the juices. However, this just burns the meat on the outside, leaving it raw in the centre.
- For best results, sear meat for a few minutes over direct heat, then move it to indirect heat for the rest of the grilling time.
- Long-handed tools make the job easier and, more importantly, safer.
- Leave perishable foods in the fridge or a cool box until just before cooking.
- Use separate utensils such as chopping boards and plates for raw and cooked foods.
- Remember, stainless steel skewers will retain a lot of heat after cooking.
- Check hot coals are fully extinguished before leaving the barbecue site.
- Water and fire do not mix, and steam can cause burns. If flare-ups do occur, move the food to one side until the flames die down, and do not spray with water.