We have enlisted the help of a host of barbecue experts to help take you away from kitchen comforts and enjoy some outdoor summer grilling.
Summertime heralds the opportunity to gather friends and family to relax outside, a cool beverage in hand with the barbecue sizzling away. However, even confident cooks can be thrown off-guard by the potential setbacks of cooking outdoors: soggy weather, coals failing to light, too much char or undercooked meat. So, with that in mind, we’ve rounded up tips from some of the experts around the country to ensure that your barbecues sizzle instead of fizzle.
- Use a good quality lump wood charcoal. Add wood chips to further enhance the flavours.
- To get the heat up quickly, first light a small amount of coals, then, when they turn white, add the rest of your coals and they should heat up in no time. Make sure your barbecue is hot before you start or else your food will stick. For steaks, high heat ensures you get that wonderful barbecued maillard crust on the outside.
- Try and buy meat that is dry aged for a minimum of 21 days. This may cost a little extra but the flavour is worth it.
- Use your local butcher. Your butcher has a wealth of experience and can advise on some of the best ‘secondary cuts’, such as Onglet and Bavette, that are packed full of flavour.
- Meat with a good fat content is great to barbecue. Choose rib-eye or short ribs over llet for a really good BBQ experience.
- Finally, the most important part of any barbecue experience is... enjoyment. Open a cold beer, pour a glass of wine and enjoy the process. People have been doing it for thousands of years, so savour every minute and keep a close eye on your dinner or you’ll be drinking alone.
Kenneth Kelly, third generation butcher at Kelly’s Butchers, Newport, County Mayo knows a thing or two about meat. We chatted to Kenneth to get his top tips to make the most of your barbecue. “Be adventurous and experiment with flavours, cuts and cooking methods”. Although any cut works well on the barbecue, Kenneth suggests that you “think outside the box and use some different cuts, like beef shoulder. Start by slowly cooking the shoulder, then finish it off on the barbecue for tender, smokey beef”. If you do opt for the usual crowd pleasers of burgers, sausages or steaks make sure you “buy quality meat for a quality barbecue”.
For sauces and marinades Kenneth isn’t averse to shop-bought versions. “The good quality ones are great to use for a barbecue and, to make them even better, mix the sauce or marinade with red wine before using. If you’d prefer not to marinade meat at home, any good butcher will be happy to do it for you. But don’t marinade your steaks, just use olive oil, salt and pepper and let the flavours speak for themselves”. When it comes to chicken, he likes barbecued chicken in a beer can. “Drink half a can of beer, then insert the can into a whole chicken and barbecue for forty minutes. The heat cooks the chicken and makes the beer coat the chicken, it’s really good”. And, one final suggestion: “this won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I like sirloin steak with black pudding on top. It’s a strange combination but it’s really good. Don’t overcook the meat. And serve with a good bottle of wine”.
BBQs don’t have to be an all meat affair. Alix Gardner of Alix Garner’s Cookery School gives us her top tips for a vegetarian barbecue
- Whip up a quick honey and mustard marinade that can be used on any meat or vegetables by mixing together four tablespoons of oil, one tablespoon of honey, a heaped tablespoon of grainy mustard and seasoning.
- Halloumi kebabs are a good way to feed a crowd. Marinade red peppers, mushrooms, aubergines, tomatoes and halloumi cheese in the honey and mustard marinade before skewering and barbecuing.
- When buying vegetables for the barbecue, make sure they’re rm and a regular size. This will ensure that they all cook evenly.
- Even though your veggies look great coming straight off the grill, make sure to let them cool a little before you eat them or you’ll burn your tongue. This applies especially to any little ones in attendance.
- Season bok choi leaves and cook quickly on both sides for an unusual barbecue addition. Butternut squash and quinoa burgers are also a great veggie barbecue option.
- Accompaniments can make or break your vegetarian barbecue, so try an avocado salsa with avocado, tomato, chilli and lime or avour some yoghurt with sumac or coriander and basil. Avocado sauce, made with puréed avocado, yoghurt, lime and paprika, also works really well with barbecued vegetarian dishes.
Now that you have the skills, try out these delicious recipes: