Here are some simple hints, tips and pointers for a (more) perfect BBQ…

There are two ways you can barbecue food – grill or roast. In the UK we tend to grill – lid off, hot coals, and direct heat – or, as is more common in the States, roasting with the lid on.

Although the idea for cooking veggies on the grill are much the same, this will concentrate on meat, as that’s where most issues arise…

If grilling:

  1. Very simply: keep in mind how often you turn something like a sausage in a frying pan to stop it burning. On a barbecue the heat is most likely higher – so you need to  be constantly turning/flipping things.
  2. Give the coals at least 30 minutes to get ready – they need to be completely covered in a white layer of ash before starting. Again, when frying something (e.g. sausages) you tend to use a medium heat, so this is what you want when BBQing too.
  3. Turn meat frequently using a flipper/tongs, but not a fork. The guide to a perfect steak might help!
  4. Use thin cuts that cook quickly and are suitable for pan frying, (especially ones that can be served rare!) for example:
    • steaks/minute steaks
    • haloumi/paneer/tofu
    • thinly cut pork steaks
    • tuna/swordfish steaks
    • kebabs where the meat has been cut up into relatively small pieces.
  5. Keep a water sprayer to hand, use it put down any flames and to quickly save any food from cremation! (You can even use it to add a hint of lemon/herbs/spices!)
  6. Spread the coal asymmetrically – so there is a cooler zone at one end. Use it to control how quickly food is cooked. Bear in mind, it is easier to cook food gradually and add colour at the end than the other way round!
  7. Cook larger pieces in the oven (e.g. chicken thighs for 20 minutes – as you cook the quicker pieces above) then transfer them to the barbecue for 5-10 minutes.
  8. Finally, buy a digital thermometer. It takes the guess work away. They start from as little as £1.59 (incl. delivery) on amazon!

With lid on:

  1. Let the coals get full established. Heap them to one side – e.g. along the back – the meat should cook indirectly from the heat and should be placed away from the coals not above them.
  2. Shut all the air holes to nearly off. With minimal air flow, flare ups should be reduced (if not eliminated), the direct heat should be reduced, and cooking less intense.
  3. Cook larger items of food, for example:
    • Chicken thighs/pieces, or a spatchcocked chicken.
    • Fish, whether whole or as large fillets (e.g. salmon)
    • Racks of ribs
    • Joints of meat/whole chicken. I think lamb or beef is especially good, as it can be served pink to well done,  so it is fairly forgiving (which compensates for the reduced accuracy temperature-wise for a BBQ compared to an oven).
  4. For items that require a really long time (e.g a leg of lamb) the vents should be very nearly closed, for items that require 20-30 minutes they should be slightly more open (e.g 1/4 open). But it’ll depend a little on your BBQ – some have holes/covers top and bottom, some just top (leave a little more open), and some BBQs have both but you can only close the top vents (leave a little more closed).
  5. Check and turn every 10-15 minutes – if that! With the right – i.e. little – air flow things should cook long and slow!

*Because everyone is an expert at BBQs, no?!

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