I BBQ a lot. Not just for those few days in the summer, I BBQ all year round. I think BBQ is an often mis-aligned and under-estimated form of cooking because the British are (although getting better) so bad at it. We’ve all been to a family’s BBQ whereby the chicken has been pink in the middle, the Burgers have been heavily charred and inedible & the accompaniments and sauces have been an utter joke. Never go to those BBQs.
Whilst there’s lots of resources online to help you out with your BBQ woes, I’ll highlight below some of my top tips which are attainable and achievable for people in the UK. If you think all this is too much effort, you’ve never had deliciousness like this come in your face before.
I’ll also finish off this article with a recipe that’s served me well in 2014. Look out for more recipes over the upcoming months. Want to see me cook something, then tweet me @mariodc using the hashtag #mdcookalong
Get a decent BBQ
Its worthwhile spending money on a BBQ which is going to last you a few seasons. A decent drum BBQ or anything from Webber with a lid will serve you well. Whilst lots of people swear by Gas, I don’t see the point. A good charcoal BBQ with temperature gauge is the bare minimum for excellent BBQ. Also, look for something with a louvered grill. (see later for why)
Get decent coal and learn how to light up.
People are put off by BBQ because of perceived ‘faff’ when it comes to lighting it. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You don’t need chemicals or fluids, or gels, or petrol (!!). You just need a bit of common sense. Arrange your coals stacked in a pyramid shape, with some space between each coal. Use long burn coals, and not quick – light briquettes which tend to not burn so hot & for not as long. Put some scrunched up clean paper dotted around in between the coals, and light generously all around the structure you’ve built. Let it ‘catch’ and give it some love as the coals start to burn. You can also, (and I swear by this) use a Chimney starter, which is probably the best £15 you’ll ever spend.
Another massive mistake people make is arranging all the coals across the entire length of the coal grill, there for not allowing them anyway to cook on indirect heat. A BBQ will reach the best part of 350-400 degrees, so if the entire coal grill is covered, you’ve got nowhere to keep your food bar over scorching continual heat, and you’ll end up burning everything.
I favour stacking up your coals to one side, that’ll be your hot part, and then use a grill pan covered in aluminium foil on the other side. Not only will this help to reflect heat & give you some indirect cooking space, you can put herbs, garlic bulbs and water in the tray and impart flavours and such like. Getting some hickory wood soaked in beer, and putting it in this pan is a good idea too. You have a louvered grill, so this will be easy to access too! J
Moistening your meat. Loving your meat.
It’s no joke that people pay absolutely no attention at all to best practice when it comes to cooking meat. It also makes me laugh how people who never set foot in a kitchen for 11 months of the year feel it’s their internal right to stand in front of a BBQ and cook a chicken or some chops. You really do need to pay some attention to your meat. Here’s some tips;
- Marinating really helps with flavour. Especially when you’re potentially exposing the meat to very high temperatures and you don’t want it to dry out. Think about a simple olive oil, herb, garlic & marinade rub for things such as chicken, or maybe a paprika, thyme, salt & pepper dry rub for things such as pork which will give it a lovely burnt edge.
- Allow your meat to come to room temperature before cooking. Cooking it straight from the fridge is a disaster waiting to happen. The inside of the meat has to cook for longer meaning the outside is more likely to burn. You’ve watched enough Jamie Oliver programs to understand about muscle fibre and meat protein composition I’m sure.
- You should aim to cook meats of slightly bigger thicknesses for BBQ. So bear that in mind when you’re buying and butchering chops, forming burgers and cooking steaks. ¼” and above are good for BBQ.
Sure Fire Hit Dogs.
I took inspiration in this recipe from a few sources online, and my love for experimenting.
You’re going to need;
- Large hot dog buns (the larger the better to accommodate the meat)
- 1/lb ground beef chuck (20% fat or add pork sausage meat)
- 1/2 lb of ground pork
- Chilli powder
- Paprika powder
- 1 egg (beaten)
- Soy Sauce
- Chopped or ideally granulated garlic
- Dry mustard powder
- 1 large onion
- Mozzarella string cheese
- 6 regular UK sized hot dogs
1. Mix up the beef, pork, chilli (a teaspoon), Paprika (a teaspoon), 1 egg, Soy Sauce (a Tablespoon) chopped Garlic, dry mustard powder (a teaspoon) and Onion, in a big bowl. Get your clean hands in and mash it all up and then get it covered in cling film & into the fridge for a couple of hours to allow all the flavours to blend.
2. Divide up the hamburger mix into piles, and get your hot dogs & mozzarella sticks ready. Lay a pile of meat into a rectangle and place a hot dog in the middle of that. Split up a mozzarella stick placing a bit either side of the dog, and then wrap and turn the whole thing up in the cling film twisting the ends up like you’re making a sausage. Repeat for as long as you have enough components. Then put them back in the fridge for about 45 minutes to firm back up.
3. Get them onto your BBQ and cook them for about half hour on the indirect heat. Throw on some Hickory chips (via that louvered grill) to get the smoke up & then finish them off on direct heat for about 3-5 minutes until they have some awesome char marks on them.
To finish, you can toast your buns, add mustard and ketchup, get them into said buns & then into your face. BOOM.