Thursday, 4 June 2009

top BBQ'ing tips

How lucky are we with our continued sunshine?! Here at Friendly Cottage our griddle pan has been faking it as a BBQ all week. Besides the chicken and aubergine we cooked on it the other day, we've had lamb chops (marinaded in garlic & paprika and served with feta, spring onion and black olive cous cous) and gorgeous fresh mackerel fillets (with a thinly sliced fennel, tomato & olive salad) too.

Anyhow, to help you on your merry BBQ'ing way here are some of our top tips...

Charcoal, charcoal, charcoal. As much as gas is our top choice for a kitchen hob, it's definitely not our first choice for barbequing. We do completely get the convenience of a gas BBQ (as long as you don't forget to replace the gas bottle!), quick to heat up, easy to clean etc but to be honest we would rather wait (drink some wine, hang out with friends). And anyhow, cleaning a charcoal BBQ out is the same as cleaning the fire - you get such great satisfaction knowing how much pleasure you had from it and then you are getting it all set up for another great cook-up. Why such charcoal fans? Flavour!

Speaking of which, with a gas BBQ you don't get to throw a handful of rosemary or thyme on the coals for a mouth-watering savoury aroma through your food and garden, yum yum.

The best kept charcoal BBQ'ing secret is a chimney starter. It heats the coals up in about 30 minutes rather than an hour, then tip them into your barbie and off you go. There is no need to use chemical lighter fluid either, horrah!

Have utensils at the ready - you don't necessarily have to buy a special BBQ set (unless you need the long handles to stretch across a particularly wide BBQ) - in fact I find them hard to use. I just love my regular long handled kitchen tongs. Top tip is to have two sets - one for raw and one for cooked meats, marking each set with different colour sticky tape to distinguish (unless you have fancy coloured ones). A fish slice is handy for flipping burgers and then a brush is ideal for brushing marinade over.

Take meat out of the fridge about 20-30 minutes (depending on size) before cooking to bring it to room temperature. This doesn't mean leaving it sitting out in sweltering sunshine though! Keep it in the shade of the kitchen and keep it covered from flies.

Speaking of marinades - please please please don't buy a ready made one - they usually come laced with a cocktail of artificial additives and just taste down right chemically....and it's SOOOOOO easy and cheap to make your own. A basic start is a good splash of olive oil, salt and pepper, squeeze in some lemon or lime juice if you fancy and then go for your life with herbs and / or spices. Or be more adventurous and try Asian flavours like fish sauce, ginger, coriander and chillies or BBQ style with ketchup, honey, worcestershire sauce and garlic etc...easy peasy, yummy scrummy! Marinade overnight if possible but to be honest I'm sometimes cooking and the marinades flavour is still good.

I mentioned brushing on marinade - well, don't be a BBQ food poisoning statistic and go brushing it as it is onto BBQ'ing meat - remember the raw meat has been sitting in it! Once the meat is out of the marinade, pour it into a small pan and bubble it for a few minutes until piping hot and those raw meat bugs have been killed. This helps to thicken it also which makes it easier to brush it onto the cooking meat.

Make sure your meat is fully cooked, unless it's really fresh and you intend on serving it pink - just make sure it is completely browned all over the outside. Be careful not to overcook your meat either though!

Meat isn't the only thing you can BBQ of course - not forgetting veggies, some cheeses, fish, bread and fruit.

Don't forget to invest in a patio heater if you plan for the party to carry on into the night!

Bamboo candle holders are a gorgeous way to line a path in the garden or even just for exotic atmosphere! Fill them with citronella candles or oil to help keep the bugs away.

Don't forget to get the beer, wine and spirits on ice in plenty of time - a bin full of ice isn't always classy but works a treat.

And the boring bit...Invest in a wire brush to make cleaning the grill tray easier - and in fact use this to carefully scrape any bits that might be burning while you are cooking. It's so worth not forgetting to clean out the BBQ (waiting until the next day once it's completely cooled down) so as to avoid any nasty surprises the next time you get BBQ fever!

1 comment:

zee said...

Thank you SO, SO MUCH for this! I'm dying to get barbequing this summer, but I'm a vegetarian and have zero experience at cooking or barbequing meat and was a bit daunted. Now I'm positively enthusiastic. Cheers for the tips and ideas!