Boss the barbecue this summer with our favourite techniques and recipes
Nothing tastes quite like food cooked outdoors on an open charcoal grill – however whether that’s because you’re tucking into a succulent and smoky set of slow cooked ribs, or a carbonised hockey puck that began as a burger, is entirely down to individual skill with the grill.
Here we offer some BBQ basics for catering events of any size, ensuring you’ll glow with pride over the embers this summer, rather than burning with shame. We’ve also added a couple of our favourite recipes, one for the grown-ups and one for the kids, and both featuring choice meat cuts we supply in catering quantities at Maws.
Feel The Heat
Always begin your grill with good quality lump-wood charcoal. Then decide if you want to cook using direct heat, ideal for smaller items like sausages and burgers that can handle faster cooking directly over the fire. Indirect heat uses fire lit across only part of the grate, slow cook items, such as ribs, are placed over the unlit area and the entire grill is covered.
For direct heat simply preheat the grill for 15 minutes then rake the coals so they cover two-thirds of the bottom grate. The empty third is a safety zone, where you can move food that’s flaring up. Place the food directly over the coals, and cook, uncovered.
Follow the same process for indirect heat but rake the coals into two piles on opposite sides of the bottom grate. Put food on the grill positioned above the empty space between the coals, and cook, covered. If you’re cooking for more than an hour, place a disposable aluminium pan between the coals and add an inch of water to keep drippings from burning.
Flavouring Your Fire
Charcoal by itself will always infuse your food with that typical ‘cooked outdoors’ flavour, but to attain the subtle smokiness that takes your barbecue to another level you need to bring out the woodchips.
Not only do woodchips deliver a more robust, smoky depth to even quick-cooking items such as chicken fillets and shellfish - better yet there’s a perfect woodchip waiting to complement whatever foodstuff you’re preparing to cook. Here are some of our favourites:
Apple: Match this sweet, fruity pick with poultry and pork.
Hickory: The barbecue favourite delivers that traditional rich southern flavor (think hickory-smoked bacon). Stands up to pork chops, ribs, lamb, and poultry.
Olive: Similar to mesquite, which is used in the Southwest USA to infuse everything from chops to fajitas with its strong, earthy flavour, olive is a little milder, pairing well with beef, poultry, and salmon. Unlike mesquite, items that take over 20 minutes don’t begin to taste bitter.
Oak: Easy to come by and arguably the best all rounder. The mild, woodsy scent is delicious with beef, pork, fish, and shellfish.
To use woodchips effectively you need to soak them in water for at least 15 minutes beforehand, then simply scatter generously over the preheated charcoal, wait for the aromatic smoke to rise, and get cooking.