Barbecue cooking – learn the techniques While we all know you can throw a few snags on the barbie (as they’d say in Australia!) getting the most out of your barbecue can take a bit more effort. But once you know the various techniques, you’ll get such a lot out of your barbecue that you’ll be using it to cook all kinds of meals – even a roast dinner! We’ve compiled a guide to some of the techniques you can use with a barbecue to really make food with a difference. First, smoking. Barbecue smoking combines the two elements of long cooking and low heat to produce flavourful, moist food – forget those charred offerings! One of the benefits of this method of cooking is that you can use cheaper cuts of meat – rather as you would in a casserole – because the meat is tenderised by the long cooking process, and cheaper cuts of meat tend to be more tasty thanks to the higher fat content. There are a number of smoker barbecues on the market – some look rather like a rubbish bin on legs! Others look more like a normal barbecue with a domed lid. You can even try making your own using a (clean!) oil drum. Once you have got your smoker barbecue, the next step is to prepare your meat or fish. You can use rubs and marinades, just as you would with any barbecue food. You’ll need to work out how long your food is going to cook for. As a rough guide for every pound of roast meat, you allow around an hour and a half or two hours. If you’re cooking a whole rack of ribs it will take around six hours; so this is not a quick option, but once you’ve tried the melting meat that just falls apart when you eat it, we think you’ll agree it’s worth the time investment. For things like ribs, cook for around three hours, then wrap in foil for a couple of hours of cooking. This allows steam to move around the meat, which is what causes it to fall off the bone in that deliciously meting way. Unwrap the foil for the final hour of cooking. You can buy wood chips in a variety of ‘flavours’ for smoking, so this may depend on what you can buy locally. Experiment with different wood chips to see what flavours you prefer. Soak the wood chips for 30 minutes or more in water. While the chips are soaking, fire up your coals – they will need to burn until they appear covered in grey ash. Then you can add your chips and keep the smoker closed to allow a build-up of steam. Once you’ve got a good build-up of smoke you can add your meat or fish. You’ll need to add more chips every couple of hours, but do check every hour in case they disappear more quickly. As you gain experience, you’ll be able to judge this more easily. Finally, once your meat is ready, check the centre with a meat thermometer to ensure it is fully cooked. Our next technique is baking: Yes, it is possible to bake on a barbecue if you have the kind of barbeque that has a lid!
You can also cook flat breads such as pittas, naans and even pizza on the grill itself. If you have a pizza stone, this will avoid your breads getting charred. If you’re cooking pizzas, cook the base until it is just stiff, and then take off to add your toppings. Then you can pop them back on the grill until the cheese melts. Experiment with this until you get it right, as you don’t want to start something new when you have 20 people coming round for a party! For baking loaves of bread, choose a recipe that is not delicate, something like a soda bread or bannock bread works really well. It helps to raise your grill so that there is not too much direct heat. A cast iron pan with some water in will help to recreate the steam that you would get in a conventional oven. If you have an oven or barbecue thermometer, you will be able to gauge the temperature accurately (make sure it is suitable for the purpose) but otherwise, just have fun with some trial and error. Braising is a wonderful way to cook on the BBQ, as it’s something we often don’t do in the summer as no one fancies a hot kitchen while the oven is on for hours. But take it outside and you can use the grill as your oven – and add a whole new level of flavour by grilling your meats first. This is how it works: You can rub your meat with some dry herbs and spices first before searing it on the grill. Then take a cooking pot with a cover (make sure it is suitable for using on a barbecues grill) add your meat, some vegetables and some cooking stock, and cook the meat on a cooler part of the barbecue until it is well cooked. If you want, you can remove the meat, and brown it on a hotter part of the grill for a really rich flavour. So next time you’re planning a barbecue, think a little further than the usual burgers, sausages and chicken drumsticks for an al fresco meal to remember!