Here in the UK the sun pops out from behind a cloud for five minutes and everyone’s changing into their shorts and t-shirts (while the Prof just takes all his clothes off so he’s naked under his lab coat – it isn’t a pretty sight). It’s no surprise then, that after a week of constant sunshine, BBQ season has officially begun. As you know, here at giftlab.co.uk we like to make ourselves useful so with the first whiffs of a BBQ (We smelt the first one on Mother’s Day… can anyone beat that? Comment below if you can and you might win a prize!) we were already leafing through cook books, searching the web, and trying out our own styles of cooking so that we could give you our Top Ten Tips on how to host the perfect BBQ and a range of recipes guaranteed to win over your guests. So, without further ado here’s how you can impress all your friends and family with your outdoor cooking skills:
- Marinate the meat overnight and remember to baste it during the last 5-10 minutes of grilling.
- Season the grill with olive oil and rosemary before you start cooking – it adds a little extra that will leave everyone saying “mmmm… how did you get that flavour?”
- When using wooden skewers always soak well in water before use – obviously we would advise doing away with the wooden skewers and cooking everything on our BBQ sword.
- If you want the meat to cook through quickly, bring it to room temperature before you place it on the grill. Not only does it speed up the cooking time but it will also drain the fat better.
- For a little extra flavour add a powdered spice to your meat (make some without though – remember, not everyone likes spicy food)
- Light the BBQ well in advance (follow manufacturer’s instructions) before you plan to start cooking – make sure you use enough charcoal, and wait until it is glowing red (with a powdery grey surface) before you start cooking.
- Cooking in a windy area could prolong the cooking time so make sure you pick a sheltered spot before you light the BBQ (obviously don’t light the BBQ and then decide to move it – this is dangerous.)
- Always keep a bucket of water by you in case of an emergency.
- If your BBQ is a spontaneous one and it’s getting dark, make sure you have enough light to see what you’re doing. You don’t want to end up with burnt sausages and you certainly don’t want to start a fire.
- Don’t be lazy – a clean grill not only cooks better but it won’t leave a disgusting taste on the food.
For the veggies (and veggies who eat fish!):
- Monkfish barbecues really well – it is just meaty enough to hold together well. Why not try Monkfish kebabs on rosemary skewers with ciabatta and pancetta – a giftlab favourite!
- Salmon and tuna also go really well on the BBQ, but otherwise you would probably need to look at a whole fish (possibly in foil!) like sea bass or trout if you want to cook fish on your BBQ.
- Try par boiling baby new potatoes then making a bag out of some tin foil add olive oil, seasoning and some fresh rosemary and pop them on the BBQ. You can use the same technique for most veggies but if you are cooking asparagus like that try to make sure to keep them flat so they all cook evenly. With Butternut squash you will need to quarter it and scoop out the seeds then wrap in foil. (Timing these veggies is really quite difficult; as it will depend on the size of the veg and the temperature of the barbecue but normally they’ll take about the same time as they would in an oven.)
- Buy a corn on the cob and barbecue it with the husks on. Then when it is about done use some oven gloves and pull the husks off – you will probably need a pair of scissors to make sure you have them completely off otherwise they will catch light. Another giftlab favourite.
For the carnivores:
- To make a good pork chop try this recipe: crush some garlic cloves, mix with some grated stem ginger, some ground cumin, ground coriander seeds and chilli powder. Then add just enough sesame oil and dark soy to make it all sticky and gooey. Brush this onto the chops and throw them on the BBQ. Then use the BBQ Sword to hold them over the BBQ with the fat down so it crisps up nicely like instant crackling!
- To cook the perfect chicken take it off the bone and lie it on a chopping board, cover it with cling film and bash it with a meat mallet or rolling pin until it’s half a cm thick all over. (It’s important it’s the same thickness so it cooks at the same speed throughout). Crush a garlic clove and mix with a teaspoon of paprika, a teaspoon of grainy mustard and a teaspoon of honey. Smother this mix over both sides of the chicken – but not so much that it drips – and chuck it straight on the barbie. With the chicken so thin it will cook quickly and safely. You can make a sauce using the remainder of the paprika/mustard mixture – just heat it gently in a pan with either some plain Greek yoghurt or some double cream. Yummy.
- Steak is one of the best cuts of meat to barbecue. Just score it on one side with some ground black pepper and brushed with olive oil to stop it sticking. It is quite difficult to go wrong with cooking a steak on the BBQ but a common mistake is to turn it too often. Ideally you should only turn the steak once.
- For burgers mix the spices (salt, pepper etc) and add them into the patties making sure they’re around ¾ inch thick. Make sure you use ground beef that has at least 20% fat as you need that for the juices. Make an indentation in the centre of the burger to eliminate the “plumping” in the middle then throw them on the BBQ.
A nice side salad:
- Bean salad: Get some cans of mixed beans from the supermarket, rinse them thoroughly and add some canned sweetcorn, chopped spring onions and red peppers along with a jar of salsa. This will go beautifully with the barbecued meats.
- Pasta Salad : Use coloured shapes mixed with peppers, apple, celery, grapes and a low-fat dressing of yogurt, curry powder and mango chutney.
- New Potatoes tossed with fresh mint and chives or jacket potatoes with a cottage cheese topping.
Sauces and Dips for the centre of the table:
- 45ml(3tbsp) Natural yogurt, 15ml(1tbsp) Curry paste, 5ml(1tsp) Lemon juice
- 432g can Crushed pineapple, 30ml(2tbsp) Chilli sauce, 2 crushed Garlic cloves
- 150ml red or white Wine, Chopped 30ml(2tbsp) Fresh Herbs, 15ml(1tbsp) Olive oil, Garlic cloves, 2, crushed
Finally – Safety:
- Don’t leave the BBQ unattended.
- Ensure that the ‘chef’ wears an apron and washes hands before cooking and in between putting food on and taking it off the BBQ.
- Keep all raw and cooked food separate and keep it “wrapped and refrigerated”.
- Keep meat refrigerated for as long as possible before cooking – and put the oven on to keep them warm after cooking.
- Use separate BBQ utensils when handling raw and cooked food.
- Check sausages and burgers are cooked through, (juices should run clear). Steaks being ‘solid’ meat rather than minced or chopped are quite safe eaten when cooked to rare or medium.
- Make sure frozen meat is thoroughly thawed (unless otherwise stated) before cooking and do not refreeze once thawed.