HOW TO BBQ
LICENSED TO GRILL
Tips and methods for a successful BBQ
The BBQ season is here again, we like nothing more than evoking our prehistoric caveman instincts and lighting fire to cook for our friends & family.
The BBQ can be a fabulously enjoyable gathering, but can go terribly wrong, for a multitude of reasons; fire handling, under-cooked food, over-cooked food, wind causing havoc, sun burn, heatstroke and dehydration from too much alcohol – to name a few. Outdoor cooked, smoked meat is our most primitive cuisine and can be utterly sublime if we can master and control these conditions.
Plan what method of BBQ you want to create, wood, charcoal or both? What foods are you planning to cook, this is important, as controlling temperature is important to achieve thoroughly cooked, thoroughly flavoursome food.
Preparing the food beforehand makes a more tender much tastier, eating experience. Use rubs to season the meat, leave to tenderise overnight, if you can. (Rub the meat and place in a plastic food-bag, or wrap in clingfilm and chill in fridge.)
You can also marinade meat in a sauce or cheaper cuts in balsamic vinegar and oil mix. The balsamic will season and also tenderise the meat.
TIP: – do not buy or make a rub that contains salt, most salt will extract moisture and produce a less tender item.
Celtic or Guerande salt is a good salt to use as is a very damp salt and will not remove moisture.
Controlling the temperature of the heat is critical; many go wrong by overloading the pit with charcoal and / or wood, which creates too much combustion and a dense grey choking smoke that tastes acrid and produces a burnt flavour. A great tasting BBQ comes from creating a humid, slow and low environment for the meat, that cooks through, caramelising the outer layers for that great BBQ mouthwatering taste. Humidity is created by the constant basting of the meat as it keeps moisture in the air. Continually adding new items to the BBQ also helps to control the temperature, as adding chilled items, will bring the overall temperature down.
If the fire becomes a furnace and way too hot, putting a metal tray of ice on the grill and shutting off the air supply, by closing the lid will bring down the temperature significantly.
TIP: Do not over sauce your meat, as will act as a barrier to the smoking effect that gives BBQ its distinctive flavour. Neither should it be bone dry, aim for a sticky surface, not wet.
Under-cooked and over-cooked meat are the BBQ’ers worst enemy. At worst food poisoning, at best food that is not tender and delicious.
The only real way of knowing if the meat is cooked is by using a meat thermometer, which can be bought cheaply enough for a few pounds. Visit https://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/multimedia/pdfs/csctcooking.pdf for guidance on safe minimal cooking temperatures. Generally a temperature reading of 75 °C should be what you are aiming for.
A general rule of thumb is that meat on the bone requires a longer cooking time than fillets or cuts. This is especially true of chicken.
Ground meat, like burgers and sausages, should be thoroughly cooked throughout and not served rare, because the surface of the cut of meat, on which most bacteria will be found, has been mixed through. Steaks and chops can be served more rare, as the surface reaches the most intense temperature, destroying most bacteria. Steak and chops should reach a core temperature of 63°C. Another consideration is the thickness of the meat as, the thicker the cut, the longer it will take the heat to penetrate through.
Chicken should have a special mention as although delicious, under-cooked chicken can be very dangerous and carry very nasty bacteria that causes severe food poisoning. If you do not have a meat thermometer, there are a couple of indicators that ‘suggest’ the chicken is cooked, but should only be used as an indicator that it may be ready to take off the heat.
The indicators are:
- Pierce the flesh, if the juices are red, pink or even blush, it probably needs longer;
- Has the cut shrunk, if same size it is likely not cooked through, as cooked meat shrinks;
- To be safest, cut through the thickest part, to make certain the flesh is not pink.
Lastly, use seperate utensils to handle raw meat and cooked meat. Do not wash the meat; the water splashes and could contaminate work surfaces, nearby utensils and spread bacteria to other foods. The heat from the BBQ will destroy any surface bacteria present. Also wash hands thoroughly after touching any raw meat.
WARNING: Campylobacter has been found in alarming levels in UK supermarket poultry. It is best to consider your poultry carries the bacteria and then take all necessary steps to eradicate it, not hope it is bacteria free.
TIP: Pre cooking the food, especially in a slow-cooker or poaching, can make sure you get thoroughly cooked, juicy and extremely tender food. Keep an eye out for my next blog on using a slow cooker.