Top 10 barbecue tips
Balmy nights, blue skies and warm weather can only mean one thing for the taste buds — barbecues! Whether you have a sprawling backyard, cosy balcony or a preferred picnic spot, cooking outdoors on an open flame is one of life’s greatest – and simplest – of pleasures.
According to Roy Morgan Research, almost two-thirds of Australian households own a barbecue. In fact, research conducted early this year revealed that country South Australia is the nation’s highest-density barbecue-owning region, just ahead of the ACT.
“Along with beer, beaches and sport, the barbecue is central to classic (and, admittedly, clichéd) notions of Australian identity, reaching its zenith with Paul Hogan’s famously ‘ocker’ TV advertisement urging the world to put another shrimp on the barbie,” says Andrew Price from Roy Morgan Research. “So the fact that barbecue ownership is so widespread among Aussie households is no surprise. Nor is the fact that Australian-born Aussies are 50 per cent more likely than their Asian-born counterparts to live in a household with a barbecue in it.”
Gas, charcoal, electric or wood?
Budget, lifestyle, the size of your outdoor area, how often you entertain, your culinary preferences – these are just some of the factors that go into the big decision on what type of barbecue to get.
Gas, charcoal, electric or wood? Let’s take a look at a few pros and cons of each.
Pros and cons of gas barbecues:
- Convenient and fast
- Easy to control temperature
- Quick and easy to clean
- Gas cylinders can provide fuel for hours
- Typically more expensive than a gas barbecue
- Running out of gas halfway through a barbecue isn’t fun!
- Flare-ups are more common as you’re cooking with flames
Pros and cons of charcoal barbecues:
- Typically less expensive than a gas barbecue
- Saturates food with a deep, smoky flavour
- Creates a hotter flame, which is ideal for searing steak
- Heat can be challenging to control
- Coals might need replenishing as you cook
- Lots of ash and grease to clean up
Pros and cons of electric barbecues:
- No need for fuel – just a power source
- Ready to start cooking minutes after switching on
- Safe and easy to use for novice cooks
- Unable to use without a power source
- Small cooking surfaces aren’t ideal for large gatherings
- May lack the flavour that comes from cooking on coals or a flame
Pros and cons of wood barbecues:
- It’s a natural fuel source free from chemicals
- Real firewood smoke infuses food with beautiful flavour
- It’s fun and harks back to simple times
- It takes a lot longer to cook
- Strong wood smoke flavour isn’t ideal for dishes with delicate flavours
- Can be expensive, especially when buying wood from the local servo
- The smoke it creates is environmentally unfriendly. Sparks could cause bush fires!
10 top barbecue cooking tips and techniques:
- Pre-heat your barbecue then patiently wait for it to get hot enough.
- Cooking on a clean, hot grill ensures you seal in the juices from the meat and create a delicious brown crust.
- When it comes to barbecuing meat, cooking times vary according to cut and size, and how you liked it cooked. Taste.com.au has some tips on temperatures and how to barbecue the perfect steak.
- Finish off cooking food on the cooler part of the barbecue, which is typically on the outer edges or to the side, so it doesn’t get too charred.
- To prevent overcooking meat, refrain from using thick cuts as research shows that charred food may be carcinogenic (cancer causing). Large pieces of meat like beef fillets are best cooked in a hooded barbecue.
- Use tongs instead of a fork to turn the meat as it prevents the surface from being pierced and letting the juices run out.
- Marinate food in a non-metallic dish to prevent the acid in the marinade reacting with the metal and tainting the flavour. Marinate meats in the refrigerator before cooking and try adding natural tenderisers like pineapple or papaya to the mix. Remember that the longer the food is left to marinate, the stronger the flavour and the more delicious. Fish is an exception as it only needs 30 minutes to marinate.
- Soak bamboo skewers in cold water for an hour before threading on ingredients to prevent the ends from burning on the barbecue. Stainless steal skewers are good heat conductors and will cook food more quickly. Food for skewering should be cut to a similar size so that each ingredient cooks at the same time.
- Clean the grill or hotplate with a stiff wire brush or scraper while it’s still warm so it’s ready for your next barbecue.
- After cooking, cover your meat loosely in foil and let it ‘rest’ for a few minutes to allow the meat to relax, making it juicier and tastier. A rule of thumb is one minute resting time for every 100g of meat.
Cool barbecue utensils
Now is a good time to update your bent and burnt barbecue tools with ones that are both funky and functional.
Dreamfarm’s BBQ Clongs are multi-purpose tongs that feature a flat tip to scrape your barbeque clean, a spike to prick sausages, a sausage link cutter to separate sausages, and waffle heads to pick up even the teeniest of diced onion. What’s more, when you put them down while you grab another drink, they sit up off your bench thanks to the clever bend in their handles. That leaves less mess to clean up!
Also check out Man Law’s ingenious BBQ Chicken Wing Rack, which ensures your drumsticks, wings and thighs are cooked all the way through instead of the marinade burning before the meat is done. Don’t forget to place some veges underneath to soak up the delicious juices.
Persian watermelon salad
Enjoyed on its own or accompanied with barbecued sweet corn and roasted summer vegetables, this refreshing watermelon salad from The Healthy Chef, Teresa Cutter, is loaded with electrolytes – the perfect dish for a hot summer day.
800g cold seedless watermelon (without skin)
250g Persian or goats feta
100g rocket or baby spinach leaves
Small bunch freshly chopped parsley leaves or few handfuls micro herbs
½ small red onion, very thinly sliced
60g pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
Cold pressed olive oil to drizzle
Slice the watermelon into bite sized wedges.
Wash the rocket leaves and arrange onto a serving platter.
Add the watermelon and gently mix through the leaves.
Top with parsley or micro herbs and sliced red onion.
Remove the seeds from the pomegranate and add to the salad along with pistachio nuts.
Drizzle with cold pressed olive oil just before serving.
Serve immediately and enjoy!
Finally, here are some barbecue safety tips from Fire and Rescue NSW to ensure you stay safe this summer.