It looks like we are going to have a warm sunny weekend – ideal for getting the barbecue out. Now the thing about barbecuing is that done well the food can be delicious, done badly it can either give you food poisoning or be burnt to a cinder – and that can be with the same sausage.
If you are cooking on charcoal – the rule is be patient. You need to allow about 45 minutes before you start cooking.
Start by spreading charcoal briquettes about two layers thick across the base of the grill, piled into a neat heap in the centre. If you are using firelighters make sure they are designed for barbecue use.
After about ten minutes or so when the coals are glowing red spread them back across the base into an even layer. You might also want to leave one side of the barbecue ash free, this is a good way to cook meat slowly from the inside out and great to move foods to if they are starting to burn.
Leave the coals for another 25 to 30 minutes, waiting until the charcoal is ash grey before starting to cool. This is the biggest mistake most people make – they start cooking too soon which means the charcoal burns everything on the outside – which tricks you into thinking it is cooked, while on the inside it is still raw.
A good way to judge the heat of your barbecue once it is ready to cook on, (e.g. the ash is charcoal grey and there are no flames ), is to do the hand test.
Hold your palm side down over the coals. If you can hold your hand steadily over the heat for no more than two seconds your Barbecue is hot. Medium hot for three seconds, medium four seconds, medium low five seconds and low six or more seconds.
- If you want to prolong the cooking time for your food add fresh coals around the already hot coals.
- Keep a squirty bottle of water handy, just in case your food starts to burn or flames start flaring up.
- Think about what you are grilling. Steaks require brief cooking over a hot heat whereas sausages will take longer and need to be positioned over a less hot area of the barbecue.
- If you are not confident about cooking chicken then pre cook it first. Although well marinaded and grilled slow and long on a barbecue is very do- able. To check that the meat is properly cooked – cut it in half to see whether it is fully cooked.
Grilling on a barbecue is not difficult to master, Basically to be successful, it is a matter of paying attention to what you are doing and to keep a close eye on the food. And as a barbecue is an open fire hazard it should not be left unattended anyway.
This leads me onto the final point for a successful barbecue – in this country anyway. Make sure your barbecue is sited safely away from the house but not so far that the cook is isolated from the rest of the party. Always suggest for evening barbecues that guests bring jackets and provide blankets. Sitting out on a cool night under the stars is a really nice thing to do – the key is to make sure everyone is warm.
Have fun and enjoy your barbecue.