Artisan Stone Comprehensive BBQ Guide

shutterstock_406860298

There’s nothing like gathering friends and family for an outdoor barbecue party in the warmer months. With summer fast approaching, it’s time to bring your barbecue out of hibernation and get it ready for a busy summer of grilling and fun. Whether you’re setting up an existing barbecue or buying a new barbecue, we’ve got you covered for tips on cleaning, maintenance, and cooking.

Charcoal vs gas barbecues

When it comes to choosing charcoal or gas, keep in mind it’s not necessarily true that one is superior to another as both have their own pros and cons.

  • Charcoal barbecues – Charcoal barbecues get very hot, though it’s harder to achieve a consistent temperature with charcoal. They need to be lit manually and preheated, and cleaning can be more complicated because of the ashes. However, one of the benefits of charcoal barbecues is you’ll be able to enjoy the characteristic smoky flavour that charcoal produces. Always light with a chimney starter rather than lighter fluid so you don’t end up with a chemical taste.
    shutterstock_308063912
  • Gas barbecues – These tend to be more expensive than their charcoal counterparts, but it’s possible to find inexpensive models. Gas barbecues are easier to clean, and you have the option of introducing a smoky flavour – or not – by using wood chips in smoker boxes.

shutterstock_200358794

The best location for your BBQ

You’ll want to put some thought into where to put your barbecue as it can have an impact on enjoyment, convenience, and safety. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement, but generally speaking, choose an outdoor space where there’s plenty of room to do the grilling and enjoy your food. Keep it close to your indoor kitchen so it’s easy to transport pre-prepared food.

If you have an outdoor eating space, it’s a good idea to set up your barbecue in that space. Add some shade so that you don’t get too hot when using your barbecue during the summer months. Wherever you decide to set up your barbecue, you should choose a stable, level surface in an area that’s well ventilated.

Make sure you position your barbecue so that the downwind won’t carry too much smoke over to the neighbour’s property. Similarly, if you keep windows open, make sure your barbecue isn’t going to fill any interior spaces with excessive smoke when downwind.

Setting up your BBQ

One of the most important considerations when setting up your barbecue is knowing the difference between direct and indirect heat. The type of heat you’re cooking on affects the taste and how you cook.

  • Direct heat – Food is cooked directly over the fire when you use direct heat. Direct heat is best for fast-cooking items such as burgers, fish, and thin pieces of meat.
  • Indirect heat – Indirect heat is best for slow-cooking items such as ribs, which are placed over the unlit part of the grill or plate and usually cooked covered. Indirect heat results in a deep, roasted flavour.

How you set up your barbecue for indirect and direct heat depends on the type of barbecue you have.

Charcoal grill, direct heat

For direct heat on a charcoal grill, start by preheating your grill for ten minutes before raking the coals so that they cover around two-thirds of the bottom grate. Replace the top grate. This leaves the remaining third free as a ‘safety zone’ where you can shift any food that’s getting too hot or cooking too quickly. When cooking, set pieces of meat and vegetables directly over the coals and leave uncovered when cooking.

shutterstock_271967153

Charcoal grill, indirect heat

To set up your charcoal grill for indirect heat, start by preheating your grill for ten minutes before raking the coals into two piles on either side of the bottom grate. Replace the top grate and cook your food on the empty space between the two piles of charcoal while the barbecue is covered.

When cooking for more than an hour, make sure you set down a disposable aluminium pan between the two piles of coal and fill it with water. This stops the drippings from your meat from burning.

Gas grill

To set up your gas grill for direct heat, preheat your grill for ten minutes and cook your food uncovered and directly over your lit burners. For indirect heat, also preheat for ten minutes before you turn off one burner and cook your food over it with the barbecue covered.

Two-zone barbecuing

When you’re cooking on your barbecue, you can set up a two-zone cooking environment – made up of both indirect and direct heat areas – to cook different types of foods. Foods like vegetables and burgers that need quick searing can go in the direct heat zone, while roasts will do best cooked slowly in the indirect heat zone.

Using wood chips for extra flavour

There’s a reason why barbecuing is so popular: barbecuing adds that extra sizzle and flavour to food. With wood chips, you can add even more smokiness and flavour regardless of whether you’re using a charcoal or gas barbecue, and they still work with foods that cook quickly such as prawns and chicken. The summer months are the perfect opportunity to experiment with wood chips, so explore the different types that are out there and how they combine with different foods.

  • Alder ash – Alder ash offers a natural sweetness and is excellent with fish, poultry, and especially salmon.
  • Apple – Apple brings a mild, sweet, and fruity flavour and is suitable for pork and poultry.
  • Cherry – Cherry has a rich aroma and can be combined with other wood chips such as oak for best results.
  • Hickory – Hickory offers a rich, smoky aroma and can be used on most meats such as pork, lamb, ribs, and poultry. Cooking for too long with hickory can lead to a bitter flavour.
  • Maple – Maple brings a sweet flavour and darkens your meat, and it can be combined with apple and oak.
  • Mesquite – Mesquite is an earthy wood chip that goes well with salmon, poultry, and beef.
  • Oak – Oak brings a woodsy aroma and is great used with beef, pork, and seafood.

shutterstock_11239966

Tips for using wood chips

Some experts recommend that you soak your wood chips for 20 to 30 minutes before grilling your food. This helps bring out the flavour and allow your wood chips to last longer. You can choose to leave bigger chunks unsoaked as these will not burn out as quickly.

  1. Charcoal grills

Allow chips to drip dry and scatter your soaked chips over the charcoal. It’s a good idea to add a pinch of chips at a time so you can sustain the smoking effect without putting out the fire entirely. If you’re cooking with the barbecue covered, do ventilate regularly to avoid over-smoking. Over-smoking can lead to soot and an overpowering smoky flavour in food.

You can also wrap your soaked chips in some aluminium foil, poke some holes in it to allow the smoke to escape, and place the chips on the charcoal to the side, away from the dripping area.

  1. Gas grills

If your gas grill has a smoker box and burner, just add your chips and turn the burner on high. Turn the burner down when it starts smoking. If your grill doesn’t have a smoker box, put your chips in a disposable aluminium pan or a smoker box and poke some holes in it. Place the chips under one of the hot burners to the side and turn down the burner heat once the chips start smoking.

Smoking isn’t an exact science, so have fun experimenting with your barbecue. A good starting point might be to soak half of what you’re going to use and leave the other half dry. Make sure you follow all recommended safety measures to avoid fire hazards and injury.

Before you start grilling

If your grill hasn’t been cleaned since your last grilling session, there are a few steps you need to take before you can start barbecuing. If you’re using a charcoal grill prepare your grill by tipping out the ashes. Preheat your grill before scraping any charred food scraps and drippings from the grates. You’ll probably need to use a brass-wire brush to do a thorough job of removing the gunk.

Once all the food scraps and grease have been removed, give your grate a good rub with a well-oiled paper towel. Use tongs to avoid burning your hands, and opt for oils with high smoke points such as canola or sunflower. Some like to leave any grease on the grate after your last barbecue session of the summer. This will prevent your barbecue grates from rusting over the winter months.

For new barbecues

If you’ve got a brand new barbecue, note that you should always season your barbecue before first use. While seasoning methods will vary depending on your barbecue type and model, seasoning typically involves a gentle scrub in warm water and a thorough rinse. After washing, dry off your barbecue with paper towels before heating your barbecue on medium heat for half an hour.

You might need to then line your drip tray with aluminium foil and fill the tray with a fat absorber. At this stage, turn off your barbecue and coat with a suitable cooking oil, then rub until paper towels are no longer stained with dirt or black. Finally, heat your barbecue for another half hour and allow it to cool to complete the seasoning process.

The manufacturer’s recommended seasoning method might differ, so always follow the their instructions for seasoning your new barbecue. Regular seasoning prevents food from sticking, prolongs the life of your barbecue, and reduces the risk of rusting.

Cooking tips

shutterstock_182132096

Getting the most flavour out of your barbecue isn’t hard if you follow a few expert barbecuing tips. With a little practice, you’ll be barbecuing like a professional.

  • Flip with tongs Use tongs and spatulas instead of forks to flip food on the barbecue. This helps keep the juices in your meat when you’re turning and flipping.
  • Room temperature – Bring meat back to room temperature by taking it out of the fridge before cooking. This lets you to cook the meat through without having to burn the outside.
  • Add vegetables – barbecues are associated with meat and seafood, but don’t forget about the veggies. You can make a mouthwatering side dish of charred vegetables by slicing them thinly and grilling without oil or seasoning, and then brushing with olive oil and adding other seasonings after cooking. This allows you to seal in the flavour while preventing sogginess.
  • Marinate – Along with using wood chips, marinating your meat can give you extra flavour. Drain off marinade before cooking and don’t pour marinade over your meat as it cooks. Instead, brush it on every ten minutes or so and cook over a moderate heat to encourage gentle caramelisation.
  • Flip only when needed – You should avoid flipping too often, which can also lead to flavoursome juices being lost. Flip only as often as is necessary.
  • Don’t press down – Avoid the temptation of squeezing the moisture out of your burgers and meat by pressing down with a spatula as you’re barbecuing.
  • Use herbs – You can add flavour by using herbs as you barbecue. Throw them onto the hot charcoal (for charcoal grills) or soak herbs in water before putting them on the grate and adding your meat or veggies.
  • Baste as a last step – Unless you’re marinating, basting should always come last so that the sugars in your basting sauce don’t have time to burn.
  • Raw and cooked – Set aside extra clean dishes for cooked food so you don’t cross contaminate cooked items with raw.
  • Searing food – Cook any items that need to be seared first – such as veggies, steaks, and burgers –  by placing them over direct heat or directly over the burners.
  • Salting food – Avoid salting meat before cooking if you specifically want a juicy cut of meat, since the salt will draw out moisture. Salt after cooking instead.
  • Crosshatching – For that attractive crosshatching effect on your steak, sear for 90 seconds before rotating 45 degrees and searing again.
  • Space – Avoid overcrowding your barbecue since this can lead to uneven cooking. Leave two centimetres of space between each piece of meat.
  • Resting meat – Let your meat rest for five minutes after cooking, ideally wrapped in foil. This will give you a tender and juicier steak.
  • Chicken and seafood – Whole chickens, roasts, and seafood tend to do better with indirect heat and  covered cooking.  
  • Warming rack – Make use of your warming rack to keep bread and cooked items warm while you finish up cooking.
  • Avoid flare-ups – Trim away the fat on meat and empty the grease tray before cooking to minimise the risk of flare-ups. If they do happen, make sure you’re ready to close the lid and turn off the burners and your gas bottle (if it’s a gas barbecue).
  • Tools and equipment – Arm yourself with the right tools and equipment for barbecue cooking. A good pair of spring-loaded tongs, a wire grill brush, and a metal spatula will make it easy to flip and clean. Other useful tools include a basting brush, a cooking thermometer, and some disposable aluminium pans.

It wouldn’t be a decent barbecue without a cold beer on hand, so take advantage of what you’re cooking to pair your meal with the right brew. Light style beers are paired well with chicken, seafood and salad. For red meats, a heavy beer rich in malt is your best bet. If you’re game, you can always try your hand at brewing your own beer at home. Just remember to always drink responsibly.

Best summer BBQ foods to enjoy

Having a barbecue opens up a whole range of culinary possibilities. Along with home-made burgers, juicy steaks, roast chicken, pork and lamb chops, you can cook grilled lobsters, crabs, sardines and mackerel, and other seafood. You can even make barbecued scallops,  mussels, and other shellfish. Other novel ideas for the barbecue include the following.

  • Damper – This Aussie campfire favourite can be made in your barbecue using low, indirect heat.
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches – Put a new spin on an old favourite – the grilled cheese sandwich.
  • Corn in the husk – Corn makes a wonderful side dish for summer barbecues and it can be cooked to perfection in its own husk on your barbecue.
  • Pizza – Make a crusty grilled pizza on the barbecue and get the kids involved by having them add their favourite toppings.
  • Kebabs – Make your own easy beef kebabs with homemade teriyaki  sauce.
  • Barbecue ribs – Finish off your oven-baked ribs on the barbecue and serve with a refreshing chive dip.
  • Grilled peaches – The warmer months are perfect for grilled fruit, and you can finish off a delicious barbecue dinner with some grilled peaches in bourbon butter sauce.
  • Fruit cobbler – Another awesome dessert that can be made on your barbecue is fruit cobbler. Serve with some ice cream for a refreshing summery dessert.

shutterstock_250729126

Sustainable produce

Cooking and eating sustainable produce has so many benefits. Not only is it beneficial for your health, because sustainable farming focuses on raising food that is healthy for consumers through avoiding the use of artificial herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers, but you are also making an ethical choice through supporting positive animal welfare.

The word ‘ethical’ can be manipulated by companies, as what is ethical to one person, may not be ethical to another. To determine whether the produce is ethical by your standards, look to the facts and labelling provided. Sustainable produce includes free range animals – animals that live in family groups on pastures in low enough densities so that they’re able to live a natural life, pasture-raised – animals that live outside in pastures instead of sheds, and grass-fed – animals that are able to graze freely on pasture, rather than grain feeding regimes.

As a consumer you can make the decision to eat consciously by seeking out produce that was produced using these ethical farming approaches. Further, you can aim to purchase nose-to-tail produce, whereby butchers buy whole bodies of animals and use the whole of the animal in their cuts, reducing waste.

BBQ cleaning, maintenance, and safety

Regular cleaning keeps your barbecue in good condition and eliminates the risk of flare-ups or fire hazards from accumulated food scraps or oil. You should follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning your barbecue, but these general cleaning tips will probably come in handy as well.

  • Checks – Check the lines regularly and before each use. Hoses and lines should be leak and blockage free. For gas barbecues, you can check by spraying soapy water over fittings. The presence of bubbles will show you where any leaks are. Check your gas bottle and make sure it’s no older than ten years old and is still within its recommended use by date.
  • Drip trays – Drip trays need to be emptied and replaced with fresh fat absorber as recommended by the manufacturer. Replace the aluminium lining as often as is required.
  • Cover – Use a barbecue cover to keep away dirt when your barbecue is not being used.
  • Cast iron – Spray canola oil after the barbecue has cooled with each cooking to prevent rust build-up on your cast iron burners and surfaces.
  • Gas barbecues – For gas barbecues, remove the burner protectors and scrub them with a sponge and soapy water. The burners, plates, and removable bottom tray will also need regular cleaning in soapy water, with a sponge or grill brush.
  • Brush – Use a wire brush to scrape off stubborn stains or dripping from cast iron surfaces.
  • Degreaser – Use a barbecue degreaser on cooking surfaces such as the hot plate and grill to ensure a thorough clean.
  • Other surfaces – For the body of the barbecue itself, use soapy water and a soft pad or sponge for a good clean.
  • Replace rusty parts – If there’s excessive rusting on grates, grills, and hot plates and the rust can’t be removed, replace them with new ones.
  • Vinegar – Use a 50-50 vinegar-water mixture to green clean your barbecue grill, grates, and hotplates. Use a spray bottle to apply the mixture and wait for ten minute before using a folded square of aluminium foil to scrub at the surface until it’s clean.
  • Vinegar and baking soda – You can also soak your grill in a vinegar-baking soda solution (half cup of baking soda to one cup of vinegar) overnight to remove stubborn stains. Simply rinse off with water in the morning.

shutterstock_135656459

It’s barbecue time!

You now have at your fingertips some great recipe ideas and expert tips for dusting off your barbecue and getting it ready for the warmer months. Follow these strategies and you’ll be able keep your barbecue in excellent condition while making easy, hassle-free, and delicious meals to enjoy with friends and family.