Posted on January 15th, 2017 by Artisan Stone
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.
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.
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.
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.
How you set up your barbecue for indirect and direct heat depends on the type of barbecue you have.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.