Foodie Friday: The best BBQ ever is calling...

With the longest day come and gone, and the repetition of burgers and bangers on the BBQ probably taking its toll and lost its appeal, well now is the time to kick it up a notch and do
something truly spectacular to remember the last few months of summer!

Now it would be fair to say that we aren’t all the best barbequers, we tend to feel like if we’re not out there cremating something we’ll probably poison all our friends, or were just getting stressed stood next to a fire on the hottest day of the year so far, we’ve all been there!

But now it’s time to get prepared, slow it down, and become a master of the flame with a few pro tips from Pete Nicholson, Butcher at Pete the Meat in Astwood Bank 

The BBQ

I know it sounds basic, but there are TWO very important things here,

1: it MUST be charcoal, flavour wise there is just no comparison to a gas grill, period!

2: No matter the shape of it, it must have a lid with vents so that you can cook with it closed to seal in that delicious smoky flavour from a real fire. Also cooking with the lid down stops the fat from catching on the coals and gives much more smoke than flame

The fuel

Only buy restaurant or premium grade charcoal, it’s worth the extra money spent. It’s much larger and better sourced. It can give you up to triple the burn time of that foul tasting ; “I’m in a rush” petrol station charcoal. The best thing to do is buy a bag of premium in advance and just store it in a cool dark DRY place ready for the right occasion and try not to run out.

It is better to have too much than too little, it won’t go off. Also, if you’re going to use wood chips or chunks try starting with fruit woods, it’ll give you a nice easy-going smoke that
finishes food nicely. If using chips, I tend to put a cup full into some tin foil and roll it into a sausage and stab it a few times, place that on the coals and you’ll get a great slow release smoke as you cook.

Wait for the moment

Barbecuing takes time and concentration, nothing wants to be flame grilled from raw, over cooked AND under cooked at the same time? No, wait for your coals to become white hot before cooking. I recommend using a fire chimney to speed the process up and it gives a more even fire when tipped out, trust me they are worth it.

The best thing with a chimney is
you don’t have to use firelighters which taint your BBQ, just a scrunched-up piece of newspaper does the job.

Get prepared

Don’t just stand and watch your coals, go get your tools ready. When at the grill I always have by my side: a decent thick metal spatula, a pair of metal tongs, a set of heat proof gloves and most important, an instant read digital food probe, essential to get those foods not just cooked safely and to reassure you that the food item is actually done and really, REALLY does not need to go back on for another 5 to 10 mins to be ruined. Also, you can use the probe throughout the year on any cooking. Buy one, you’ll love it!

The temperature

When your white-hot coals are spread out, you’ll know when it’s ready to start cooking if you can hold your hand around 6 inches off the grill for about 3-4 seconds before it becomes too hot for you.

The other way is to pile all your coals at the one end, so you have one side screaming hot for finishing food and the other side indirect heat for more of a slow steady cook. If your BBQ is big enough you can achieve great slow smoked meat this way.

The meat

So now we’ve already gone to all this effort, why would we u-turn and put something cheap and nasty on our little baby?

Be bold, go to the butchers, buy some best quality mince and make your own burgers, get a big nice juicy steak, a butterflied leg of lamb or maybe a half chicken and treat it with some love. Talk to your butcher try some of their recommended cuts you’ve never bought before, you may change your life! If you want the best out of a BBQ then the quality should start with your produce, absolutely nothing tastes like properly reared meat, cooked outdoors.

The marinade

We’re dealing with some big smoky flavour here, so if you’re going to pre-season anything, you want to do it the day before or at least 4-6 hours before cooking, and why not try saving a little marinade to brush on while cooking?

The sides

We’ve come this far together so let’s go one more step. Let try and make our own coleslaw.

Seriously, so simple yet such a game changer or if that’s too much add some garlic, butter and cracked pepper to corn cobs and, cook in foil and grill them to perfection. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that sides are 50 to 75 percent of your dinner after all. Don’t let them be just a boring after thought.

Be adventurous

Fish and vegetables are great on the barbie too, again use the very best quality you can afford and try something different to feed your guests. Just simply charring veg unseasoned, and when done, finish with a glug of olive oil, salt and pepper and a lick of balsamic. That’s enough to bring out their delicious natural flavours. and salmon of course has always loved smoke, so be bold, try new things.

So now it’s over to you, the worlds your grill. I can’t stress enough about going to local producers and small shops, food is so variable, it’s always best to buy from a business with good ethics and sustainability. Small shops want and appreciate your trade and will naturally offer better quality produce as they really do care, and they want you to come back upon the strength of their products so please visit your local butcher, fishmonger, greengrocer and why not? Even the off license!

So please chill out, take your time and own your spot by the grill. It’s an occasion, it’s a treat, the suns out, enjoy yourself and champion some fresh British produce over a real flame this summer!