How to make Great barbecue?
It’s outdoor dining month here at Jamieoliver.com. The sun is out, as are the terrible T-shirt suntans, and that means one thing: barbecue season.
Let’s face it – most of us are terrible barbecuers. If we’re not cremating sausages, we’re probably poisoning our friends. It’s strange that we pick the method of cooking that needs possibly the most concentration on days when all we want to do is kick back and have a beer.
Cooking well over fire takes some skill, but mastering those techniques will give you a special seat of honour among your friends. Here are our top ten tips, equipment and techniques. Armed with these you will be Lord of the Tong, Master of the Flame, the guy stood next to a screaming heat source on an already-hot day. Get fired up, it’s grilling time.
Get the right barbecue
It may sound basic but there are two crucial things your burner needs if you want to make great barbecue food. The first thing is, it has to be a charcoal one. There’s nothing wrong with gas barbecues, but you won’t get any extra smoky flavour. You might as well be cooking in the oven, flavour-wise! The second thing you need is a lid. It locks in flavour, keeps the temperature constant and can be used as an extra technique. Without one you can’t do beer can chicken, or melt cheese on burgers, or smoke ribs…
Use the right fuel
In the UK, charcoal is usually bought in a rush from a petrol station car park as soon as the sun peeks its head around a cloud. But being prepared can make a huge difference, because the charcoal you use changes the way your food tastes. Our main man DJ BBQ, author of Food Tube’s BBQ Book, recommends lumpwood charcoal – the stuff that looks like burnt tree – because it will give the best flavour. It’s unadulterated and natural.
If you’re a bit of a pro, try adding wood chips to your charcoal. Hickory and oak are great with fish and pork, while cherry and apple wood add a sweetness to most meats. Just soak half what you’ll use in water to make it last, then add it all once lit.
Wait for the right moment to cook
Barbecuing takes patience and concentration, in that order. You need to wait for the flames to die down – flame-grilled is a very misleading term! You want the coals white hot – by which I mean grey and glowing. That’s the hottest and evenest heat.
Get the temperature bang on
Following on from that, don’t forget that what you have created is a caveman oven, so you need to control the heat just like an oven. DJ BBQ says the best way to test the heat is with your hand. Hold your hand about 12cm/5inches above the grill and see how long you can hold it there comfortably (ie. without screaming).
6 seconds = low heat
4 seconds = medium heat
2 seconds = in DJ’s words “hotter than a goat’s butt in a chilli pepper patch”
0 seconds = Hospital. Now.
You also need to control the temperature across the grill. The easiest technique is the half and half – put all the coals to one side, so you have a mega-hot side and one with no direct heat.