How to Create the Ultimate Barbecue Experience
The invites went out. The food is refrigerating… and the drinks are chilling (not in the horror-film sense). It’s that time when you gather with family and friends to enjoy the mouth-watering delights of cooking outdoors. Welcome to the barbecue experience of the summer.
But what makes for the ultimate outdoor cooking experience? Get ready to elevate your grilling game to new heights.
Charcoal vs Gas
Ok, we know there’s a debate. And here is not the place to say ‘hey use charcoal. It’s real grillin’ because you get the smoky flavour,’ or ‘use gas. It’s so easy and offers the ultimate in control (and no-one wants charcoal instead of food)’.
Ultimately, the choice depends on your personal preference. And unless you’re buying a new barbecue you’ve probably already made that choice.
Having said that, they do offer different experiences and one of which is setting the coals alight.
Just Use a Little Patience
Gas is easy. You turn the knob and wait for the temperature to rise.
When using charcoal, patience is key. Resist the temptation to start grilling as soon as the coals are lit. Instead, wait until they turn grey and achieve a glowing, consistent heat. This ensures that the coals have reached their optimal temperature for even cooking and deliver that distinctive smoky taste to your food. Remember, good things come to those who wait.
Tip: Don’t keep your guests waiting forever. It’s easy to focus on the food, the drink and realise too late you forgot to get firelighters or worse, charcoal.
The Power of the Lid
One essential tool that often goes unnoticed is the grill lid. Using a lid while cooking on a barbecue helps retain heat, promote even cooking, and lock in those delectable flavours. It creates a convection effect, allowing the heat to circulate around the food, resulting in perfectly cooked dishes every time.
So, really don’t underestimate the power of the lid; it’s your secret weapon for successfully succulent and evenly cooked meals (that’s why Outback barbecues come with a lid). Use it to your advantage.
The Importance of Quality Accessories
Dropped a sausage? If you’re a frequent BBQ-er the chances are pretty high that you‘ve gone to grab something from the grill only to watch it tumble to the ground.
That’s why investing in high-quality barbecue accessories can significantly enhance your grilling experience. These tools not only make your cooking process more efficient but also ensure safety and precision while handling food on the grill.
If nothing else, get yourself:
Other bits, including a reliable meat thermometer, a basting brush and a fish grill are also worth having.
But if you’re cooking with charcoal, a charcoal starter might be the best bit of kit you ever get.
Craft Your Own Burgers
Take your burger game to the next level by crafting your own patties. Try it. It’s guaranteed to be better than anything you buy in the shop.
Mix ground beef with your favourite seasonings, herbs, or even cheese to create unique flavour combinations. Shape the patties to your desired thickness and remember to refrigerate the patties for at least 30 minutes before grilling to help them hold their shape.
When it’s time to grill, cook the burgers over direct heat, flipping them once to ensure a juicy and flavourful result. Don’t forget to melt your favourite cheese on top (a BBQ lid makes this so much easier) and serve them on freshly toasted buns with a variety of toppings and condiments.
Include Fish in Your Barbecue Experience
Incorporating fish into your grilling repertoire adds a delightful and healthy twist. Choose robust fish like salmon, tuna, or swordfish that can withstand the heat of the grill. Use a grilling basket or aluminium foil to prevent delicate fish from falling through the grates. Add full-of-flavour marinades or rubs, and grill until the fish is perfectly flaky and infused with that BBQ goodness.
And Pizza… Cooked on a Grill?
Grilling pizza can take your barbecue experience to new heights. Preparing pizza on the grill imparts a crispy crust and a smoky flavour that traditional ovens can’t replicate. Roll out your favourite pizza dough, brush it with olive oil, and place it directly on the grill grates. Once it’s lightly browned on one side, flip it over and add your favourite toppings. Close the lid and let the cheese melt and the flavours join for a unique and delicious taste experience.
Alternatively, if you have an Outback BBQ with a multi-cooking surface, use an Outback pizza stone. They’re just the job.
Side Dishes: The Unsung Heroes
While the BBQ spotlight often falls on the main dishes, putting effort into your side dishes can elevate your barbecue from good to extraordinary. Experiment with different grilled salads, roasted vegetables, or even homemade slaws. Grilled corn on the cob with a drizzle of lime and chilli butter, or foil-wrapped potatoes with garlic and herbs, are crowd-pleasing options that will have your guests coming back for seconds.
Don’t Forget Vegetables
Barbecues aren’t just about grilling cuts of meat. Don’t forget to include a variety of grilled vegetables to complement your main dishes.
Grilling vegetables such as peppers, courgette, corn on the cob, adds a delicious flavour and brings out their natural sweetness. There’s actually something pretty special about a vegetable that’s been grilled to perfection.
Experiment with different marinades, spices, and seasonings to create enticing and vibrant veggie options that everyone will enjoy.
The Magic of Marinades
Marinades are the secret to infusing flavour and tenderness into your grilled meats. Create your own marinades using a combination of oil, acid (like lemon juice or vinegar), herbs, spices, and your preferred flavour profiles. Allow the meat to marinate for at least a few hours, or overnight for maximum impact. The marinade not only adds flavour but also helps to tenderise the meat, resulting in juicy and succulently grilled masterpieces.
Tip: Don’t use BBQ sauce as a marinade. It’ll just make the meat stick to the grill. Instead brush a little over the meat just before it comes off the grill.
A delightful and unexpected way to end your barbecue experience. The heat of the grill adds a unique flavour and caramelization to fruits and other sweet treats. Watch out though, grilled desserts cook quickly. Try:
- Fruit Skewers: Thread chunks of your favourite fruits like pineapple, peaches, bananas, or strawberries onto skewers. Grill them over direct heat until they have beautiful grill marks and are slightly softened. Serve them with a drizzle of honey or a sprinkle of cinnamon for a simple yet delicious dessert.
- Peaches with Ice Cream: Cut ripe peaches in half and remove the pits. Brush the cut sides with a bit of oil or melted butter and grill them, cut side down, over medium heat until they are tender and have grill marks. Serve the grilled peaches with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, a drizzle of honey, and a sprinkle of chopped nuts or granola.
- Banana S’mores: Slit a ripe banana lengthwise, leaving the peel intact. Stuff the banana with mini marshmallows and chocolate chips. Wrap the banana in aluminium foil and grill it over indirect heat until the chocolate and marshmallows are melted and gooey. Serve it as is or use the melted mixture as a dip for graham crackers.
- Grilled Watermelon with Mint and Feta: Cut thick slices of watermelon and lightly brush them with olive oil. Grill the watermelon over high heat for a minute or two on each side until grill marks appear. Remove from the grill and sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese and fresh mint leaves for a refreshing and unexpected dessert.
Harnessing Indirect Heat
While direct heat is ideal for searing and achieving those beautiful grill marks, it’s important to have a section of the grill dedicated to indirect heat. This area allows for slower, more gentle cooking, ideal for larger cuts of meat or delicate foods. By utilising indirect heat, you can cook your food more evenly and avoid charring or overcooking.
If you’re cooking on gas, this temperature control is easy. If you’re using charcoal, move the lit coals to one side so there’s an area of direct heat and an area of indirect heat.
Creating the best barbecue experience requires a little attention to detail. Whether you choose charcoal or gas, explore a world beyond traditional meats with fish and pizza, remember to experiment, have fun, and enjoy the process. From perfectly grilled burgers to delectable side dishes, marinades, and even grilled desserts, a memorable barbecue experience awaits you. So, fire up your grill, gather your loved ones, and savour those shared moments shared over great flavours and delicious food. Happy grilling.