July 4th is the perfect opportunity to throw your own backyard barbecue. Sadly, many of lack in the barbecue skills department - if we’re not cremating sausages, we might be poisoning our guest. It is definitely amusing 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 relax.
Cooking well over fire takes some skill, but mastering those techniques will give you a special seat of honour from those you are cooking for. Armed with a few tips, techniques and our favorite recipes you will become your own ‘Master of the Flame’.
The Right Barbecue
It may sound basic but there are two crucial things your burner needs if you want to barbecue great food. The first thing is, charcoal is best. There is nothing wrong with a gas barbecues, but it will fail to produce any extra smoky flavour. From a flavor perspective, you might as well be cooking in the oven. 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 make Chef Pete’s Cider Can Chicken
The Right Fuel
So often, charcoal is bought in a rush from a gas station car park as soon as the sun starts shining and the weather starts warming up. Being prepared can make a huge difference, because the charcoal you use changes the way your food tastes. Lump wood charcoal (it literally looks like burnt tree) will give the best flavour. It’s unadulterated and natural.
If you are a little more experienced you may experiment with 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.
The Right Moment
Barbecuing takes patience and concentration, in that order. Flame-grilled is a very misleading term - you need to wait for the flames to die down. You want the coals white hot, which actually means grey and glowing. That’s when you will get the hottest and most even heat.
The Right Temperature
Following on from that, don’t forget that what you have created is a caveman oven, so you need to control the heat the same as you would when using an oven. The best way to test the heat is with your hand. Hold your hand about 5 inches above the grill and see how long you can hold it there comfortably without pain or severe discomfort.
- 6 seconds = low heat
- 4 seconds = medium heat
- 2 seconds = really high heat
- 0 seconds = way too hot
You also need to control the temperature across the grill. The easiest technique to getting this right is the half and half: put all the coals to one side, so you have a really hot side and one with no direct heat.
This is how you can perfect grilling the perfect steak
The Right Tools
Most people have accidently lost a sausage down a grill or flipped a burger over the edge. The one barbecue tool you simply must have is a decent pair of tongs – they give you the most control, and reduce the chances of dropping anything between the grills. You can also get yourself some more creative tools and gadgets like a heavy-duty oven glove, a really good flipper and maybe even a fish or vegetable grill to hold in the smaller, more delicate foods.
Make Your Own Burgers
Homemade burgers are better. Even if you make them from nothing but salt and pepper and good-quality meat, they will beat anything you can buy in any grocery store. Buy ground meat with plenty of fat, or get your butcher to give you some minced flank or chuck. This will give you juicy, flavourful burgers whether you like them pink in the middle or cooked right through.
Experiment With Fish
Why do people forget fish? Fish and smoke are such great friends (think smoked salmon!). You could try a trout or side of salmon, throw some oak chips in and cook like the caveman you always knew you were. If you’re feeling more creative, slice a whole fish open and stuff with lemon, dill and pepper.
Use A Marinade
You may have heard the phrase “leave for a few hours, ideally overnight”. This concept applies even more so to barbecues, to make sure the flavours aren’t overridden and hidden by the addition of the smoke. A pro tip is to save some marinade when you make, and brush your meat or fish with the marinade every 10 minutes as it cooks. That way it will add moisture, trap the smoke flavour and caramelise gently as it goes.
Let The Vegetables Shine
I know barbecues are an excuse for you to embrace your inner carnivore, but fire does wondrous things to vegetables too, if you get the technique right. What you are looking for is some charring along the bars – it looks amazing, and tastes even better. You can simply slice your vegetables thinly, then grill right away – no oil, no seasoning. Once cooked you can add the flavour in some quality olive oil and a bit of vinegar.
The Right Sides
Sides should never be an afterthought! They will make up a large part of what you eat when following the principles of a Paleo diet.
A Little Dessert
A decadent Paleo dessert need not require a lot of time and effort. In fact, you can have a sweet treat with a handful of ingredients and some flavorful smoke and heat from your grill.
Get grilling, explore the outdoors again and enjoy your holiday weekend!