The word barbecue just makes us think of these glorious summer months, doesn’t it? (Even though I know people who use it all year round including for Christmas lunch!) At home, I love barbecues and eating outside and I’d love you to try it more too. A leisurely meal with family and friends, cooked outside, the smell of charcoal, crunchy salads and a cool, crisp drink - just what summertime memories are made of!
But BBQs can seem samey with sausages and burgers all the time and as well as encouraging you to eat outside more, I’d like you to consider shaking up your grill goodies! Here are eight top tips for a more exciting al fresco eating experience.
1. First shake up suggestion – try fish on the BBQ. The Aussies know what they’re doing with ‘shrimps on the barbie’ but don’t be limited to just those tasty crustaceans. Firm fish fillets work wonders and they don’t need very long – that can be their and your downfall too though! Keep a keen eye on them before they are overdone.
2. Whatever you’re planning for your garden dining, a tasty marinade or spicy rub could go a long way to liven things up. There are some of my recipes here: bear in mind that different cuts of meat, fish and veg take to marinades differently; on the other hand, what’s great about marinade recipes is that they can be adapted to suit your tastes and flavour preferences.
3. Invigorate your veg, and no I don’t just mean the side salads! These days, we’re so much more aware of veg thanks to the rise of healthy living, vegetarianism and veganism that adding it to your barbie menu is an excellent idea! Corn on the cob is an all-time favourite, of course, but there are plenty of other colourful options such as asparagus and healthy root vegetables like carrots and parsnips. Give them time though as they take a while and a good idea is to blanche them first. Warmer veg can take on a marinade better.
4. And as for those side salads, keep them fresh and crunchy with acidic dressings to counter act the textures and depth of flavour of the meat.
5. For vegetarians looking for their protein on the BBQ, halloumi is a staple in my garden cooking and many others too. This salty, Greek cheese (you know, the squeaky one!) can handle a BBQ well and there are some great recipes here.
6. For many people, cooking on a gas barbecue isn’t authentic and they prefer the smell and authentic feeling of cooking on a grill over coals. If you want to take it to the next level, the Bear Grylls’ or Ray Mears’ level, you can cook directly on the coals themselves which is called a dirty BBQ. There is definitely technique required here and it’s a good idea to read up before proceeding.
7. Make your own burgers! There are so many meat and veggie burger recipes on the internet that you’re sure to find one that you like. BBQ pros recommend using the finest mince beef that you can buy (or mince it yourself – apparently there has been a spike in mincer sales reported at Lakeland and John Lewis!) and don’t go for lean minced beef – the fat not only adds flavour but also helps your burger patty stick together. They also advise against using salt as seasoning as it dehydrates the meat and causes your burger to fall apart. For veggie burgers, trusty halloumi works as do ‘meaty’ portobello mushrooms. Experiment.
8. If your BBQs are renowned for undercooked meat, then do invest in a meat thermometer. You’ll look like a professional chef and won’t have people wandering over with the question every outside cook dreads hearing “Do you think this is cooked?”!
There are more BBQ hints and tips on my website here. BBQs are really changing (look at the Big Green Eggsthat you see chefs cooking with on Instagram!) and are no longer being dusted off just for the summer. People like the idea of cooking outside but they’re also keen to try a variety of foods in new ways. Now’s the time to become known for your legendary BBQs so I thoroughly recommend experimenting! Make 2020 the year you banish the burgers and boost the BBQ experience!