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Top Tips From a Chef for BBQ Perfection

It's barbecue time again.

By David Greenwood-HaighPublished 7 years ago 4 min read

The open flame is one of the oldest cooking methods in the world. Every culture does it. The only real difference is in the ingredients and how we use the fire. since we discovered fire, and realised that caramelised cooked meat was much tastier than raw meat, grilling over a flame has been one of our favourite ways to prepare food.

Over time, the techniques have been honed and perfected, the origin of the word barbecue comes from the Spanish, who used the word barbacoa to refer to the native style of fire cooking of they found in the Caribbean. I visit Haiti often and the smell of charcoal or wood burning brings back happy memories of Haitian food.

Whenever I get together with my friends for a barbecue, we will often theme it Haitian or Mexican sometimes deep southern but I always include chocolate.

Maybe it is the smell of the baby back ribs marinated in dandelion and burdock charring on the grill, or the beercan jerk chicken or just the amazing flavours that a chocolate rub adds to salmon steaks.

For me, barbecues are a time when we can reconnect, catch up, chill out and have a good time.

Here are some of my top tips to keep your barbecue trouble free, don’t forget to check out my chocolate BBQ recipe ideas.

Mis-en Place (Be Prepared):

Chefs organise and prepare (wash, cut, oil, and season) everything in advance and place things in Tupperware containers or wrap fast covered baking sheets ready for the grill. Marinades and rubs are a good way to keeping meat tender and moist. Particularly on charcoal barbecues, make the day before and marinate for at least a couple of hours. Take the time to double check that your work area is well ventilated, and that the smoke from the grill won’t get caught in any awnings or overhangs and irritate you or your guests.

BBQ Chocolate Rubs

Get the Sides Right:

Sides should never be an afterthought! They should make up two-thirds of what you eat, especially if you’re on a budget and want to a balanced meal. You could go for a classic potato salad, Haitian picklese, grilled corn on the cobs, creole rice, some simple couscous or my favourite, homemade flatbreads –made on the barbecue or in the oven.

Preheat the Grill Properly:

Don’t be tempted to rush if you’re looking to get a good crust on your food and that lovely barbecue flavour, you need your barbecue grill to be hot before you start cooking then it will give you that professional branded look and seal in the meats flavours. You need to control the temperature across the grill. The best technique is the half and half – put more of the coals to one side, so you have a hot side and a cooler side. It will make a huge difference. Cook the meat until charred in the “hot side” then let it cook to perfect level of doneness in the “cool spot.”

Control the Temperature:

You are the grill master. What you have created is no more than a primitive oven, and you need to control the heat just like you do in a standard oven in the kitchen. A good way to test the heat is with your hand, hold your hand about 12cm above the grill and see how long you can hold it there comfortably. (This why grill chefs have no hairs on their arms.)

  • 6 seconds = low heat
  • 4 seconds = medium heat
  • 2 seconds = too hot!
  • 0 seconds = step away from the flame

You can also have a spray container of water to help cool it down.

Be Organized Around Your Barbecue:

Have enough work area. Work out how many grill-loads of food you have to cook. What other equipment will you need? How are going to you keep raw meat separate from cooked? Try using extra tables and cool boxes and have a bin with a lid.

Invest in Some Tools:

It's smart to invest in 2 sets of BBQ tongs: One set with grips for turning and handling food and another with insulated handles for moving and turning coals. An uncommon but useful tool is a paint scraper. It has a nice flat edge that you can use to flip and turn meats and vegetables. They’re durable, cheap and easy to find at any hardware store. A digital probe thermometer is a must. Grill chefs grill every day, so they’re masters at knowing when their meat is cooked to perfection, but that only comes with years of practice. A thermometer takes the guesswork out of the equation.

Don't Cook Cold Meat:

Make sure you always bring your meat back to room temperature before cooking. The biggest struggle with cooking on the BBQ is to get the heat from the outside of your steak into the middle without burning the surface to a cinder. The warmer things are in the middle before it goes onto the fire, the easier it is to cook. (Don’t put raw meat back in the fridge cook any leftover meat and use it for salads later.)

Use the Kitchen:

If you’re at home, you have a fully equipped kitchen use it! start your marinated lamb shanks, chicken portions or sausages in the oven.

Thin is the New Thick:

The thinner your meat, the less time it needs to cook the middle, so the easier it is to cook without burning the outside you can always have a second piece.

Don't Keep Poking and Prodding:

It takes time for your caramelised barbecue crust to develop and this won’t happen if you keep turning your steaks or burgers. Only turn once or twice. And don’t squash all the flavour out of everything.

Keep Your Meat Warm with a Homemade Resting Box:

Tape two foil containers together and pop your meat inside. The foil will keep them insulated and warm until they are rested and you’re ready for serving.

Lamb Shanks Studded with Garlic and Rosemary

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About the Creator

David Greenwood-Haigh

Multi award-winning chocolatier with over forty years experience.fellow of the institute of hospitality, MasterChef member Craft Guild of Chefs Judges International chocolate awards, Academy of chocolate awards & Great taste awards

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    David Greenwood-HaighWritten by David Greenwood-Haigh

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