Story by Jamie Oliver
In the summer months there’s nothing better than getting your mates over for a good barbie. Of course, you want to enjoy yourself too so you need it to be fun and fuss-free with fabulous food! Follow my hints and tips and avoid what loads of people do every year – cremate food while leaving it raw in the middle – and you’ll be on to a winner.
My top barbecue tips
“¢ Always burn wood or charcoal, this is so important! I should add them to ingredients lists because this is where your flavour is – you just don’t get it from gas-fire barbies.
“¢ Have your embers piled high on one side, which will be nice and hot, then incline them down to just a few cinders for cooking at cooler temperatures. This acts like the high and low button on your hob and gives you good control.
“¢ Be patient, only start cooking when the fire and smoke have died down and you have white and glowing red embers.
“¢ Remember that you’re in control and if things get too hot either raise the grill or remove your food.
“¢ Why not have a second tray or barbie where you can have a lower heat to keep foods hot? Great barbies always have this second version as it’s a lifesaver if you’re cooking for a crowd over a long period.
“¢ Be safe. This doesn’t mean having a bucket of water handy, it means keeping your kids away from the barbecue and making sure you’ve put it together properly and that it’s stable.
“¢ You don’t have to buy expensive equipment. I sometimes make a barbie from loose bricks and those kits you can buy with disposable coals. But if you do want a swanky barbie, check out some of my favourites at www.caribbeancookers.com.
“¢ Get long tongs as these will save your hands getting burnt. Also get a good brush so you can make sure bits of food don’t get stuck on the bars and burn. You could also use scrunched-up foil – it works in pretty much the same way.
“¢ If you want to get really good at barbecue cooking, start with a few simple recipes first. This way you should stay on top of things, and then you can expand your repertoire!
“¢ Make a simple work base near your barbecue to keep all those essentials – a board, oils, lemons, herbs, seasonings and marinades. This means you don’t have to leave your food untended in the middle of cooking to go grab other ingredients.
“¢ Have plenty of cold beers on hand!
The important stuff
“¢ When meats are stored in the fridge, they will be chilled through and take longer to cook. The best plan is to take them out of the fridge for half an hour or so before you’re ready to barbie, so they can come up to room temperature. Don’t leave them out in the sun though.
“¢ Many people have difficulty working out when things are cooked. My best tip for this is to take a cold skewer and insert it in the thickest part of the meat. Leave it there for 10 seconds and then touch it against your upper lip. It should feel too hot to hold it there for more than a second.
“¢ Undercooked chicken is a cardinal sin – always check that the chicken is cooked through, never pink and ensure the juices run clear. If in doubt, cook for longer.
“¢ It’s can be good to cook big hunks of meat in the oven on a really low heat covered in foil until they’re pretty much cooked through, and then to use the barbecue as a kind of browning and flavouring device at the end. This means that you retain all that lovely moisture, and get all the flavour of the barbecue without worrying that your food isn’t cooked through properly.