Fire it up

This is barbecue season, folks…but how many of us really know what we’re doing? Jane Pikett serves up some hot tips…

Oh, the taste of the British summer – a burnt offering in a bun followed by a trip to A&E with salmonella. Okay, the A&E bit isn’t a foregone conclusion, but you can bet at least a couple of the bangers will be, shall we say, a little charred in a few gardens this summer – the inevitable consequence of the over-enthusiasm which befalls most of us on that first foray into barbecue season. But how to barbie like a pro? Well, try these simple tips…

#1 To gauge the temperature, place your open palm about 5 inches above the grill rack; the heat is high if you have to move your hand in 2 seconds, medium if you have to move your hand in 5 seconds, and low if you have to move your hand in 10 seconds.

#2 The smoke is an ingredient in itself, so use a proper barbie with charcoal and wood chips (not a gas one unless you want the same non-effect as using your oven grill in the kitchen).

#3 Add wood chips for a deeper flavour. For best effect, soak them in water for a few hours, drain and wrap in foil and put them in the hot coals. The water will make them smoke, which gives a wonderful depth of flavour. 

#4 The heat should be low and the cooking slow, which is how you ensure everything is cooked through and you avoid that trip to A&E. Light the barbie 40 mins before you want to cook and let the flames die down and the coals go white before you start cooking.

#5 Barbecues aren’t just for meat. Wrap potatoes in foil and put directly on the embers while everything else cooks. You can also bake fruit in a similar way, or grill it directly on the bars.

#6 When you’re using halloumi, instead of cutting across the block, cut horizontally through it into equal slices. They don’t go to pieces and you can serve them as a burger alternative, or cut it into smaller pieces after grilling.

#7 Lightly toast the cut side of your bread buns over the barbecue for extra flavour.

#8 It’s important to keep the juices in the meat, so don’t stab it – turn it carefully using a spatula. And let it rest for 10 mins before you serve. To reduce the amount of browning or blackening of meat, only apply barbecue or other tomato-based sauces containing sugars in the last 10 mins or so.

#9 Marinate your meat to tenderize it, and take it out of the fridge half an hour before you cook it to allow it to reach room temperature. Don’t add salt until the meat is cooked, otherwise it will be dry and tough, as the salt draws away moisture.

#10 Use a digital thermometer to check the internal temperature (65°C for pork and beef and 70°C for chicken).

Barbecue lamb skewers

Halloumi chilli fingers

BBQ prawns, lobster and crayfish with herb butter and siracha mayonnaise

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