DESPITE it raining outside, I can’t help but feel the excitement of the hot summer days and warm nights ahead. Nothing beats a barbecue with family and friends – kicking the ball around the back yard with the kids, and all the time the meat is cooking on the open grill.
While there are variations in terminology – e.g. barbecue, BBQ and Barbie – the things that are of most significance to getting your food just right are cooking times and the type of heat used during cooking.
Grilling is the quickest way – using high direct heat with minimum smoke – while barbecuing is done slowly over low direct heat and the food is flavoured by the smoke that is produced by the barbecue over this longer period of time.
Many people think that a barbecue is only for cooking meat, but in reality it’s also a great way to cook things like shrimp, salmon or some of that freshly caught mackerel that is so plentiful around the coast of West Cork. You can even use your barbecue to warm potatoes through or cook a variety of vegetables, giving them a lovely smoky flavour.
Here are some of my top tips for getting the
best out of your barbecue this summer:
• Preheat your grill for 15 to 25 minutes before you start cooking to make sure it reaches the appropriate temperature to kill any bacteria from the last time you used it.
• Reduce sticking by oiling your hot grill rack with a vegetable oil-soaked paper towel, hold it with tongs and rub it over the rack. Do not use cooking spray on a hot grill.
• When grilling, lay food on the grate in orderly lines, moving from left to right. Or for quick-cooking items, such as shrimp and scallops, arrange in a circle going clockwise.
• Lightly coat veggies in olive oil before grilling to help prevent sticking and drying out. Vegetables like asparagus, bell peppers, sliced squash, and onion slices are best grilled by direct method.
• The thinner your meat is then the lesser time it takes the heat to cook into the middle, so the easier it is to get the inside right without burning the outside. I like to start with steaks about 1cm (half an inch) thick then push them out with my hands to about 0.5 cm (quarter inch). Get your butcher to cut your meat to the desired thickness.
• Remember to clean your barbecue after use – this prevents rust and gives your barbecue a long and healthy life.
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