By CHRIS WINSTANLEY
Living in the Algarve has allowed me to eat outside two or three times a week for the last six summers. I have made some great barbecue meals, but at the start I had some horror stories and many a burnt sausage. So to try and ease you into the summer outdoor cooking season, here are some top tips to cook up great barbecue food every time. Happy grilling!
1. Flavour It
When it comes to outdoor cooking, there are several ways to add extra flavour to your food. The quickest way is with glazes, syrupy coatings made with honey, maple syrup or marmalade, which are brushed on during the last few minutes of grilling. Similarly, wet and dry rubs require little preparation time. Apply these blends of herbs and spices (wet rubs incorporate moist ingredients, such as oil, mustard and yogurt) up to a few hours before cooking to create a savoury crust. To more deeply infuse foods with flavour – and tenderise them – immerse them in marinades that are made with acidic liquids, such as lemon juice, vinegar, piri-piri and wine.
2. Add smoke
Whether you grill over gas or charcoal, use wood chips to impart a smoky flavour to foods. Different wood varieties add subtle nuances; try applewood for sweetness, mesquite for tang, or hickory for a baconlike taste. If your BBQ has a lid, bring it down for full effect. You can buy flavoured woodchips from good BBQ shops.
3. Create heat zones
On a kettle grill, bank coals in its centre. Sear food in the middle of the BBQ, where heat is highest, then move it to the outer edges of the grill to perfectly cook without burning. On a gas grill, leave one burner on high, another on medium.
4. Get a clean start
Prior to grilling, scrub the hot grate with a long-handled wire brush. This keeps it clean – and ensures neat grill marks.
5. Season the grill
Prevent food from sticking by brushing the grill grate with oil. Grab a small wad of paper towels with tongs, then dip in a bowl of olive or vegetable oil and rub lightly to evenly coat the grate. For a more spicy taste put dried chill peppers into olive oil for a week or more before use and this will get your food off with a zing!
6. Keep it separate
Use fresh plates, utensils and cutting boards to prevent raw meat, poultry and fish from contaminating cooked food. Sorry about the washing up!
7. Line it up
When grilling, lay food on the BBQ in orderly lines, moving from left to right. Or for quick-cooking items, such as shrimp and scallops, arrange in a circle going clockwise. This will help you keep track of which foods hit the flames first as well as allow you to group raw items away from cooked ones.
8. Don’t touch
When checking for doneness, resist the urge to repeatedly poke, stab, or flip your food. Let’s face it, we have all been faced with broken burgers falling through the grate to be lost forever. Instead, give food time to sear and develop a crust; turn only when grill marks form.
9. Time it
Food continues to cook after it comes off the grill, so it’s best to remove it just before it has reached the desired doneness. A digital instant-read thermometer gives the most accurate results, but you can also gently poke steak and chops with your index finger; the firmer meat feels, the more well-done it is. With seafood, look for opacity; well-done fish fillets will be opaque all the way through. For chicken, make a slit in the thickest part of the cut. Any juices that escape should run clear.
10. Take a break
Let food rest before serving — a few minutes for small cuts, up to 15 minutes for roasts. A good time to pour out a great glass of wine and survey the feast you have created.
Chris Winstanley is owner of ‘Moveison, The Algarve’s Finest Outdoor Living Store’ and an authorised dealer of Weber and Beefeater BBQs.