10 brilliant ways to get the most from your barbecue and produce fantastic food this summer

May 2021

If the media is proven to be correct, the summer of 2021 is going to be a scorcher – indeed, the hottest in a decade.

As we ease our way out of lockdown, you’ll probably be eager to see friends who you may not have seen for over a year, meaning the evening air across the UK will be thick with the smell of burning charcoal.

But it’s likely you’ll want your barbecue to be remembered for all the right reasons, not because you served singed burgers and burnt sausages. If so, read on to discover ten top tips from three celebrity chefs, to help make your barbecues the envy of friends and family.

1. Food is better when cooked on a charcoal barbecue

When it comes to knowing a bit about BBQs, Australian chef John Torode is well placed to comment. As a Michellin rated chef, judge on MasterChef and restaurant owner, it’s likely that his barbecues are better than most.

One thing he is convinced of is that food tastes better on a charcoal barbecue – and he’s not alone. Fellow celebrity chef Jamie Oliver agrees. But John also admits to cheating by putting charcoal on an old cake rack and setting it across the top of the gas barbecue.

He then turns on the gas on for a couple of minutes to heat the charcoal evenly throughout.

2. Buy the right charcoal

Jamie Oliver believes that nipping down to the local petrol station to buy a bag of charcoal when the sun appears is probably not the best start to your barbecue. Instead, he suggests you buy the fuel in advance, as the quality of charcoal changes the way food tastes.

He recommends “lump wood” charcoal, which looks like a burnt tree. As it is unadulterated and natural, Jamie believes it provides the best flavour.

3. Use wood fired ovens for joints of meat

If you really want to wow friends, buy a good wood fired oven and cook a joint of meat in it, says John Torode.

He explains that a boned leg of lamb or whole chicken smothered in yoghurt and spices can provide a mouth-watering alternative for guests to enjoy. One tip is to buy an oven with a thermometer, as the ovens can lose heat quickly and you need to know when to top up the fuel.

4. Use a lid if your barbecue has one

Gordon Ramsay highlights the importance of covering meat while it cooks if your barbecue is equipped with a lid. Doing this creates a chamber that keeps the heat and smoke in, helping retain moisture.

He adds that it also means you can cook bigger prime cuts and tougher muscles that are better cooked long and slowly.

5. If you’re cooking on charcoal, don’t overcrowd the grill

John Torode explains that you should be able to move food while it’s cooking. This means that if it’s getting singed in one place, you can move it to a cooler part of the barbecue as this is the only source of heat control – unlike gas barbecues, on which you can turn the temperature down.

Make sure you don’t have too much food cooking on the grill as this prevents you moving it around.

6. Add wood chips to the barbecue

If you feel confident enough, Jamie Oliver suggests adding wood chips to your charcoal, such as hickory and oak with fish and pork. The celebrity chef also suggests cherry and apple wood as it provides a sweetness to most meats.

Before the barbecue, soak half of the sawdust you intend to use in water to make it last, then add it all once lit.

7. Buy a flat plate for your barbecue

In Australia, barbecues have a flat plate – or “plancha” – over half of the grill area. Adding one to your barbecue could help you cook better burgers as the fat does not drip onto the coals, causing it to flare up. You can also fry onions – something you’ll never be able to do on the grill.

8. Get the best tools for the job

Like everything in life, the better the tools, the better the end result. Jamie explains that buying a good fish slice and heavy-duty oven gloves will help you no end.

The essential piece of kit, though, is a good pair of tongs, as they increase the amount of control you’ll have when moving the food.

9. Marinade your meat more thoroughly

While the normal advice would be to marinate meat for a few hours, or ideally overnight, Jamie explains it applies doubly to barbecues to ensure flavours are not overridden by smoke.

He also suggests some of the marinade is kept back and brushed over fish or meat every 10 minutes as it cooks. This traps the smoke flavour while giving moisture.

10. Use the ashes for sweetcorn or jacket potatoes

Wrapping vegetables such as jacket potatoes and sweetcorn in foil means you can then leave them in the embers to smoulder. Once tender, serve and eat. Gordon Ramsay also suggests apples and bananas are cooked this way, to provide guests with a great pudding.

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We hope these tips help you get the most from your barbecues. As always, we are here to help you get the most from your wealth, so feel free to contact your financial planner if there is anything we can help you with.

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