Barbecue tips to take your cooking to the next level

Summer is the perfect time to get outside, enjoy some fresh air, and light up the barbecue with your friends and family. And what would a barbecue be without some juicy burgers or steak straight off the grill?

If you’re looking to up your barbecuing game this summer (or even if you’re just starting out), here are some great tips from chefs and experts around the world that will help take your barbecue skills to the next level.

Create barbecue zones

Create zones for high heat, low heat, and indirect heat by spacing out your charcoal. This will allow you to properly manage the heat rather than cooking everything over a grill that’s as hot as you can possibly get it.

If you’re testing to see if the coal is hot enough for the high-heat section, just hold your hand over the grill. It’s perfect if you can only hold it there for three seconds.

Use kitchen staples

If your barbecue doesn’t have a lid, use aluminium foil if something needs to be covered.

Fire up the smoked wood

“When you’re grilling outside, consider using real wood instead of charcoal. I like using applewood or any smoked wood. It’s super subtle and gives you a much milder flavour that won’t overpower the meat,” says Michael Symon, owner at Mabel’s BBQ.

Make friends with an instant-read thermometer

An instant-read thermometer is your best friend when it comes to knowing when your meat is done. Consistency can be difficult on a barbecue due to the amount of flame, the temperature outside and how windy it is. A steak that you can perfect time and time again on a skillet indoors can be a bit more elusive when you throw all these factors in.

Here are the temperatures you should be aiming for depending on how you like your steak cooked:

Clean the grill with an onion

Barbecuing is all fun and games until it comes to the clean-up. It can be a struggle to remove build-up when everything has cooled off so scrub half an onion face down on the hot barbecue after you’ve finished cooking. This easy, cheap and chemical-free cleaning method will easily remove all the gunk.

Grill a fish, win the barbecue

“It’s easier than you expect, and it can be really impressive. Make sure the fish is well-oiled and the grates are really hot. Score it, rub the inside with a sauce such as olive oil and chilli, and that’s it,” says Joe Zoccoli, chef de cuisine at Uchi.

Firm, robust fish stand up best to barbecuing. swordfish, yellowtail kingfish and snapper are all good candidates as they hold together well on the barbecue. More delicate types of fish such as cod can easily flake and fall through the grill, although with a little prep and care when cooking, most fish can be barbecued.

Shellfish are also great barbecued, but only use uncooked shellfish, as reheating cooked shellfish will make them tough.

Don’t limit yourself to meat

“Don’t be afraid to throw on things other than burgers on your grill such as vegetables, fruit, bread, or halloumi cheese. Halloumi caramelises nicely and gets a gorgeous char on the barbecue. It stays together so it’s easy to throw on with just a light brush of olive oil. And the best way to serve it is just with a good squeeze of fresh lime and a few chopped chillies if you like some heat,” says Judy Joo, executive chef/owner at Jinjuu.

Use a potato to determine if the temperature is right

If you’ve preheated the barbecue but aren’t sure if it’s hot enough for cooking, try this trick.

Cut a raw potato in half, set it flesh side down and set a timer for 60 seconds. When the time is up the potato should have a slight colour or grill mark to it. If so, you’re good to go.

Pre-make some brown butter

Make a batch of brown butter and freeze it in an ice cube tray to make everything look and taste better. 

When it’s time to barbecue, take a cube and rub it on your steak, fish or vegetables – just enough to get a thin layer on it. Brown butter won’t burn on the barbecue because of its high smoke point, but it will transfer to your food that particular nuttiness and appetising colour. Plus, it’ll help create a crispy crust.

Grill stone fruits for dessert

Cooking summer fruits on a charcoal barbecue brings out their sweetness and adds depth with a bit of smoke. Choose your favourite in-season fruit such as peaches, nectarines, plums and apricots and cook with butter, brown sugar, and rosemary.

This dessert is great on its own or topped with whipped cream or mascarpone.

Reduce the amount of clean-up

“I always put clingfilm on my meat platters so I can season the meat. Once it’s on the barbecue, I remove the plastic for a clean and sanitary platter for serving without doing extra dishes!” Says Michael Brown, executive chef at Barrel Republic.

Barbecue corn the right way

There are two ways you should cook corn, either still within the husk and cooked over indirect heat for juicy and sweet kernels untouched by the flames, or with a little char.

To go that way, remove the silk, then instead of removing the husk, peel it back to create a handle to grab onto when it’s done. Before putting the corn on, brush it with olive oil or fat.

Once you pull the corn off, immediately put on your toppings (think chilli powder and lime juice, sriracha or pesto) as that’s when it’s most receptive to accepting the flavour.

What’s your favourite thing to cook on the barbecue? Why not share your barbecuing tips in the comments section below?

Also read: Barbecue Sticky Pork Ribs

Ellie Baxter
Ellie Baxter
Writer and editor with interests in travel, health, wellbeing and food. Has knowledge of marketing psychology, social media management and is a keen observer and commentator on issues facing older Australians.


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