Summer is fast approaching, which means we’ll soon be enjoying one of our favourite pastimes: sharing a few drinks with friends and family around the barbecue.
But if you’re not exactly a grilling guru, don’t worry. Here are some tips to help you impress your guests with the perfect steak.
Clean it up
Some people think that any food left on the grill will simply burn off. It’s a nice idea, but unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. The only real way to get the grill clean is with soapy water and a good scrub. And the best time to clean your BBQ is right after you’ve finished cooking, before the grease has a chance to harden. Just make sure you don’t burn yourself.
Know the difference between gas and charcoal
Both types of grills have their supporters, and we’re not about to throw our own voices into the ongoing debate. Let’s just say that both forms of barbeque have their own advantages. Gas barbecues tend to be more convenient (as long as you remember to fill the gas bottle). Just twist the knob, press the ignition button or light a match and you’re ready to go.
But a gas barbecue won’t give your meat that same smoky flavour that you get from a charcoal barbecue. And when it comes to cooking the perfect steak, that can make a big difference.
Make sure you know how to light your charcoal
If you decide to go with charcoal, you need to remember that using an (self-lighting charcoal, lighter fluid, etc.) to get those briquettes popping will affect the taste of whatever you’re cooking.
So, what should you use? You can use whatever you like providing you give it enough time to burn off before you start cooking. Or you can use a strategically-placed newspaper and a charcoal chimney, which has the added bonus of making it nice and smoky.
Heat it before you cook it
Ever tasted BBQ meat that’s burned to a crisp on the outside yet still cold on the inside? If so, chances are you were victim to a common barbecuing blunder: not bringing the meat up to room temperature before putting it on the grill.
And your meat isn’t the only thing that needs to heat up. The grill also needs to be nice and hot before you start cooking. Putting nicely-warmed meat on a properly-heated grill gives you a good outer crust without burning it.
Reduce the fat (and the marinade)
We’re not suggesting you use only lean meat and leave the marinade off completely. After all, it adds to the flavour. But you may want to think about reducing it a little.
The fat in the meat and marinades you add tend to drip down into the grill itself, making the flames flare up and scorch the outside of the meat. And the last thing you want is an outer crust you have to remove with a hammer and chisel.
So think about trimming off some of the fat and reducing the marinade before you whack the meat on the grill.
Thinner is better
For a lot of people, nothing beats a thick, juicy steak. Unfortunately, they’re a lot more difficult to cook. With thin steaks the heat travels to the centre quickly, so they’re a lot easier to cook without burning.
If you really want thick meat, don’t try doing all the cooking on the grill. Start it on the barbecue to lock in the flavour, and then finish cooking it in the oven or on a hotplate.
For those who’ve never cooked on a barbecue before, grilling can be a chore. But as they say, practice makes perfect, and eventually it will become more of a hobby. You’ll find yourself spending every chance you get donning your “Kiss the Cook” apron, firing up the barbecue and filling the air with the aroma of sizzling steak. As you learn to tame the flame you’ll figure out the best ways to use your barbie, and before you know it you’ll be known throughout the neighbourhood as “The grillmaster”.