The summer barbecue is an iconic Australian tradition – but are you doing it right? Learn how to BBQ like a pro with these simple but brilliant tips and tricks:
Before you cook
A little prep goes a long way and there are several steps you should take before firing up the BBQ. First, have a close look at any hoses, gas lines and regulators which might have cracked or broken since you last cooked.
If you’re using a new BBQ for first time, make sure it’s been seasoned properly. This helps remove any coatings that may have been applied for shipping. Check the gas bottle to see how full it is, here’s an easy way to do this in seconds.
There’s nothing more annoying than running out of gas when you’re in the middle of cooking an epic weekend feast, so monitor your bottle closely. Having a spare bottle on hand can definitely reduce your stress!
If the push-button starter doesn’t work, you can light the BBQ manually – here’s how to do it safely. To ensure that raging fat flare-ups don’t burn you or the food, line your drip tray with some alfoil and fat-absorbing material. This improves safety, helps cook food more evenly and makes cleaning up a breeze.
Tools of the trade
Have everything you need at hand before you start cooking. Essentials include:
- Tongs and spatula – choose utensils with long handles; these keep your hands well away from the heat
- Sharp knife and cutting boards – use separate boards for raw meat, cooked meat and veggies
- Meat thermometer – this is extremely handy, especially for thicker meat cuts
- Trays or serving platter – Have something ready to stack all your delicious goodies on after cooking
- Aluminium foil – Fish burns easily on a BBQ, so wrap it in foil for a better result
- Cooking oil and paper towels – these are both flammable, so keep them well away from hot areas of the BBQ
- BBQ scrubber – have everything at the ready for an efficient post-BBQ cleanup, including a made-for-purpose scrubber to get all that caked-on grime off your hotplate and grill
Cooking meat on a barbecue sounds simple but there are still plenty of ways to go wrong. To start with, use good quality meat cuts (save that cheap blade steak for your indoor slow cooker).
Your steaks should be at room temperature before cooking: never throw half-frozen meat on a BBQ.
Oil and season the meat, not the grill or hotplate. There’s no need to slather a coating of oil across the entire surface of a hotplate – this is wasteful and produces unnecessary smoke. It’s amazing how many people think they know how to cook a great steak – but really don’t; here’s how it’s done.
According to TV cooking guru Anthony Bourdain, the worst mistake people make when cooking meat is not letting it rest for 5 minutes or so before serving. This ‘art of doing nothing’ step is crucial for a delicious steak, he says.
Vegetables cooked on the BBQ taste amazing, but the best way to grill them is to NOT brush them with oil before tossing them on. Grill them dry, adding a drizzle of quality olive oil and/or some seasoning afterwards.
They can go a bit soggy if they’re smothered in oil before cooking. Add some garlic, fresh herbs, vinegar or lemon juice to give them a flavour boost before serving. Capsicum, asparagus, corn, eggplant, onions, mushrooms, cabbage and zucchini are all delicious grilled.
Cook until tender and lightly charred, which should only take about 4-6 minutes.
How to BBQ like a backyard legend
These simple tips will ensure you get the best result when using the BBQ:
- Always preheat your barbecue so you get quality charring
- You really only need to turn burgers and steaks once; make sure chicken pieces are thoroughly cooked in the middle; sausages should be turned frequently so they cook evenly
- Your cooking times will vary depending on the food you’re working with and how big (and thick) the pieces are; be careful not to overcook prawns and fish
- Make a ‘herb brush’ from thyme, rosemary or sage; this is dipped in oil and used to lightly brush over meats, veggies or grilled bread during cooking
- Get a spritzer bottle and fill it with flavoured vinegar, then lightly spray this over your BBQ foods as they’re cooking; this trick not only gives your food extra taste but prevents the meat from burning too
BBQ cleaning made easy
Cleaning a BBQ doesn’t need to be a tiresome chore. Thankfully, there are plenty of handy YouTube videos that’ll take you through the process step-by-step. The key with cleaning a BBQ is to do a thorough job every time. A dirty BBQ is unhygienic and can attract insects, so always take the time to give it a proper clean.
- Always ‘season’ a new BBQ properly before cooking on it the first time
- Check how much gas is left in the bottle beforehand; you may want to have a spare on hand
- Always line your drip tray with alfoil and fat-absorber; this prevents flare-ups and makes cleaning easier
- Oil and season the meat, not the hotplate; meat to be cooked should be at room temperature
- Grill your veggies dry and season/drizzle with oil after cooking if desired
- Turn snags often for even cooking; burgers and steaks only need to be flipped once