If you're anything like us, your barbecues are legendary... for all the wrong reasons.
Our sausages usually end up more suitable for drawing with than eating, our burgers would make great mini frisbees and our chicken... well, let's just say that after that incident last summer, we won't be cooking it again. Still, at least a LOT of people lost a LOT of weight afterwards.
Or at least that was the case until we levelled up our barbie skills with some help from Richard Turner from temple-of-meat Hawksmoor.
Below you'll find his tips for getting the most from your grill - now you just need the weather to hold out.
Play the long flame
Or build your own
If you don’t want to splash out, make a BBQ yourself. You’ll need some bricks, cement, a barbecue grill set and a trowel. For full instructions go to bit.ly/brickbbq
Use homegrown charcoal
Sustainable UK sources look after the environment and their charcoal also rarely contains ‘accelerators’, which make your food taste like petrol. I use the London Log Company.
Stay in control
Keep a water spray on hand to help quell any flare-ups. ‘Flame-grilled’ might sound good, but flames are actually the enemy of good ‘live fire’ cooking. A temperature probe will tell you when meat is perfectly done.
Use your hands
If you can’t hold your hand over the grill for more than a couple of seconds, it’s too hot. Wait for it to die down to a smoulder (at least half an hour or maybe more) before starting to cook.
Cook low and slow
Tender ribs come from long cooking or smoking. Lean is not what you want for good meat cookery – fat is flavour and fat is healthy. Buy extensively farmed meat from a butcher you know and who can tell you about the animals the ribs came from.
Marinade is murder
Marinades are for tenderising and masking the flavour of cheap meat. Good meat needs no marinade.
Rub and season
Pure salt and pepper is the perfect rub. If you want some extra flavour, paprika or chilli flakes are good and I’m also a big fan of fennel. Only use sugar when indirect cooking; it’ll burn if used direct.
Use fresh spices
Rather than using dried spices, buy fresh ones then gently ‘dry fry’ them in a pan for a few minutes. Keep them moving as they toast.
On the grill
Ramp it up
Heap your charcoal on one side of the grill in a slope so you have varying degrees of heat. You can move your meat one way or the other to adjust cooking temperature.
Keep it clean
Make sure raw and cooked meat are kept separate – knives and cutting boards too. When using a probe (and you should), make sure it’s sterilised between barbecues.
Do test runs before a big event. It takes many hours of practice to become a live-fire ninja, and I still make mistakes.
SAGE & GARLIC RUBBED PORK FILLET
1 whole free range pork fillet
20g Maldon sea salt
20g light Muscovado Sugar
10g minced garlic
10 leaves of sage, chopped
10 g cracked black pepper
1. Mix the seasoning ingredients and leave to dry on a tray.
2. Trim the fillet barrels and rub with dried ingredients then layer in a tray with a cm of cure above and below.
3. Place in the fridge, turning every 2 hours until ready (around 6 hours).
4. Light your charcoal grill and allow to burn down for half an hour until just glowing.
5. Wash the seasoning off the pork fillet and grill all over, taking care to keep the fillet moving and not burning. If needs be, move the charcoal to one side and place the fillet to the other side to cook indirectly.
6. When almost cooked (internal temperature of 70°C) remove from the grill and rest for up to 20 minutes
7. Slice and serve.
Give it a rub
Serve with table rubs
These are useful for seasoning after cooking as well as before. If you can’t make your own table rub, I like Slap Ya Mama by Walker & Sons (from £4).
Use nature’s sauce
Herbs and natural juices are my favourite way to serve grilled meats. Try salsa verde rather than barbecue sauce, which can overwhelm good meat.
Finish on a sharp note
One final way to add piquancy is to use flavoured vinegars, or even just a good cider vinegar.
And Stuff's own tips for levelling up...
An encyclopaedic guide to all things pig, this book from by Richard H Turner (the author of the guide above) contains over 150 pork recipes, including many aimed at those with a shiny new barbecue to test-drive. It covers every cut from the snout to the squeak, and it even reveals how to make Candied Bacon Pecan Popcorn. Which is surely the best movie snack imaginable.
The Youtube Channel
Not to be confused with Ray ‘Dr BBQ’ Lampe, a recent inductee into the Barbecue Hall of Fame (yes, that exists), DJ BBQ is a man with scarcely believable enthusiasm for barbecuing. He shares his wisdom on Jamie Oliver’s FoodTube and here via a mouthwatering new recipe every Friday.
Meatopia (19-20 September)
‘Meat, drink, fire, music’ is the tantalising tagline of this festival of fire-cooked treats. Held at Tobacco Dock in London, its ‘manifesto’ promises ethically sourced meat, artisan ales, butchery demos and live music. Rumours suggest headliners this year will include Porking Heads, Terence Trent Barbie and Half Man Half Brisket.