You Are What You Eat: BBQ
BBQ’s are an Irish summer tradition rain or shine, whether you are a novice disposable barbie person who always burns the sausages or a master griller lighting up the barbecue, the smoky smell of the grill is a well acknowledged smell that everybody loves.
In this article, I share with you my top tips and essentials for a sizzling summer barbecue.
It is believed barbecuing or ‘Barbacoa’ originated from the Caribbean. When the first Spanish conquistadors arrived in the new world they found the indigenous people of the Caribbean preserving meat in the sun. This is an age-old and almost completely universal method. The chief problem with doing this is that the meat spoils and becomes infested with bugs. To drive the bugs away native cooks would build small, smoky fires and place the meat on racks over the fires. The smoke would keep the insects at bay and help in the preservation of the meat.
The process began to evolve with the migration of Europeans and their import of captured and enslaved Africans to the region of the Southern United States. European pigs and cattle were transplanted to the new world and became the primary meat source for the colonies, pork being the meat of choice in the South due to the ability of pigs to thrive with little care. The racks used to dry the meat were replaced with pits and smokehouses.
American barbecues or grills as we know was born in the South. Southerners used pigs, because they needed less space and could be let loose when feed was scarce to wander and eat. Because these wandering pigs were leaner, they needed the slow cooking method of BBQ to tenderize. Hog BBQ actually became a point of contention for patriotism, and Southerners were not willing to export their pork to the north
TECHNIQUES & METHODS
Once you know a few basic techniques, barbecuing is pretty much the easiest way you could dream of getting dinner on the table. Basically there are two types of heat, direct heat and indirect heat and several methods including Smoking, Grilling or Barbecuing.
In short, grilling means to cook over a fire, hot and fast. Barbecuing refers to cooking over a low flame and much slower, and smoking means to also cook low and slow, whilst also using the smoke produced by the barbecue to cook the food. Barbecuing and smoking are the best options for cooking meat, fish, and poultry specifically, whereas grilling can include vegetables, fruits and other foods you might not have considered.
Barbecuing is the best method for cooking large cuts of meat such as pork shoulders, beef briskets, whole chickens, turkeys and ribs. This is because these types of meats tend to be tougher, and need the low, slow heat of a barbecue in order to get them soft and tender.
Barbecuing is often done using indirect heat, meaning the meat is not directly over the flames as it cooks like it would be if you were to grill your food. Charcoal or wood are commonly used as the heat source when barbecuing.
Grilling is what many people mean when they say “barbecuing.” Grilling is cooking foods hot and fast (typically around 230 – 290°C) and this is usually done over direct heat. As with the other methods of cooking, you can grill food on any type of barbecue.
For small cuts of food that take less than 20 minutes to cook such as steaks, seafood, burgers, and sausages – the grill is a great option. Many vegetables and some fruits are also great cooked on the grill making grilling a good choice to provide a variety of delicious food for vegetarian and vegan diets
There is a true art and science behind smoking your meat on the barbecue. Similar to how barbecuing involves using indirect heat, the smoking method steers away from using a direct flame to cook your food.
Rather, you use hot charcoal and slow burning hardwood. The aromatic wood smoke encapsulates the meat and soaks into the fat, cooking it to perfection.
Smoking adds flavour and improves the appearance of meat through the Maillard reaction. The Maillard reaction refers to lots of small, simultaneous chemical reactions that occur when proteins and sugars in and on your food are transformed by heat, producing new flavours, aromas, and colours.
GAS VS CHARCOAL
According to some die-hard barbecue fans, the only way to grill is with charcoal. Charcoal provides that rich, smoky flavour. Some people also take a certain sense of pride in the ability to make a fire and keep it going at the correct temperature while cooking, credit to you.
Benefits of Charcoal BBQs
- Smoky, chargrilled flavour to anything you cook
- Reaches a higher maximum temperature than gas
- Generally cheaper than gas BBQs
- No need to buy or handle gas canisters
Benefits of Gas BBQs
- Easy to light thanks to automatic ignition
- Reaches optimum cooking temperature quickly
- Often comes with extra features like griddles and side burners
- Temperature is easy to adjust
- Easier to clean
Downsides of Charcoal BBQs
- Can be difficult to light
- Takes much longer to reach cooking temperature than gas
- Less control over temperature than gas
- Much harder to clean
Downsides of Gas BBQs
- Usually more expensive than charcoal BBQs
- Generally bulkier than gas BBQs and need more room to store
- You’ll need to source gas canisters
- You won’t always get the same smoky flavour as with charcoal on all gas BBQ designs
MARINADES VS RUBS
- First things first: the way you prep your ingredients before they go on the BBQ is a major key to flavour-packed success. Opt for either a dry rub or a marinade to infuse the meat with flavour.
- Dry rubs use a combination of colour, sweetener, flavour, heat, and salt bases. Rubs are applied to the pork before cooking—anywhere from an hour to a few hours, depending on how much time you have available.
- Marinades combine dry spices with liquids. Vinegar, oil, and condiments are common ingredients. The pork must sit in this mixture for several hours before grilling to allow the flavour to soak in.
YOU CAN BBQ ALMOST EVERYTHING – EVEN DESSERT
t’s fun to experiment with grilling unexpected food – and turns out, you can grill way more than meat and vegetables, Grilled peaches with ice cream – a perfect technique to use on any type of stone fruit since it gets sweeter with heat and holds up well on the BBQ. You can also grill slices of pound cake and foil-wrapped s’mores – dessert over the flame is such an unexpected way to end an evening.
Always cook BBQ meat to 75° Celsius and keep perishable food in the fridge until you need it.
If you’re having a BBQ remember to keep the hot food hot, the cold food cold, and make sure your meat is cooked all the way through. Food is out of your fridge for longer when you are cooking and eating outdoors. This can lead to harmful bacteria multiplying quickly.
- Keep perishable foods like salads, coleslaw and quiche in the fridge until you need them
- Make sure frozen foods are fully thawed before you start cooking them. The best way to do this is to take them out of the freezer the night before and defrost them on the bottom shelf of the fridge.
- Keep foods you plan to cook properly chilled in the fridge or a cool box until you need it.
- Light your barbecue well in advance. For charcoal BBQs, the flames should have died down before you start cooking.
- Wash your hands before and after handling food.
- Keep raw meat separate from cooked meat and ready-to-eat foods like salads.
- Always use separate utensils for handling raw and cooked meat when cooking.
- Never put cooked food on a dish that has been used for raw meat or poultry.
- Keep food covered whenever possible
- The big issue when barbecuing is making sure your food has been cooked thoroughly, all the way through.
- This is particularly important with poultry, pork, minced and skewered meat, such as burgers, sausages and kebabs. While the outside may look cooked (and in some cases burnt), the inside can still be raw.
- If you’re hosting a BBQ for lots of people, you can pre-cook meat in your kitchen oven just before you put it on the grill for flavour.
- Make sure any marinade used on raw meat is not then used as a sauce to coat vegetables or cooked meat. It will contain raw meat bacteria!
- If you want to use marinade as a sauce, cook it in a saucepan and bring it to a rolling boil before serving it.
- Turn the food regularly and move it around the grill to ensure it is cooked evenly on all sides
- For meats that need to be cooked all the way through, cut into the centre of them to check that: They are piping hot all the way through, there is no pink meat left, the juices run clear.
- If you have a meat thermometer you can check the meat is safe to eat by inserting a clean thermometer probe into the thickest part of the meat or poultry and checking the temperature has reached 75°C.
- Steaks or whole joints of beef or lamb can be served rare as long as they are cooked on the outside. Any harmful bacteria will be on the outside only, and not in the centre.
- If you have any leftovers, don’t leave them outside. They could be in the sun and insects and animals could get at them.
- As with all leftovers, cover them and allow them to cool down in a cool place (your kitchen).
- Put the BBQ leftovers in the fridge within two hours of cooking them and use them within three days.
- If you’re reheating BBQ leftovers, reheat them only once until piping hot.
- If in doubt, throw them out.
BBQ HOSTING TIPS
Get the right BBQ – It may sound basic but there are two crucial things your burner needs if you want to make great barbecue food. The first thing is, it has to be a charcoal one. There’s nothing wrong with gas barbecues, but you won’t get any extra smoky flavour. You might as well be cooking in the oven, flavour-wise!
Barbecuing takes patience and concentration – You need to wait for the flames to die down – flame-grilled is a very misleading term! You want the coals white hot, that’s the hottest and even heat.
Make your own burgers, opting for mince with a higher fat content will provide extra juicy flavourful burgers.
Don’t forget about the fish, sometimes BBQ’s are very meat-focused but fish and smoke are great friends – grill whole fish like Sea bream, Sea bass, Salmon, Shrimp etc.
Barbecue doesn’t always require expensive cuts of meat.
The drink, the dip, the décor area quick, easy ways to impress.
Prepare shopping lists for food and drink in advance.
Marinade fish/meat the day before and assemble food on skewers.
Make dips and dressings the day before.
Assemble the salads the morning of ahead of time.
Put a little time and effort in table scaping – old jam jar candles – flowers from garden – music – chairs – linen napkins.
Light the BBQ 2 hours before guests arrive.
Set up seasonings, oils, marinades beside the BBQ.
Make a cocktail punch beforehand and put ice in as guests arrive, my Sangria Blanca recipe is definitely a crowd pleaser!
Place rosemary or thyme sprigs on bbq, as they burn and release fantastic flavours into the food.
Reverse sear – cook in the oven first and finish on BBQ to brown and flavour.
Use a grill brush to scrape residue from the grill.
Ensure all meat is fully cooked through – if in doubt buy a temperature probe.
Cover any food with cling film that is sitting out.
Check out my delicious recipes as featured on Newstalk, perfect for summer BBQs & entertaining.