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How to BBQ/Grill

Prep your Grill: Clean and Coat

Before you even think of putting meat on the BBQ, you want to make sure that your grill is clean. Depending on the BBQ that you own, there will be different methods of doing so. For steel or cast iron (non-coated) grates, you should use a stiff-bristled steel brush to remove any unwanted grime or rust. For porcelain-coated (or other non-stick coated) cast iron, you should be using a nylon-bristled brush to avoid scratching. You may be one of the lucky people who has a special tool that fits the contours of the grates of their BBQ. If so, use that.

If you have a gas BBQ, you'll want to ensure that you’ve twisted the nozzle on your gas bottle to “off” before cleaning. This is also a great time to check that there are no leaks or cracks in the gas hose. If there are, it’s time to replace. If you’re good to go, disconnect your bottle and set it to one side.

Your next step is making sure that the bottom of your BBQ is clear of any debris. From time to time, things like ash and coals can get stuck and block the heat source. This is particularly common with charcoal BBQs.

Next, you'll want to coat your BBQ grates with a thin, even, layer of canola oil prior to turning on the heat. This helps to create a non-stick cooking surface. Remember, a thin layer is what you're looking to achieve so you should use a paper towel to wipe away any excess oil. Too much oil will burn and create a buildup (pre-seasoned, pr porcelain/coasted grates don't require this step).

Learn more about cleaning your BBQ here.

Preparing food for the BBQ

What to do the night before

It's always a good idea to prepare the BBQ foods that you can ahead of time. This will give you more time to enjoy the social aspects of the BBQ later in the day. The following prep ideas will save you loads of time:

  • Create and toss salads (add the dressing just before serving)
  • Chop onions, meat, peppers, and fruit ahead of time and get it all ready in separate bowls.
  • Trim any excess fat from meat and brush with oil and season, or marinate. Try to glaze and marinate meat the night before.
  • Pre-cut bread for hot dogs and burgers.
  • Get your skewers ready and pop them in the fridge ahead of the grill.

Food Hygiene

As with any cooking method, food hygiene is very important. Here are a few key tips to grill safely:

  • Thaw frozen meat and food fully before cooking. Proper thawing will prevent dangerous cold spots.
  • If you’re using a charcoal barbecue, don’t start cooking until the coals are glowing red with a powdery grey coloured surface. This is when the heat is evenly distributed. It’ll stop your meat being over-charring on the outside and raw inside.
  • Make sure that when you're cooking meat, you cook it to a minimum core temperature of 70°C for at least 2 minutes.
  • You should cut into meat to check whether it is cooked; if you're not sure, use your thermometer – if you don’t have one, cook further until you are sure, just to be safe.
  • Hold hot food at a minimum temperature of 63°C until you serve it.
  • Be wary if you lean across the barbecue to turn meat – flame grilled sleeves are for rookies.
  • Use a coolbox filled with ice packs to minimise bacterial growth on raw or chilled food outside the fridge.
  • Don’t leave food out of the refrigerator for longer than half an hour, and don’t leave food in the sun. Hot weather encourages bacteria growth.
  • Use separate utensils for raw and cooked meats and ready to eat food, like salads and bread.
  • Only eat meat and fish when they are safe to eat. Try stabbing meat, if clear juices come out: you’re safe! Watch out for pink meat and make sure food is piping hot.

How to light your BBQ

Now that your BBQ is clean and your food is prepped and ready to go, you’ll want to light up and get grilling! There are a lot of different BBQs out there, so your best bet is to find your grill’s manual and follow the instructions for starting it. A lot of manuals can even be found online nowadays. That being said, here are the basics.

How to Start an Electric BBQ

Electric BBQs will typically have a knob that you turn to start the BBQ, and adjust the heat setting. If you have an electric BBQ, turn the knob to high, close the lid, and wait for the BBQ to reach your preferred cooking temperature.

How to Start a Propane or Gas BBQ

Propane and gas BBQs are similar, but a little more tricky. They have knobs too, but in addition, they have ignitor buttons. The knobs let gas flow freely from the tank to the burners, and the ignitor button creates a spark that lights the flame you’ll use to cook with. For propane and gas BBQs, you’ll likely need to turn at least one of the knobs (each knob corresponds to a burner) to high. Once on high, you’ll press and hold the ignitor button. You should hear a clicking followed by a whoosh (the gas igniting). Once you hear it or see a flame, you can release the ignitor button. Keep the temperature on high, and fire up any other burners you plan to use. Additionally, close the lid and leave the grill for 10-15 minutes, or until your desired temperature is achieved.

How to Start a Charcoal BBQ

Charcoal BBQs are going to be the most different. If you’re using coals deemed “match light” (check the bag), you should be able to simply light them with a match. Otherwise, you’ll need to add some lighter fluid to your coals before you introduce a flame. It’s important to heed any warnings on the charcoal and the lighter fluid when lighting your charcoal BBQ. Don’t use too much lighter fluid, and light your coals immediately after applying the fluid to them. Once the coals have a light gray ash to them, they’re ready to be spread around, and you’re ready to cook.

Cooking on your BBQ

Electric, propane, and gas BBQs are generally quite easy to cook with because you can more easily adjust the temperature by the turn of a knob. Need more heat? Adjust up. Need less heat, adjust down. Simple.

To adjust the temperature with a charcoal BBQ, you’re going to be doing a lot more work with oxygen flow, direct vs. indirect heat, and coal volume. For lower cooking temperatures, you can do one of three things:

  1. Use the vents on top and below the grill to limit the oxygen going in (more oxygen equals higher heat),
  2. Move the coals to one side and cook on the other (direct heat equals higher cooking temperature),
  3. Use less coal (more coal equals higher cooking temperature).
Don’t overload your barbecue

If you have a lot of items to cook on the BBQ, one way to go about it is to sear meat or fish on the barbie and then finish cooking in the oven so you have room for the next item.

How to cook a piece of meat perfectly

When cooking on the BBQ I generally like to have half of the barbecue hotter than the other. This lets you sear meat on the hot side, and then move it to the cooler side to cook through.

As I mentioned earlier, you would have ideally marinated your meat earlier in the day, if not the night before. Once you're ready to cook, lift your meat out of the marinade, and place it on a tray or board and sprinkle it with salt. Using tongs, lay the marinated meat on the hot grill away from you to prevent splashes.

If you're after crisscross char stripes, you'll want to place the meat at a 2 o’clock angle. After a minute or so, lift a corner of the meat with tongs and have a peep underneath to see how the char stripes are doing. However, don’t move it too soon. Let the protein harden and caramelise first or the meat will stick.

Lift the meat and put it back on the same side in the 10 o’clock position. This nicely crisscrossed side will be the presentation side.

When the steak is marked but not burnt, turn the meat over and place on the medium heat side of the barbecue to cook through more slowly. When cooked to your preference, move the meat to a board or rack and let it rest for about 5 minutes.

How to tell whether your meat is cooked

To test doneness, there is a fairly simple method: touch your index finger to your thumb lightly and feel the pad at the base of your thumb. It will be soft and this is how medium-rare meat will feel.

Holding the middle finger and thumb will make the pad feel slightly harder, the equivalent to the feel of a steak cooked medium; the ring finger and thumb is comparable to a medium well-done steak, and touching your pinky finger and thumb will feel hard, which is the feel you're after for a well-done steak.

Resting meat

Resting barbecued meat after cooking is essential as it allows the proteins that have hardened during cooking to relax and reabsorb the juices, making your meat juicier in the process. and for the temperature within the meat to rise and even.

Well-rested meat will be juicy and smoothly graded in colour when cut. If your meat is insufficiently rested the juice will run out and the meat will be dry.

When rested, slice and serve.

Posted by Shawn Moodie

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