Barbecuing for beginners
Nothing beats a BBQ. The sun is shining, there’s a smell of suncream in the air, and you’re in the mood for some alfresco dining.
Lighting up a BBQ can be daunting, but whether it’s your first time this year or the first time ever, our BBQ tips for beginners can have you feeling like a pro.
BBQ tips for beginners
Here are our basic rules you can follow to make sure that the food is safe and delicious.
1. Choose your BBQ carefully: charcoal versus gas.
Charcoal barbecues can give a richer flavour to your food, especially if combined with different smoke-generating woods. While gas-fired barbecues give an even heat that makes temperature control and precision easy, so it’s a lot like cooking on a hob. If you have a lot of guests and you don’t have time to practice, a gas BBQ will be easier to manage. But if you’re going for the ‘wow’ factor, a charcoal BBQ is the way to go.
2. Get your BBQ set up well before guests arrive.
The setup is different for each barbecue, so make sure you follow the instructions safely. Make sure you have enough fuel for your cooking session. If you’re cooking with a charcoal barbecue, we recommend using a charcoal chimney to get it started. You can use lighter fluid too, but this can leave your food with a petrol-y taste.
3. Ensure your BBQ is up to temperature before adding food.
Once lit, keep an eye on your BBQ to make sure the flame is controlled. Charcoal is up to temperature when it’s glowing red and has a light grey coating. This will ensure food is cooked evenly throughout.
4. Only bring food out when you’re ready to cook.
Don’t be tempted to leave food out on the side, especially in the hot sun. It’s better to leave everything in the fridge until you’re ready to add it to the BBQ.
5. Wash your hands after touching raw meat.
This seems obvious, but it’s easy to forget about when you’re busy sorting everything out.
6. Make sure the meat is cooked through before serving it.
Use a meat thermometer to make this super easy. Chicken, turkey and duck are cooked through when the thermometer reads 74°C; beef, lamb and veal is well done at 71°C, medium at 60°c and rare at 52°C; pork is cooked at 71°C; mince and sausages are cooked at 71°C, and fish is cooked at 60°C. Stick the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, ensuring that the tip doesn’t touch the barbecue. Wait until the number slows down or stops to take your reading.
7. Thoroughly defrost meat before cooking.
Frozen meat should be completely thawed before you cook it. Otherwise, the outside will look cooked, but the inside might still be raw.
8. Cook the food in batches.
This will mean you won’t get confused by cooking times. And it allows your party to feel more casual, as guests can graze on food throughout. Plus there’ll be hot food ready for any latecomers so no one gets stuck with cold leftovers. If you prefer a sitdown together style, using a meat thermometer will make it easy to ensure everything is cooked and ready at the same time.
9. Cook vegetables and plant-based alternatives separately.
Using foil trays is a great way to ensure you don’t mix veggies and meat. It also makes cleaning up much easier. You can also add oil, herbs or seasonings right into the tray so your veggies are extra delicious.
10. Have a distinct ‘cooked meat’ dish ready.
Having a different coloured dish at the ready for your cooked meat means you’ll never risk putting cooked food on a dish that used to have raw meat on. It also means if things are heating up too quickly or at risk of getting too crispy, you can quickly take them off the heat.
11. Keep your BBQ station out of the way.
This can be tricky in tight spaces, but make sure your BBQ setup is out of the way of main passageways or where groups tend to gather. This means you’ll be able to reduce the risk of injuries. Having your BBQ in a corner will also reduce the risk of any children or animals accidentally running into it.
12. Consider part cooking before guests arrive.
A good way to ensure you don’t have to stand at the barbecue for the whole party is to part cook your food in the oven and finish it off over the grill. This means you’ll get the delicious BBQ flavour and crisp without all the effort. It’s also a great way to know meat is thoroughly cooked when you serve it.
13. Let the BBQ fully cool before cleaning up.
Let the charcoal ash cool down then scoop it all into a bag and put it in the general waste. Clean the grill with a stiff-bristled brush to get rid of excess food. And once it’s cool, take it off the barbecue and wash it in warm soapy water. It’s important to clean the barbecue as soon as you can. Leaving it for weeks or months at a time will only make more work for you when you fancy a spontaneous barbecue.
Ready to cook?
Now you’re no longer a BBQ beginner and are a pro, take a look at how to build the perfect burger, try mixing up a batch of these refreshing long island iced teas, or add delicious corn on the cob to your shopping list.