If you ask anyone to sum up summer cooking and entertainment in one word, chances are they will say – barbecue! After the long winter months, the arrival of summer means a whole new way of cooking and eating. Barbecue food is easy to prepare, quick to cook and the ideal sunshine food, and appeals to kids and adults alike. The allure of outdoor eating is not difficult to pinpoint – food tastes better in the fresh air and the delicious cooking smells only add to the hunger levels, which means food cooked outdoors is always well received.
One of the first things to consider when deciding on a barbecue is whether you want to use gas or charcoal. If you’re convinced that food cooked over hot coals has the best flavour and can get a fire started then charcoal is the one for you. However, if you require a perfect fire at the touch of a button and want to have control over the heat then gas is the ideal option.
If you opt for charcoal there are a few general rules you can follow to ensure success. Firstly, keep the charcoal briquettes dry, preferably in an airtight container, to help the charcoal light faster. Place the briquettes in a pyramid in the centre of the grill. If you are using lighter fluid, douse this evenly over the coals and allow to soak in for a few minutes. If you are using fire lighters, poke these between the briquettes about a third of the way up the pyramid. Using long kitchen matches, either light the doused briquettes or the fire lighters. The charcoal will take about 30 minutes to get hot. Once the briquettes start to get hot they will glow a red to orange colour, then gradually turn to a whitish grey. It is the white ash over the coals that tell you they are really hot. Now you can spread them out evenly over the bottom of the barbecue. Do not worry if some of the coals from the centre of the pyramid are still orange – just give them a few more minutes to turn grey too. Place the cooking metal grill over the top. It is a good idea to wait a few more minutes before adding the food, in order to allow the grill to heat up really well.
You are responsible for your guests’ enjoyment – you also have the added pressure of being responsible for your guests health!
Food poisoning is a serious health risk, it can be a very unpleasant experience. Not only will it ruin your barbecue, it will ruin someone’s day. please follow these tips for food safety:
Pack raw meat in a separate bag to your vegetables and sundries, juices from mixed meats can drip onto other items and cause contamination. Keep raw meat and vegetables away from each other. If you don’t plan to use the meat for a couple of days, get it in the freezer as soon as you have the chance.
When preparing food, never mix different raw foods in the same marinade. Please ensure all foods are stored and handled separately at all times. Separate chopping boards, plates and utensils should be used for handling raw and cooked foods.
Cross-contamination is a serious issue and can happen on the barbecue itself, ensure raw meat is stored separately from partially, or fully, cooked meat at all times.
Ensure all frozen foods are defrosted thoroughly before cooking. Defrost thoroughly frozen meat in the fridge 24 hours in advance of your barbecue. Under no circumstances should you allow food to defrost at room temperature on work surfaces. If time is against you and simply don’t have enough time to defrost in the refrigerator, most microwaves include a “defrost” option which defrost food in minutes. Be certain the food isn’t still frozen in the middle before putting it on the grill. Defrosted food should remain defrosted, don’t refreeze. If you have a glut of food, barbecue everything. It is far safer to freeze cooked food than refreeze.
A microwave is a great way to initiate the cooking process, also, it reduces grill time. You can even barbecue one dish while you microwaving another. If you use a microwave please note that you need exceptionally good timing!
Make sure pre-cooked food isn’t allowed to cool down, it needs to go straight onto a hot grill to complete. Ensue the barbecue is free and ready for use.
Food will brown – even blacken – very quickly, when exposed to high heat, however be warned, it doesn’t necessarily mean the centre is cooked.
Make a small incision, if the juices run clear the meat is cooked and ready to eat. You can also check by cutting into the centre and checking it’s colour – if your meat is at all pink in the middle, leave them grilling.
Where, when or if possible use a meat thermometer to determine when your food is fully cooked.
Wash your hands and any utensils you plan to use prior to handling food, cooked or otherwise, this prevents bacteria being transferred onto safely cooked food.
Raw vegetables and salads should be thoroughly washed to remove all traces of soil and insects.
Food must be covered at all times to protect it from dust and bugs.