Tips and advice for a successful barbecue
If the British summer sunshine makes a fleeting appearance, make sure you're barbecue ready with our handy guide.
For charcoal grills, fire up the barbecue a good 30 minutes before you want to start cooking.
Build a pyramid shape with the charcoal, insert firelighters around the stack and light it.
After about 20-30 minutes the flames will have died down and it's time to spread the coals out to cover about two thirds of the grill. It's good to have cool edges to move food to when you're cooking.
You're impatient to get the meat on the go, but you need to wait until the flames have died down, leaving white hot coals.
Hold your hand four inches above the grill and if you have to take it away after a couple of seconds, it's hot enough! If you can keep it there longer you need to wait a little.
To stop food sticking to your grill, brush it with oil before you start cooking.
Organise yourself and cook the food that takes the longest first, finishing off with the things that only take a few minutes.
Keep turning regularly so the food doesn't burn. Use a pair of tongs, and don't be tempted to pierce with a fork as this will release juices from the meat and cause flare ups.
Wooden skewers for kebabs should be soaked in water at least 30 minutes before you use them to prevent burning.
You need to make sure your food is cooked through. Just because it looks done on the outside doesn't mean it's safe to eat. Cut in half and have a look or use a meat thermometer.
Starting meat off in the oven and finishing on the barbecue will put your mind at rest that it's been cooked properly but still achieves that outdoor grilled flavour.
Keep a warm oven on in the house to transfer the grilled meat into. Any underdone meat will get a bit of extra cooking time plus you'll be able to serve it up all at once.
Or alternatively use a double layer of foil to keep the food in on a small area of the barbecue grill.
The beauty of a barbecue is you can prepare all the trimmings in advance. Have a variety of salads, breads and sauces on offer along with dips and vegetable sticks to keep the hungry crowd happy while they wait for the main event.
Simple salad dressings in pretty jam jars are a cinch to make and look cute on the table. Try shaking up lemon juice, honey and grain mustard with a bit of seasoning for a light summery flavour.
Home made barbecue sauce can be rustled up using store cupboard ingredients like mustard, ketchup and brown sugar.
Flare ups happen typically when you're cooking food with a high fat content like pork sausages. If it starts happening move the culprits to the cooler part of the barbecue where there's less coal and cook indirectly.
Keep children well away from the barbecue, never leave it unattended and if possible make some kind of barrier to keep curious toddlers away from the cooking area.
For more on fire safety with barbecues check out Directgov's handy guide.
Don't forget about food hygiene - leave meat in the fridge until you're ready to cook it, keep it covered and always make sure everything is cooked properly.
You'd wipe down your hob and clean your grill pan after cooking, so it's good to get in the habit of doing the same after you've used your barbecue. There's nothing worse than getting your barbecue out for the first session of the summer only to discover you didn't clean it.
• Brushing: the grill will clean up far quicker if you get at it while it's still a little warm (not hot!). Using a wire brush, flake off as much burnt-on food as you can with a wire brush.
• Washing: fill a big bucket or plastic storage box with hot soapy water, plunge the grate in for a bit of a soak then get to work with a wire brush or scourer. Give the whole barbecue a light clean before and after every use and then a proper detailed scrub down before you put it away at the end of the season.
• Burning it off: if you have a lidded barbecue you can close it up, turn up the heat and let the grilled-on food burn itself off. Then all you need to do is brush it off. Make sure you check the warranty of your barbecue before doing this though!
All you need now is some sun...
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