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As the weather finally looks like it’s starting to improve for the Bank Holiday weekend, many of us will be dusting off our barbecues and getting ready to host friends and family once more.
But if your skills are a bit rusty, help is on hand from Ready Steady Cook chef, and culinary director of steak restaurant chain Gaucho, Mike Reid.
He’s provided his top 10 hints and tips for barbie success, from how to master the flame to the best ways to marinade your meat and easy grill cleaning hacks.
So get grilling!
Here’s what he had to say to the Daily Star:
1. Invest in the right tools
Mike says having the right equipment will help take your BBQ game to the next level.
“A great pair of tongs is essential along with a good BBQ spatula,” he explained. “Also look at good brushes and spray bottles as well to either spray on marinades whilst cooking or fill with water to create smoke on wood and coal BBQs.
"You don’t need a BBQ fork though – they can do more harm than good when grilling as they create holes in your food and allow the juices to pour out.”
2. Prep is key
The chef recommends that you should always take your meat out of the fridge at least half an hour in advance of cooking it.
This will ensure it cooks all the way through at the desired temperature without you having to overcook it.
This is important when cooking meat or fish which needs to be slightly underdone in the middle.
3. Maximise your marinade
Marinades don’t just add flavour, they help to keep food moist on the BBQ too.
Moisture is where so many people go wrong on the BBQ – you need to keep basting your meat and veggies in butter, oil or marinades to keep them moist.
4. Spice up your veg
A dry rub or marinade will turbo-charge the flavour of the food you’re cooking – and they’re not just for meats, but veggies too.
Cooking over flames is a great way to extract flavour from vegetables.
“I am a firm believer in going against the trend of cutting your vegetables small for the grill, I think it’s much better to leave them bigger or even whole and cook them for longer on a gentler heat to really extract their flavour,” said Mike.
“Don’t forget to keep basting them with butter, oil or marinades to keep them moist too!”
5. Lighting up the BBQ
Mike believes the easiest way to start your BBQ is to get yourself a BBQ chimney.
He added: “This way you don’t need to add anything to your coals when lighting that will alter the flavour.
"If you don’t have a BBQ chimney starter though, a great little hack I use when out on the road or camping is to simply scrunch up a piece of paper towel, cover in vegetable oil and then light in the middle of your coals.
"It burns hotter and longer this way and will kick-start your coals.”
6. Mastering the flame
“To master the BBQ you must first master the flame – it’s all about controlling the heat,” revealed Mike. “If cooking with coal or wood, once lit, don’t rush to cook on them – give it time to die down.
You need to wait for them to fully ignite and turn white.
"That is the best time to start cooking, and when you should add your food.”
7. Adapt your approach
When cooking steak, Mike says it’s important to remember that each cut needs to be cooked differently.
“Generally the rule to work with is the higher the fat content the higher the initial heat you cook it on,” he sai. “You want that beautiful caramelisation on the first side.”
If you have a leaner cut like fillet or rump, you want a gentler heat to cook over as you don’t have much fat to be rendering.
8. Smoke for flavour
Try using woodchips, especially when cooking fish – smoke and fish go hand in hand.
Adding woodchips to your coals is a great way of getting extra smoke on to your food, enhancing the flavour considerably.
If you soak them first in water, it will slow down how quickly they burn and generate more smoke.
Mike also said you should choose your woodchips depending on what you cook – for example, apple wood is mild and fruity and goes well with pork, while cedar is strong and is best for smoking fatty foods.
9. Spruce up your salads
Mike recommends adding some BBQ fruits to your salads for an interesting twist.
“Always go for what’s in season for the best flavour and price but some of my favourites include peaches, watermelon, mango, apple and pear,” he said.
To cook, don’t add any fat, let the fruit release its natural sugars which will caramelise it.
Then just add to a nice peppery salad, using watercress or rocket, perhaps a little goat’s cheese or burrata and your guests will be blown away.
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10. Easy cleaning hacks
To clean your grill, spray with vinegar, leave for about five minutes and then scrub clean with some scrunched-up foil.
“Brewed coffee is also a great way to tackle grease on your BBQ, given its level of acidity. Just pour into a large basin and soak your grates for around an hour.
"Rinse with warm water, and they will be good as new!
"This also works for utensils,” added Mike.
Mike Reid has teamed up with Aldi for their Raising the Barbeque campaign. For more information, go to aldi.co.uk/summer-bbq
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