One common theme you will hear me talk about on this site is the need to enjoy yourself when doing your barbecue. I read something recently that barbecue is an art not a science and I really do think is a great way to look at it (although a level of precision sometimes involved).
Art can mean something different to all of us, from the person who created the art to the person that is consuming it but it is a personal thing. What I am trying to get at here is there is not a single right way or wrong way to do a barbecue. You just need to get comfortable doing a barbecue your way!
There are tonnes of useful resources out there, so use Google, YouTube etc to get hints, tips and guidance. There are lots of us enthusiasts on the web so use us all for any advice you need.
Check out some great resources in the Useful Resources section.
Getting Started with the Barbecue
Regardless of whether you are cooking on gas or charcoal there are some common items and techniques you need in order to barbecue.
Food Preparation: Before you light the BBQ make sure you have done as much of the food preparation as you can. It might be that you are just doing sausages, burgers and chicken but make sure you know where the food is and when you are going to serve it so you can adjust your cooking times accordingly. It’s always good to have a ‘runner’ (i.e. spouse or kids) to get you the food. That way you don’t leave the grill and can keep your eyes on everything to ensure nothing burns.
Clean & prep the BBQ: In an ideal world someone would invent a self-cleaning BBQ. Unfortunately, until then we need to keep the BBQ clean. If you have a charcoal BBQ make sure you have cleaned out the remnants of your last BBQ. With both gas and charcoal make sure the grill-plates are clean together with any warming shelves you may have. Finally, ensure drip trays are cleared out and ready to go to avoid any flare ups.
Light the BBQ: Get the BBQ lit well in advance of starting to cook. Again, this applies to both gas and charcoal. One item which is a must to invest in is a ‘Chimney Starter‘ which will really help starting your BBQ. This to me is an essential item you need to own if you have a ‘natural’ BBQ. It really helps to get you cooking as quickly as possible.
I would also recommend paying a little extra for decent charcoal or briquettes. I tend to use briquettes and have 2 brands that I would highly recommend. One is the Weber long lasting briquettes and the other is the Australian Heat Beads. You may have to order these online but I feel it is well worth it. What is great about these coals is that they are long lasting which means you won’t be rushing to cook your food. In addition, because of the uniform size of the briquettes they give a really consistent cook each time.
Tip: Try to disperse the coals so you have variable heat areas in the BBQ. This will allow you better control the cooking process. See our article on direct / indirect cooking.
Have the Right Tools: Make sure you have the right tools to enable you to manage your food. As a minimum you should make sure you have a good set of tongs and a good turner / fish slice. As you progress investing in a good basting brush is a must. Also, as mentioned previously, if you have a ‘natural’ BBQ get a Chimney Starter. If you go for a Chimney Starter make sure you have some heat proof gloves. Keep visiting our News and Reviews area to read our latest reviews on different BBQ equipment you may find useful.
Get Cooking: Now for the art!!! Personally, I like to cook gradually and serve my guest with each course. Others I know like to cook all the food up front and then serve all the food together. It’s just a matter of personal taste. Experiment, learn and enjoy yourself. You will be amazed how quickly you will be cooking great tasting food stamped with your own personality.
When cooking try not to cook the food too quickly – you need to make sure you get the heat correct. Again, having different cooking zones on your BBQ will help you manage this.
One final thing is try to put the lid on your BBQ when cooking food. It will help ‘trap’ some of the smoke and make sure your food gets infused with all those lovely smokey flavours, especially when using wood chunks or wood chips. Enjoy!