71 tips for barbecue food and wine by Kerstin Rodgers aka @MsMarmiteLover

Kerstin Rodgers bbq sweetcord

I’m doing a BBQ tomorrow, and it will be raining. But that’s not going to stop me. I’m British, you see. Despite our dodgy weather, we are the BBQ kings of Europe, #Brexit or #Bremain.

As the season begins, here are my tips for doing it right.

The wine:

Kerstin Rodgers BBQ WineTrust pizza

The BBQ itself:

  • I’ve had many cheapo BBQs over the years and it is true: buy cheap, buy twice.
  • The cheap BBQs go rusty and collapse, especially in British winters.
  • I’m lucky enough to have a sturdy but expensive Big Green Egg, which is a ‘kamodo’ style BBQ, like a heavy ceramic oven. I can leave it out all winter – it has a lid, so it’s fine.
  • There is a another brand called Kamodo Joe.
  • Ideally you have a waist height BBQ, which is less tiring than crouching down.
  • Make sure your BBQ is stable and located in a safe place where it won’t set fire to anything and will not get knocked over.
  • Children should be kept away from the BBQ.
  • My dad uses a chimney starter for getting the BBQ going. I’ve heard good things about this.
  • Use wood or charcoal, both give better flavour than gas.

Kerstin Rodgers' BBQ blog for WineTrust peppers

Lighting up:

  • Make sure your BBQ is clean and you have whatever fuel you need. Plus matches.
  • Different woods give different flavours and heats. Even when using charcoal or gas, use wood chips to add flavour to your food.
  • Oak, cherry and apple are mild woods, low and slow.
  • Hickory gives a strong flavour and burns hot. It’s good for fish.
  • Try to use local charcoal rather than the usual charcoal, which is made from chopping down rainforests. Check your local coppicer and charcoal maker here at the National Coppice Federation.
  • Use food safe or eco firelighters – you don’t want your food to taste like lighter fluid.
  • Buy long-handled tongs and fish slices.
  • Get a BBQ with a lid, which is vital to preserving heat and adding smokiness. If that’s not possible, use tin foil.
  • Work out which areas of your BBQ are hot or medium or cooler. Place your foods on these areas depending on the heat they need.
  • If using charcoal, have a high pile on the side for high heat, a medium pile for medium heat and perhaps a bare area where things are cooked with ambient heat.
  • Use every level of your BBQ. Potatoes, for instance, can be wrapped in foil and placed next to the embers.
  • Make sure you light the BBQ in time. I would light it half an hour to an hour beforehand. This way it’ll be properly burnt down by the time you cook.
  • Don’t rush things.
  • You want embers, not smoke or flame.
  • It is ready to grill when you hold your hand about 10cm or 5in above the grill and can only stand it for a second.

Kerstin BBQ blog WineTrust mushrooms

BBQ prep and mise:

  • What is ‘prep‘? Preparation of the food.
  • What is ‘mise‘? Mise en place, the French cheffy term for all of your prepared ingredients.
  • Food safety is paramount…
  • Keep raw and cooked foods separate.
  • Have all raw ingredients and the plates for those ingredients on one side.
  • Cooked food and the plates for that should on the other side.
  • This requires adequate work surfaces around the BBQ.
  • If using frozen food, make sure it is properly defrosted before cooking it.
  • When using wooden skewers for kebabs, soak them in water for half an hour beforehand. This means the wood won’t burn before the food cooks.
  • If using metal skewers, wipe them with oil before using, then food will not stick.
  • Have tongs and fish slices ready.

The food and the cooking:

  • Season everything. Season before and while you cook.
  • Season from a height.
  • Have your seasoning ingredients nearby: olive oil, salt, pepper, herbs, chopped garlic, shallots, chilli peppers.
  • If you grow herbs in pots in your garden, situate them near the BBQ.
  • Have your tools nearby, including a brush and a bowl of olive oil.
  • Remember oil will create flames – use it wisely.
  • When cooking fish, use tin foil, it can be difficult to scrape off the BBQ, being more fragile. Or use a fish basket.
  • Depending on the size of your BBQ, you can cook everything for the meal on it.
  • Make sure you have plenty of ‘sides’ at the meal – bread, salads, condiments.
  • It is essential that food is properly cooked. During the BBQ season, food poisoning statistics double, according to the NHS.
  • You may even want to use a digital thermometer to check.
  • Generally if the interior is above 65ºC, it is cooked. Here is a handy table of safe internal cooking temperatures.
  • Put herbs on your coals or wood; it gives a gorgeous smell.
  • Don’t crowd the food.
  • To get grill marks, cook with your foods in the 10 o’clock position, then after a few minutes, move your piece of food around to the 2 o’clock position. Only flip once and repeat.
  • Don’t move the meat or fish around too much, especially if it is thick. Don’t fiddle.
  • Resting the food. Meat and fish like tuna is always better and easier to cut if rested for a few minutes after cooking.

Kerstin Rodgers' blog on BBQ for WineTrust potatoes

Vegetarians:

  • Keep a separate BBQ for the vegetarians/vegans. Even if it is a little disposable one. Or cook all their food first. Here are some ideas for veggie BBQs.
  • Always have halloumi, peppers or firm tofu for surprise veggies/vegans. You never know.

Dessert:

  • Slit bananas down the middle and place a chocolate Flake inside, then wrap in foil and cook.
  • BBQ slices or quarters of pineapple with a squeeze of lime, some brown sugar and some butter.
  • Put marshmallows on sticks and hand them to everyone to grill themselves. This brings back the nostalgic fun of camping as a kid.
  • How about dessert wine for dessert? I love a bubbly floral rosé, like summer pudding in a glass: Pink Moscato, Innocent Bystander 2014, £5.75 for a half bottle.

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