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.
- Rosé is the perfect BBQ wine. It goes with everything. As the host, you can drink gallons of it while roasting over a hot grill and not be too drunk. Most guests enjoy rosé, it is the perfect in-betweeny wine, especially if the weather is good. People who don’t drink rosé all year, will drink it with a BBQ.
- My pick of rosés from WineTrust. An economically priced Pasquiers Grenache Cinsault Rosé 2015 (£6.95), which matches well with salads and grilled salmon. A fantastic special occasion rosé By.Ott Cotes de Provence 2015 (£19), which is quite robust and steely – it will appeal to red wine drinkers.
- The formerly much maligned Lambrusco, i.e. fizzy red, is another light, summery and refreshing BBQ wine. WineTrust stocks a version that might change your mind about it: Lambrusco, Rosso Reggiano Concerto Medici Ermete 2014 (£11.95).
- When cooking red meat, open up the big hitting reds, such as Bosquet Des Papes Chateauneuf-Du-Pape 2012 (£32). If you’re feeling really flush, you can spend £75 on Marqués de Murrieta Rioja Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial 2007. The less expensive alternative is 2010 Marqués de Murrieta Rioja Reserva (£20), which can be drunk now or laid down for up to five years.
- Cooking steak? You’ll want the juicy, fruity Adobe Carmenère, Emiliana Organic 2014 (£7.75) from Chile.
- For lamb, try Beaujolais Villages, Manoir du Carra, ‘non filtré’ 2014 (£9.95).
- To drink with chicken, a Domaine des Echardieres Sauvignon Blanc, Touraine 2014 (£9.95) or Marqués de Murrieta Blanco Rioja Reserva ‘Capellania’ 2010 (£19.50), new to the list.
- For white fish, a light red or white is best. But for seared tuna (recipe here), I’d recommend something heavier, such as Riserva 62 Primitivo di Manduria, San Marzano 2012 (£25).
- Have you checked out Food Stories’ recipe for BBQ squid? While Helen chooses to match her dish with 2014 Assyrtiko, Wild Ferment, Gaia, I’d also suggest The Foundry Viognier, 2014 (£14) from South Africa.
- To match wine to vegetarian food, there are no rules. I would choose a Chardonnay with garlic mushrooms: Hen and Chicken Chardonnay, Ad Hoc, Larry Cherubino 2011 (currently £12, down from £15). With vegetable kebabs, perhaps Schloss Gobelsburg, Gruner Veltliner Loessterrassen 2014 (£11.95).
- Start with the cooler wines – the whites, champagnes and rosés – and then move onto the reds. If it is a really hot day, you may even need to chill some of the reds.
- Keep the wine cool by sticking it in a bucket and throwing some ice over it. Knackered Wine Mother reviews some cooling gadgets here.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.