Barbeque cooking is not at all an easy deal. You get to explore something new with every attempt, which also makes it quite tough to master this skill.
Even professionals, despite years of practice, end up making mistakes. Here are a few common mistakes that you must take care to avoid:
Do not hurry
Barbecuing demands time. The patient you are, the better will be the results. In an ideal case, you must plan the amount of time you will spend grilling and seasoning, a day in advance. Stand prepared with all the ingredients chopped, peeled, mixed and ready to go before you light the barbecue. The only thing you would want to worry about is the meat on the grill and not about getting things together while your meat is going into flames!
Preheat the grill
Sometimes people end up spoiling their barbecue even before placing the meat on the grill. Either they are too ignorant or too impatient to preheat the grill properly. Preheating helps you cook faster and better, making the meat tender. It is advisable to wait for at least 15-20 minutes to get the grill ready after lighting it. Once you reach the desired temperature, place a lid on the grill to retain moisture.
Clean your grill
Not having a clean grill can really spoil the taste of your food. Residues left from your previous barbecue session need to be cleaned before your begin. One easy trick is to clean the grill is right after preheating. Use a brass bristle or an aluminum foil held by a pair of tongs to scrape off the ashes. It is advisable to clean your grill before and after every use and go for a deep cleaning once or twice a year if you’re a regular user.
Bring the meat to room temperature
The temperature of the meat is as important as the temperature of your grill. Do not use meat directly out of the refrigerator while barbecuing. Most of the recipes you might refer to assume that the meat is at room temperature. This really affects the taste and texture of the final product. However, leaving meat outside the fridge for hours before barbecuing must also be avoided. It not only becomes susceptible to bacteria but will also cut cook too quickly.
Add sauces at the right time
Most people tend to lose patience towards the end of their barbecue and become too eager to glaze the food with sauces. However, they sometimes end up ruining the entire thing because of this. Most of the barbecue sauces contain high amounts of tomatoes and sugar. Both of them cook way too early than meats and vegetables and, if added before time, they will end up black and burnt by the time your food is ready! Sauces must be added to boost flavor only during the last few minutes of grilling on a moderated flame
Do not poke the meat
Never use a fork or any sharp object to flip the meat. The juices are precious and once they’re gone, you can never be sure about the taste of your food. To avoid losing juices, make sure you use a pair of tongs to carefully flip the meat. Not only poking, but pressing the meat/vegetables too hard might also squeeze out juices. Ideally an item should be flipped just once during the whole process.
If you’re planning for a barbecue, it is important to understand the kind of grilling technique you will need to use: direct or indirect. It is not as if one is superior to the other. The food that you wish to cook will determine whether you need a direct or an indirect grill.
Direct grilling means placing the food directly over the source of heat, whether coal or gas. This method works best for small and tender stuffs like burgers, hotdogs, vegetables and small pieces of meat. Basically any item that requires less than 30 minutes to cook. Direct grilling gives a crispy, seared crust to the food.
Make a careful use of a drip tray as drippings might land directly in the fire during the process, leading to dangerous flare ups. Flip all the items just once in order to expose both the sides to heat, when you’re halfway through the cooking time.
You need to keep a close watch to prevent the food from burning. This doesn’t mean you will constantly lift the lid to peek at it. It will only lengthen the cooking time by letting off heat and smoke.
Steven Raichlen explains how one can create variations of temperature consisting of a hot, medium and a safety zone even in a direct grill. You can use the hot zone for searing, the medium zone for cooking and the safety zone can help you in case the food starts to burn
Indirect grilling, as the name suggests, involves placing the food to one side of the source of heat and not directly above it. The method is used for larger, tougher foods that require long durations over a low temperature to get cooked. Large pieces of meat, whole birds, ribs, etc turn out best when cooked over indirect heat, with juicier meats.
Indirect grilling is a slow process that evenly cooks all the sides of the food through reflected heat. It doesn’t require you to flip the food during the whole process. You will never end up with large pieces of meat charred on the surface while almost raw at the centre!
Although Barbecue is a practice as old as civilisation itself, by no means is it something that comes naturally to any of us. If you’re new to it, you need to take care of a host of things you would have never encountered during regular cooking.
Here’s a basic guide for everyone setting out for their first barbecue:
Keep It Simple
Don’t attempt to scale culinary heights with your baby steps! Keep things easy if you want to get the food right and enjoy. It is absolutely fine if you don’t end up with a perfect barbecue in your very first attempt.
Choose the right barbecue
Choosing the right barbeque is of utmost importance. Depending on your budget and the kind of food that you will be cooking, you can opt for either an open grill or a kettle barbecue. An open grill barbecue works great for burgers and small pieces of chicken; for heavier stuff like whole chicken or joints of meat you will need a kettle barbecue.
A simple rule: Anything that takes over 30 minutes to cook should be cooked in a kettle barbecue.
Whether to opt for a gas or a charcoal barbecue is completely your own call. Both come with certain pros and cons. If you have just started, managing the coal barbecue might get a little tricky and the gas barbecue will serve as a convenient option. It isn’t easy to get the right temperature and keep it constant in a charcoal barbecue.
However, if you’re keen on playing with fire and getting that natural smoky flavor, go for a charcoal one.
Be patient and well prepared
Barbecuing is generally a long, time consuming process. It is advisable to keep aside an entire day if you wish to make the most of it. To make things easier in the first few attempts, marinating becomes an essential. It not only tenderizes the meat but also adds to the flavor. You might opt to do away with it eventually.
Don’t play with the meat!
It is quite natural to fret about the duration of grilling for the first few times. But that doesn’t mean you need to touch/flip the meat repeatedly! You might just end up hurting yourself. When you feel it is done, just see if you can open it with your hands and the meat looks pink inside. Once done, glaze it with barbecue sauce and enjoy it with some good bread and simple salad.
Keep It Simple
Don’t attempt to scale culinary heights with your baby steps! Keep things easy if you want to get the food right and enjoy. It is absolutely fine to not end up with a perfect barbecue in your very first attempt.