More Expert Barbecue Tips

Want to know how to throw the perfect barbecue? Here are some helpful tips that will teach you how to grill like the best of them.
Acme Fire Cult Steven Ryan
A hefty spread from Acme Fire Cult. Photograph: Steven Ryan.

There’s nothing like a barbecue. Standing in front of a grill with the flames dancing in front of your eyes can be life-affirming, hunger-inducing, and completely entrancing. So entrancing, in fact, that’s easy to get carried away with yourself and burn all the Cumberland sausages you planned on having for tea.

No one likes going home from a barbecue hungry, so that’s why I’ve gone to great lengths about asking some of the nation’s top barbecue experts and chefs for their very best barbecue tips and tricks. We’ve already rounded up some expert barbecue tips and barbecue cookbooks to help you get started, but there’s no such thing as too much good advice is there? From knowing what to glaze your meat with to finding out what the best fuel to cook your food on is, this guide is full of wisdom that will make you one of the best barbecue people in town. As long as you take all that excellent advice onboard, that is.

Read through all these expert barbecue tips, invite your friends over at the next available weekend, and get down to business. Happy grilling, Mob.

Selin Kiazim – chef-owner of Oklava

"Cooking over a barbecue is an ingredient in and of itself when done in the right way. I think most commonly people make the mistake of trying to cook over a fire where the coals have not fully burnt out and are too hot, resulting in heavily charred food lacking in smoky flavour. A small amount of coal will actually go a long way. Burn the coals until they turn grey and then disperse them into a single layer. Cook your items of choice gently, turning regularly and ensuring you season them well with fine salt. This gentle way of cooking will allow the fats/oils dripping from your bbq to hit the coals and create smoke which in turn then flavours whatever you’re cooking."

Dom Fernando – chef-owner of Paradise

‘What lots of people don’t realise is the type of charcoal can make a massive difference to how your barbecue dish turns out. You’ll find that different charcoals impact the aroma, the cook time, and the smokiness of your food. The higher quality the better – we use a company called Whittle & Flame from Oxfordshire (also super sustainable) for dishes like our grilled Ceylonese prawn."

Ollie Templeton – chef director at Carousel

"My go-to dish for a barbecue is lamb ribs. They require a bit of prep by slow cooking them the day before, and then setting them in the fridge overnight, but they’re totally worth the extra effort! Barbecue them with a glaze made up of two parts dashi to one part soy and one part mirin which I reduce into a sweet umami-packed syrup. Top with furikake or toasted sesame seeds for a crunch to finish and serve it with pickles and some nice salads."

Andrew Clarke – chef and co-founder of Acme Fire Cult

"Preparation is key. Write out a menu, even if it’s just for two of you. You should also prep as much as you can and work out how long each ingredient needs on the grill and make sure you allow yourself enough time to cook. Have everything in place before you start: you don’t want to keep running in the house. Oh, and remember to rest the meat – this will also take time. Overall, I’d say just keep it simple. Until you’re ready to feed an army, just try perfecting one or two ingredients on the grill. You can always make a few more sides."

Esra Muslu – head chef of Zahter

"You can cook directly in the embers! One of the most popular dishes at my Turkish restaurant Zahter, is a burnt aubergine cooked over a charcoal fire. To do this, you need to pierce the skin of an aubergine and nestle it in the embers of a barbecue. The holes stop the aubergine from exploding and steam it inside. The flesh stays white and goes creamy. Leave it until the skin is black, turning every few minutes before peeling off the skins. At Zahter, we slice the aubergine into thirds and serve it with za’atar, olive oil, parsley, chilli jam and pomegranate molasses The dish is called Koz Patlican."

Harriet Mansell – chef-owner of Robin Wylde & Lilac

“Stick to natural products for your coal and firelighters to prevent those nasty, chemically flavours and smells from transferring to your food. Play around with your fuel and experiment with adding different wood chips which impart interesting new flavours. The most important thing for me is getting veggies on the barbecue, there’s such a misconception that barbecue is all about meat when really, the flavour that you can get from veg on the grill is second to none!”

Jun Tanaka – chef-patron at The Ninth

"Before barbecuing chicken and pork, try brining them for a few hours. This will give them flavour and keep them juicy and tender. The recipe for a basic brine is 10% salt and 5 % sugar to the quantity of water. For lamb or veal, try a yoghurt-based marinade with spices or herbs. Leave them in the marinade for 24 hours and wipe off the marinade before cooking. The yoghurt will tenderise the meat and give it flavour. A simple marinade of olive oil, garlic, thyme and rosemary is perfect for beef. Cooking fish on a barbecue can be tricky because the flesh is delicate and the skin tends to stick to the grill. A good tip to prevent this from happening is to leave the fish uncovered in the fridge for 24 hours to dry out the skin. Then lightly brush with olive oil, season and cook between the fish grill for a perfectly crispy skin. Cut the vegetables lengthways to make them easier to handle on the barbecue. Only add a touch of oil before cooking so they don’t burn. Once they’re cooked, flavour them with a touch of sherry vinegar and extra virgin olive oil."

Roberta Hall McCarron – chef-owner of The Little Chartroom & Eleanore

“Always make sure your barbecue is nice and hot. Don’t let the flames hit what you’re cooking, either – the flames can leave a slightly acrid taste, you just want lots of heat and smoke for good cooking and flavour. My favourite thing to barbecue is veal heart served with tomatoes dressed in nice olive oil and smoked bone marrow on thick slices of barbecued bread.”

Neil Campbell – head chef at Rovi

“I wouldn’t use a throwaway barbecue. They’re not great for the environment and you can’t actually do much good grilling on them! If throwaway is all you have, think of it like a flash barbecue for reheating. Whatever you put on there is already cooked. You’re just giving it that heavy oomph and giving it a bit of colour. At ROVI we like to cook onions directly onto the coals. You discard the outer layers because too much carbon is bad for you, but you are left with an onion that has cooked in its own juices. Dress it like you woulda steak with a bit of salt and vinegar."

Masaki Sugisaki – executive chef of Dinings SW3

“Instead of using salt and pepper, I have a secret recipe for 'seasoning liquid' – it's a mix of smoked salt, sake and kombu. It is very salty but has lots of depth and umami notes which takes the flavour profile of any barbecued ingredient to the next level.”

Ivan Tisdall-Downes – head chef and co-founder at Native

"My best barbecuing tip is managing the heat levels on the grill. The best way to do this is to split the grill into two halves. Once your coals are fired up and white-hot, move them over to one side of the barbecue. This gives you a mega hot side to sear meat and veg and a cooler indirectly heated side to allow your ingredients to cook low and slow. An added advantage of this is that it allows you to add charcoal/wood to the barbecue next to the hot coals instead of on top, a common mistake, which covers up your heat source with cold fuel."

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