Imagine a world with no rules. 7.8 billion people indulging in one massive free for all. Chaos, carnage, beauty, expression. Every inherent human trait played out through free styled action. It’s quite something to get your head around. The truth is that we do need rules and regulations. They impose structure. They create purpose. They breed predetermined outcomes. But you’re only ever a few rules away from a dictatorship. Too many restrictions can be oppressive. Human beings need wiggle room to be…well human.
It’s a question of balance. We follow a core infrastructure of rules. Then there are secondary branches of suggestion that we interpret and follow, or not, depending on our preference. Happy societal days! The BBQ functions as a microcosm of the concept. At least it does in our charcoal obsessed world. What we’re trying to articulate here is that yes your BBQ should be a form of self-expression. However there are certain dos and don’ts of the game. Think less Ten Commandments and more little pointers. Simple suggestions that will ensure everything goes smoothly. No fires. No carbonised teeth breakers. No undercooked A&E trip inducers. Just pure BBQ bliss. So in no particular order, and by no means an exhaustive list, let’s do it.
Have safety front of mind
As we indulge in our romanticized vision of the perfect BBQ, we can be blinded by passion and enthusiasm, neglecting the safety basics. This is playing with fire (literally and yes pun intended). You should always position your barbecue on level ground, well away from fences, hedges, trees, and any overhanging foliage – basically anything that could catch fire! Please keep children, animals and the elderly well away from your barbecue. Also have a fire-blanket or water spray handy at all times to handle flare-ups or micro fires. Celebrity Chef Theo Michaels can boost your safety game right now.
Fire up your BBQ with Big K charcoal
The cynics out there will assume that this is just some kind of not so surreptitious promo push. However facts are facts. Your charcoal is the focal point. The BBQ singularity. The fuel that is responsible for every sensory detail of your food, from taste to texture to the look on your plate. If charcoal is the most integral part of any BBQ then you simply must have quality charcoal that you can trust. Our 50 plus years in the charcoal industry speak volumes about who we are and what we do. We are charcoal experts, providing a range of products for all kinds of grillers. Whatever product you choose, you can be assured of quality burns, hotter temperatures and all that authentic smoky and chargrilled taste at the heart of any BBQ. Don’t just take our word for it; check out our pro products and home range to see for yourself.
Arrange your charcoal to create different heat outputs
As you know by now, the arrangement of your charcoal is vital. Yes you can plonk a load of charcoal on your barbecue grill and hope for the best. However you need to grill smarter. If you’re doing the BBQ basics like steaks, sausages and chicken fillets then direct heat is what you need. This is done by spreading an even layer of charcoal across the base of your grill, and positioning your food directly above the fuel source. The uniform temperature of the heat released cooks the food directly. Now, if you are smoking ribs, cooking thicker steaks or cuts, grilling larger chicken parts or doing any roasting, then you need indirect heat. All you need to do is push your charcoal to one side of you grill base, creating a direct heat zone (where the charcoal lies) and an indirect heat zone (the empty space next to your charcoal). Then position your food above the void. Heat will travel indirectly from the pile, around the grill to your food. School yourself on charcoal arranging now
Keep your menu focused and simple
Don’t end up a Jack of all grill trades, Master of none. To put it differently, create a basic and simple menu that you can deliver. If you have a mix of steaks, chicken thighs, fish and veggie for example, you need to factor in multiple cooking times, as well as direct and indirect heat outputs. Plus if you want everything to be ready at the same time, then you have to nail down the cooking chronology as well. This is a lot of calculation that, although doable, is fraught with all kids of dangers. Keep it simple and reap the BBQ rewards.
Be on top of the basic logistics
On the one hand a BBQ is a fun and creative experience with ancient roots dating back to our ancestor Homo erectus. There’s a certain amount of magic and mysticism at play in the process. However it doesn’t hurt to take a more calculated approach and consider the logistics of delicious BBQ food production. For example, ensure that you have sufficient preparation and serving areas, keeping both apart. Are all your knives and grill utensils securely stored when not in use? Are you wiping down these tools, as well as prep areas with disinfectant? Always keep raw and cooked meats separate and keep uncooked meat, fish and vegetables away from each other when doing your prep. What about your guests? How many vegetarians or pescatarians? Any vegans in the house? Once you pause and reflect, many logistical considerations come into play. Here’s a guide to help you plan the perfect BBQ.
Get your meat up to ‘room’ temperature
Carnivorous tunnel vision is a real technical term in the BBQ lexicon. Ok it isn’t but it definitely exists in our opinion. This simply means that the thought of meaty mastication clouds judgment and leads to basic errors in your prep or grilling methodology. The most common error is to take your meat straight from the fridge and throw it onto the grill. This is a rookie mistake. Leave your meat out for anywhere between 30 mins and 3 hours before grilling. This will ensure a universal temperature throughout the flesh, leading to a more even cook. Simple tip but super effective.
Leave everything to the last minute
As we always say, a little planning goes a long way. We know life doesn’t stop just because you’re hosting a BBQ. Even more reason to get ahead of the curve and integrate the planning necessities into your schedule in the days leading up to the event. Plenty of time ensures plenty of opportunity to find the best ingredients, beverages and offers out there. You’ll also have time for the little touches such as deco and personalised place settings if that’s your thing. If you leave everything last minute, more often than not you’ll end up possessed by the spirit of that headless chicken you’re looking forward to grilling, running around like a lunatic. In all the panic and confusion, compromises are made, ingredients forgotten and budgets blown. Plan ahead to win.
Overdo the alcohol during the BBQ
Yes food and drink seem to be BBQ besties. However a little tipple can easily turn into a heavy session and the grill duties can fall by the way side. In wider BBQ circles, it is recommended that that you leave the alcohol until after the grilling is done. However we are realists, so if you are having a drink whilst cooking, keep it to a minimum and please have some water to hand to hydrate in between drinks. Think of it this way, the clearer and more focused the mind, the better the BBQ outcome in every aspect.
Marinate at room temperature
There’s nothing like a bout of projectile vomiting to burst your BBQ bubble. Sorry for the graphic imagery but you’d be surprised how many people marinate their meat at room temperature. This is a big no no as the higher temperature facilitates the growth of harmful bacteria that can penetrate the meat and lead to some stomach churning consequences. Always marinate your meat in the fridge to ensure maximum taste and safety. Finally, please don’t reuse your marinade again as a sauce. As your marinade is in contact with raw ingredients, they can contain harmful bacteria so better to dispose after use guys.
Drown your charcoal in lighter fluid
Imagine taking a can of refreshing lighter fluid and swigging it down the hatch. Sounds epically bleak to us. But throwing a load of lighter fluid on your charcoal is tantamount to the same thing. The higher the quantity, the more chemicals will combust and leave a nasty taste in your food. Use natural firelighters such as our woodies firelighters wherever possible. You can also use scrunched up bits of paper or smaller pieces of wood. This will ensure that natural smoky taste versus a synthetic palette smasher.
Skewer different meats together that have different cooking times
Again an obvious one, and yet it happens on the regular. The idea of a surf and turf skewer is great in the ethereal trappings of your mind. However the reality is that beef has a different cooking time to fish and fish to chicken and so on. Basically you’re mix and match skewer will become a potluck eating experience from under to over done. Not quite what your guests signed up for we thinks.
Only rely on your senses to decide on doneness.
Clear juices versus opaque, white meat versus red meat, squishing meat with a thumb: there are many ways to check doneness. However we aren’t robots meaning even the most stringent visual checks are prone to human error. Besides doneness is in fact all about temperature. This is because at certain temperatures all harmful bacteria in different meats are destroyed making it safe to eat or ‘done’. You should use a thermometer wherever possible. Here’s a helpful table.
|Food||Type||Internal Temperature (°F)|
|Ground meat and meat mixtures||Beef, pork, veal, lamb||160|
|Fresh beef, veal, lamb||Steaks, roasts, chops
Rest time: 3 minutes
|Poultry||All Poultry (breasts, whole bird, legs, thighs, wings, ground poultry, giblets, and stuffing)||165|
|Pork and ham||Fresh pork, including fresh ham
Rest time: 3 minutes
|Precooked ham (to reheat)
Note: Reheat cooked hams packaged in USDA-inspected plants to 140°F
|Eggs and egg dishes||Eggs||Cook until yolk and white are firm|
|Egg dishes (such as frittata, quiche)||160|
|Leftovers and casseroles||Leftovers and casseroles||165|
|Seafood||Fish with fins||145 or cook until flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork|
|Shrimp, lobster, crab, and scallops||Cook until flesh is pearly or white, and opaque|
|Clams, oysters, mussels||Cook until shells open during cooking|
The dos and don’ts are infinite. Seriously we could on and on and (yes you’ve guessed it) on even more. We don’t want to overload you. Ultimately simplicity and comprehension leads to confidence and better BBQ actions. We might drop a part two so we’ll keep you posted on that. But for now we are spent. Read. Learn. Do. The BBQ trifecta.