Five chefs share their top tips for the perfect summer barbecue
As the sun begins to shine and the weather warms up, that means one thing: it’s barbecue season.
There’s nothing better than the charred, delicious flavor of food when cooked over the fire – but the unpredictability can be quite daunting.
If you’re looking to have the best BBQ season ever, here’s what the pros think you should do…
Chef Josh Katz knows a bit about cooking over the fire. The first restaurant he opened was the Berber & Q Grill House.
Although he is neither vegetarian nor vegan, he wants people to build their barbecue confidence by grilling vegetables. “There’s this perception that a barbecue is for meat – people think it’s just for burgers, sausages, hot dogs and steaks,” he thinks.
“Whereas in fact, there are so many vegetables that are enhanced by grilling and cooking with charcoal or wood. Whether it’s broccoli, leeks, spring onions or onions, I could go on.
- Berber&Q: On Vegetables by Josh Katz (Kyle Books)
Melissa Hemsley’s best barbecue hack is all about making your life easier. “When I was younger, I thought barbecue was about cooking food on the barbecue and eating it that day,” she says.
“But if I take the trouble to light the barbecue, I always do extra loads, so I have food for the whole weekend.
“If I grill piles of extra zucchini and tomatoes, vegetable skewers and mushrooms, it can all form the basis of something delicious.
“Maybe I’ll grill some extra broccoli and corn on the cob.
“The next night I’ll make pasta – I’ll fry some garlic, I’ll throw in those grilled vegetables, add my spoon of pasta water, throw in my pasta and add some grated cheese – here’s my dinner, with this delicious and delicious barbecue grilled vegetables.
“I think what is important for a barbecue is not to make it a one-day event only.
- Feeling Good by Melissa Hemsley (Ebury Press)
“My wife is fed up with me, because I have four different types of barbecues at home! Said Atul Kochhar. “I love cooking everything on the BBQ – during lockdown we spent most of our days cooking outside.
“I especially like potatoes, zucchini, tomatoes, cauliflower… These things work incredibly well on the BBQ.
You just have to remember that this is open heat and can burn the vegetable very quickly before you cook it. So you have to have the right temperature. Don’t marinate it [before cooking] – start by cooking it first, then prepare a marinade that you can press down slowly over time.
Kochhar recommends trying the potatoes on the barbecue. “I cut them into thick slices and brush them with a little oil, salt, pepper, then I start to cook them over low heat.
Halfway through, I bring them to the highest heat, so they’re nicely charred, then bring them back to the low heat zone – and that’s when I brush the marinade on top. It cooks perfectly and takes about 10-15 minutes.
- Curry Everyday by Atul Kochhar (Bloomsbury Absolute)
If you’re looking for new recipes this summer, why not try Mexican on the BBQ?
“I’m making a lot of tlayuda at the moment, it’s a bit like pizza,” says Thomasina Miers.
“They serve them in Oaxaca [Mexico] in the streets late at night.
“They are normally made with corn, but mine are made with organic flour.
“You make these flat wheat tortillas and cook them on the barbecue until they puff up.
“And then you can top them with all sorts of things – grilled zucchini, charred eggplant, habanero oils, herb oil, slow-cooked lamb, mutton, or goat. You can mash a chicken and shred it.”
- Meatless Mexican: Vibrant Vegetarian Recipes by Thomasina Miers (Hodder & Stoughton)
“Number one: don’t give anyone food poisoning,” says Chris Baber with a laugh.
His top tip for staying safe during barbecue season is to “invest in a meat thermometer, to make sure your product is done.”
To really make sure nothing is raw, he also says, “Start it in the oven – something like chicken – and finish it on the BBQ to give it the smoke.”
Baber adds, “It’s also about the sides – not just what you cook on the barbecue. Great sides can elevate anything you put on the barbecue.
Ultimately, Baber aims to keep things easy. “If you find quality meat, cook it on the barbecue in a simple and pleasant way – don’t complicate it too much, I think that’s the key.”
- Easy by Chris Baber (Ebury Press)
For Megan McKenna, seasoning is the key to a flavorful barbecue.
“You can make sauces from scratch and marinate your meat first,” she says.
McKenna even insists on seasoning the sides properly.
“I’m going to make salads – tomatoes and onions and balsamic vinegar – it’s all about dressings and sauces for me. I think it has to be completely full of flavor – not just a sausage roll.
- Can you do this gluten free? by Megan McKenna (Hamlyn)