Barbecue tips and ideas

Now that we seem to be getting some reasonable weather most people will be hoping to have a barbecue, or indeed several barbecues. There are two major problems with this great idea; the weather and cooking the food perfectly for you and your guests. An open sided gazebo will help with the vagaries of the weather as it can act as a shield against the blazing sun or provide shelter from a shower. As far as getting the cooking right, the single best advice is to precook most of the items. I was invited to a barbecue recently by one of the top chefs in Galway and I asked him for some tips on how to get it right.

Sausages: Buy some jumbo sausages from any good butcher, eg, Colleran’s, McGrath’s Mervue, McGeogh’s in Oughterard, Divilly’s in Westside, or Corry’s in Loughrea to name a few, and boil them in water for about five minutes. Now your sausages are safe to eat so all you have to do is rub some oil on them and chargrill until they look nice and brown and heated through. Whey not try some of the many flavoured varieties available?

Ribs: Ask your butcher for some meaty ribs — inspect before you buy and if they are more bone than meat try elsewhere. Make sure they marinate for at least two days and then put in an oven at about 200°C for 30 minutes until there are no juices running when cut in the middle. An hour or so before your barbecue, get a jar of barbecue sauce from the dozens available in the shops and smother them in same. Then keep turning them on your barbecue until reheated through.

Burgers: Try to keep to a maximum of a 4oz burger as any bigger gets too hard to cook. These are best cooked on the day and on the barbecue — keep turning and cut in the middle to see that it is cooked through. It is a good idea to previously cook all your onions in the pan and store in a saucepan on the corner of the barbecue to keep warm. You could also smother them in some of the barbecue sauce. A good tip is to keep a dish of cracked pepper and a dish of sea salt beside the barbecue to allow you to season as you go.

Chicken: There are myriad ways to prepare chicken for a barbecue, but the key is to cook completely in the oven prior to the barbecue. It is just too dangerous to attempt to cook from raw unless you are very, very, skilled.

A few other ideas are to grill each side of your favourite vegetable for one minute, or thread some prawns on flat metal skewers.

If using a charcoal barbecue,

here are a few handy hints:

• Pile all the charcoal in the centre to get it burning at the same rate.

• Coals are ready only when white

• Spread the coals out before starting to cook, and even though your instinct may tell you that they don’t look hot enough for cooking. Don’t worry, they will be.

• Start cooking at the highest setting of your grill rack, and gradually move it down a notch as the heat lessens.

• It is a great idea to buy basket type holders for the food; they clamp your fish or steak into a wire holder and the great thing is that if the barbecue starts to flame you can immediately lift it off without having to scramble for a tongs.

Finally, if you want really good charcoal do not use the briquettes, use loose lump wood such as that available from Luxury Living in Briarhill. Also its selection of barbecues is probably the best in town. It also has a great barbecue fire lighter which has no petroleum products in it, therefore no nasty tastes to be imparted to your food.

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