How to host the perfect BBQ

Nothing gets the tastebuds tingling like the smell and sizzle of a great aussie barbecue. The warmer weather makes it almost compulsory and there is no better way to get family and friends together. But how can you make sure your next barbie is trouble free and has some extra-special touches that take it out of the ordinary? To help you out, we have put together a smorgasbord of simple ideas that will make sure you impress without any stress.

Get your equipment in good shape

It’s difficult to have a great barbecue if the tools of trade are not in good condition. Every 10 sessions or so you should dismantle plates grills and drip trays for a wash with soapy water followed by a light oiling to protect from rust. Every time you cook you also need to ensure that the plate and grill are free from any residue from previous uses. This is critical to avoid meat sticking to the grill. It is well worthwhile investing in a solid barbecue brush with wire bristles and notched scraper, so that you can get right into the difficult to reach places in between the grill grates.

Check your burners are giving an even flame and use some wire to clear any blocked outlet holes. If you have lava rocks, then make sure they are not clogged with grease and replace them if they are. Now you’re ready to start cooking.

There’s nothing more embarrassing than running out of gas, so use this quick trick to check your bottle isn’t empty. Pour some hot tap water down the side of the bottle, which will heat up the metal. Because the gas is naturally at a lower temperature the metal will cool a lot quicker, so simply run your hand down the bottle and wherever the metal suddenly becomes cooler is where your gas level is.

Do some delegation

If you are inviting guests they will invariably want to contribute something, so get them involved and delegate some of the menu. There are two general approaches to this. One is to keep the barbecued food under your control and ask guests to bring salads and side dishes. This has the advantage of allowing you to keep control over the barbecuing itself. Just remember to let guests know if there is a particular cuisine theme in your cooking, so that they bring sides that are complimentary.

The second approach is to do all the sides inhouse and ask guests to bring their own meat. You lose a bit of control on the cooking front, but it will save on costs for you.

Top tips for great grilling

Let’s get down to the business end of things. To get the best of that great barbecue char flavouring, it is best to grill on a grate rather than a flat plate. It is essential to have your grill well and truly preheated to a high temperature before you begin cooking – that is key to getting the all-important char effect. If your barbecue has a lid then always use it to avoid heat loss and to maximise the smoky flavour.

With those basics in mind, here are some specifics on cooking different types of meats:

Steak

  • For the perfect steak, always season generously about 15 minutes before cooking and have the meat at room temperature – not straight out of the fridge.
  • To get those classic cross-hatch patterns on a steak, use the “10 and 2 method”. Position the steak so it is angled on the grill with the top end pointing to the 10 o’clock position. Leave it for 3 or 4 minutes without moving it and then lift and place it back down pointing to 2 o’clock for a couple more minutes. Turn the steak and repeat the process (with a little less cooking time on the second side).
  • If you prefer your steak well done, move it away from the direct heat for the last few minutes of cooking to avoid it drying out.
  • Always rest meat with a loose foil covering for a few minutes before serving.

Chicken

  • Use boneless for a quicker and more predictable result.
  • Thigh fillets are a lot more forgiving that breast. Breast can go from perfect doneness to dry in a matter of a minute, whereas thigh will remain juicier even if overcooked a little.
  • Chicken can be a bit bland on its own and will benefit from oil based marinades – particularly for breast meat, which is a lot leaner.
  • Always cook the shinier side of the breast or thigh first. The key to avoiding the chicken sticking and tearing is to LEAVE IT ALONE once it hits the grill. You need to hold your nerve and let it develop caramelised grill marks BEFORE you attempt to turn it. If it’s sticking when your try to turn it, leave a little longer – it will eventually release easily.

Fish

  • Baste with oil before cooking and don’t be afraid to start with high heat – it’s essential to the caramelisation process.
  • Place the fish on the grill skin side up and LEAVE IT ALONE until it has caramelised enough to release easily from the grill, before turning.
  • Use the 70/30 – 70% of the cooking time is on the first side and just 30% on the second.

Vegetables

  • Unlike meat, vegetables only need a medium heat
  • Vegetables such as eggplant, zucchini and capsicum are ideal for barbecuing. Cut them lengthwise to achieve maximum surface area. Large mushroom caps are also a perfect BBQ choice.
  • Brush with oil to prevent sticking and to preserve moisture
  • Avoid overcooking which can leave them soggy.

Change it up with BBQ entrée or dessert

If you go the BYO meat route, then why not surprise and delight your guests with entrée and dessert done on the barbecue. It can be super quick and easy . . . and sure to make an impact. Try these ideas:

  • BBQ nachos – a great way to spark the socialising. Simply layer corn chips, grated cheese and salsa in an aluminium tray and throw on the barbecue with lid down for 5 minutes. Dollop on some avocado puree and sour cream and watch the smiles ignite when you serve.
  • Paul Hogan tribute – The famous “shrimp on the barbie” is an ideal entrée. Peel, clean and pack the prawns tightly on kebabs (to maintain succulence) using two skewers (for easier flipping). Brush with olive oil and a generous sprinkle of your favourite seasoning. Use a high heat and cook 2 minutes one side and 1 minute on the other.
  • Brilliant bruschetta – Whisk up a dressing of olive oil, julienne basil leaves, balsamic and salt, then toss through some quartered cherry tomatoes. Brush some olive oil on to sliced baguette and toast on the grill. Rub the toasted bread with a cut garlic clove, spoon on the tomato and top with some crumbled fetta.
  • For a glorious finish, what could be simpler for dessert than a range of grilled fruits, such as melon, pineapple, stone fruit, apple and pear. Just cut into thick slices and grill for a couple of minutes on each side, while you melt down a glaze of melted butter, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small saucepan. Brush on the glaze and grill for another couple of minutes and serve with vanilla ice cream.

How to become “world’s best grandparent”!

Make the grandkids feel a little special with some easy BBQ mini burgers. Just slice hamburger buns into 3 slices, discard the middle slice and use a 4cm scone cutter to punch out mini buns from the top and bottom slices. Combine grated onion, salt, Worcester sauce and an egg with 250 grams of mince and form into flattened balls to grill on the BBQ plate. Melt some cheese slices on the cooked burgers and using large toothpicks skewer the bun, burger, sliced cherry tomato and lettuce leaves.

Treat them for dessert too by slitting along the inside curve of a banana and pressing in some choc bits and mini marshmallows in the banana flesh. Wrap in foil and throw on the barbecue for a few minutes. The rich, gooey result will blow the kids away when served with some ice cream.