Spring’s nearly here, which means it’ll soon be time to dust off the barbecue and make the pilgrimage to the local garage for coals. But, while the lighter evenings are welcome, it’s still chilly out there. Thankfully, Head Chef of Ember Yard – and a man who eats at least four BBQs a week – Jacques Fourie knows plenty about cooking out in the cold.
Here then are his five tips for springtime barbecuing. They’re… well, smokin’.
Keep it covered
Your BBQ needs a cover. With a cover, you can control the temperature and create an oven: without one it’s just a grill. That’s fine for steak and chops but for anything bigger you’ll need a lid. If it’s chilly outside, think about getting a stew on the go before sticking the pan on the barbecue. Then bring the lid down – it’ll give it a beautiful smoked flavour.
Do your preparation beforehand
Marinating meat before you put it on the barbecue makes it easier to cook and also delivers more flavour. With large cuts, slow-cooking in the oven before will help, too: you’re using the barbecue as a tool to get the smoked flavour in the meat. If you’re feeling adventurous you can make a ‘breakfast stew’: bacon, sausage, tomatoes and mushrooms all stewed together with a few eggs cracked on top.
Keep it slow and low
The key thing is not to mess with your barbecue. Get the temperature to 120-140°C then leave it. Don’t open and close your barbecue too much as it’s like an oven: opening it means you’ll lose heat and add more oxygen, which means it’ll burn out faster.
Don’t forget the veggies
Vegetables are one of my favourite things to cook on a barbecue. There are fresh root vegetables around now like parsnips and carrots that you can stick right on the grill: just add oil and some winter spices like cloves, cinnamon and star anise, and you’re good to go. For larger veg like turnips, swedes or cauliflower, season them, wrap them in foil and place directly on the charcoal embers.
Be ambitious: cook a Sunday roast
Think of the occasion: it’s all about bringing people together, and you can do that around a fire better than in your kitchen. Get the meat ready by giving it some time in the oven, then cook for an hour and a half on the barbecue. If you want to keep the juices for the gravy (and who doesn’t?), just place the meat on a tray. And like other vegetables, potatoes will cook beautifully wrapped in foil and buried in the coals.
Want to try Jacques’ food for yourself? You can book a table at Ember Yard here: http://www.saltyardgroup.co.uk/ember-yard/