Planning the perfect barbecue

Seven simple steps to follow this summer

A barbecue is a great way to lay on a spread for guests, whether you’re hosting a small impromptu gathering of friends, or a full-on family feast. It’s social and relaxed, as well as a good opportunity to try something a little different and get creative with your cooking.

Take the stress out of the process this summer with Donald Russell’s seven simple steps to putting on the perfect barbecue.

1. Clean and preheat your barbecue

Allow 10 to 20 minutes for an electric or gas barbecue to preheat; and up to 45 minutes for a charcoal barbecue (until the coals are covered with a layer of ash). Stock up on charcoal, rather than briquettes. It heats more evenly and has a better, more natural aroma.

2. Treat your food with respect

It's important to treat your food with the same respect as you would in the kitchen. Allow the meat to come to room temperature for at least 20 minutes. Brush the meat with oil to help the searing process and prevent sticking.

3. Careful seasoning is essential

Either marinate the meat beforehand, or sprinkle with herbs and pepper. It is better to salt the meat after cooking, not before, as salt draws out the juices and prevents the meat from browning properly.

4. Never hurry a steak 

Cook your steak slowly until browned, and turn gently just once. Use long handled tongs rather than a fork, which could pierce the meat and allow valuable juices to escape. Wear an oven glove covering the arm, to prevent burning.

5. Don’t overcook it

To avoid charred, leathery, dry meat and ensure even cooking, use the 60/40 method. Cook the meat for 60% of the time on the first side, then turn and cook the other side for the remaining 40% of the time. As soon as the meat browns, it must be moved further away from the heat source, so that the inside can cook before the surface burns.

6. Check that your food is cooked

To test for ‘doneness’, remove the meat from the heat source and place on a clean plate. Press the meat gently with the tip of your finger. Rare meat should be soft and supple, well-done should feel firm, and medium in between.  A meat thermometer is invaluable for checking larger cuts.

7. Rest the meat before serving

Once the meat is cooked to your liking, it must be rested. During resting, the temperatures within the meat fuse, with the juices in the middle moving to the outside so it remains warm, moist and tender all the way through. Place the meat on a rack so it doesn’t lie in its own juices, cover with foil and leave in a warm place for up to 20 minutes.

Marvellous marinades

For extra depth and flavour, try marinating the meat before you cook it on the barbecue. Making the perfect marinade is easy – simply combine all ingredients and set aside until you are ready to use them. Try Donald Russell’s suggested recipes below:

Barbecue ribs

Barbecue glaze/marinade
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp molasses, honey or golden syrup
1 tsp Tabasco sauce

Chinese marinade
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp chinese 5 spice
2 tbsp rice wine (or sherry as an alternative)

Honey chilli marinade
2 tbsp runny honey
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 red chillies, finely chopped

Tomato basil sauce
1 tomato, cored and diced into small cubes
20g basil, chopped
100g tomato ketchup
10ml olive oil

(24 October 2013)