5 must-follow rules for the perfect barbecue

Tongs at the ready? It's time for your meaty BBQ guide

Do not be deceived, that giant glowing orb in the sky is indeed the sun! After a month of rainfall that would no doubt have tested even Noah’s patience, it looks as though summer is finally here.

Granted, it’s a bit early to suggest the beautiful weather will stay for long, but given the forecast is great for this weekend you may well be thinking about hosting a barbecue.

If you are getting ready to invite friends and family over for a summer meat feast, Quidco Discover has a few handy tips to ensure it all goes swimmingly.

Clean before you begin

It’s remarkable how many people think it’s acceptable to start cooking on a barbecue grate which hasn’t been cleaned, or at least wiped down, since its last use. Not only is it unhygienic, and introducing your guests to the possibility of food poisoning, it also makes cooking more difficult with meat more likely to stick and then tear.

A wire brush, warm water and paper towel should do the job, while a light coating of olive oil on the metal sets it up nicely for cooking.

Preparing your coals

If you’re using a gas barbecue you don’t need to worry about lighting coals, but for those working with old school materials there are a few must-remember rules.

First make sure the charcoal you are using has been stored in a cool, dry place – wet coals are almost useless. Second clean your barbecue of any residing ash and grease. Third stack your coals as high as they can go in a pyramid/cone shape in the centre of your barbecue and strategically scatter a few firelighter cubes.

Remember that lighter fluid and cubes are made up of all manner of chemicals which can take their toll on the overall flavour of your food, so don’t go over the top. If you’re after a woody/smoked flavour a few wood chips are a great addition.

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Lighting the fire

Light the firelighter cubes, admire the glorious flames and place the odd piece of extra coal where the fire licks most vivaciously. The next step is vital. Leave the barbecue alone. Walk away from it! Content yourself in the kitchen, talking to your mates or making other preparations. Too many people make the mistake of poking around their coals with tongs, thus undoing their good work.

If it looks as though your barbecue has gone out after a few minutes, don’t instantaneously reach for more artificial help. Fan the flames a little to feed oxygen to the fire. Don’t go over the top though, furious fanning will just cool it. If you’re satisfied, leave the fire to work it’s magic for between 15-30 minutes, then when the coals are glowing red and covered in a grey powder, scatter them flat.

Food safety

It’s useful to have a small table to hand with everything you’ll need for the actual cooking. Make sure you’ve separate containers or plates for each dish, spices, oils, marinades, tongs and any other tools you might think are necessary. It’s advisable not to use forks for transferring meat to the barbecue as any piercing merely allows juice to escape and burn off more easily; this in turn leads to dry food. To be safe you should use separate utensils for cooked and raw meat.

If you’ve marinated meat, make sure that it has been resting in the refrigerator and not on the kitchen counter. Moreover, if you’re using the same sauce to baste meat, make sure you’ve brought it to the boil first to kill off any germs. Better still use a completely separate batch.

Working with meat

It’s always a good idea to ask guest how they like their meat done – if indeed they want meat at all…they might be vegetarians. Obviously this applies predominantly to steaks where they’ve options, because when it comes to sausages, chicken and any pork products, the only option is completely cooked through. Beware, just because it looks charred on the outside, doesn’t necessarily mean it has completely cooked through. Make sure you turn food regularly and check that there isn’t any pink meat left in poultry, pork, burgers, sausages and kebabs. The juices should always run clear.

The Food Standards Agency actually suggest that if you’re cooking for lots of people you’re better off using an oven first and then transferring meat to the barbecue to prevent meat being served undercooked – something which is particularly a problem if you’re working when the sun has gone down. Under no circumstances cook anything which has not properly defrosted and make sure any and all leftovers make their way into clean containers and into the fridge.

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Andrew Allen / Editor

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