Most people – in the UK at least – only remember to take their barbecue out of the shed once (or maybe twice if they are lucky) a year, when two rare events occur simultaneously: it is a weekend and the sun is shining.
Then they will usually dig out last year’s charcoal from wherever it has been hiding, pick up some sausages, burgers and chicken skewers from the supermarket, and invite some friends over for beer and burgers in the garden. Then they get started and realise that the charcoal is often damp and the barbecue is filthy because they forgot to clean it last time they used it 11 months ago. But it doesn’t matter! Richard, one of the chefs from Weber and therefore an expert in all things barbecue, explains that people simply need to burn the old food off the barbecue grill by setting alight to the coals underneath (or turning on the gas / electricity for a fueled barbecue) to burn off the old food, waiting for the smoke to dissipate, and then using a barbecue brush to clean off the carbonised food.
So, with a clean barbecue and the sun still shining, it’s worth getting started. But how about trying something different from the usual fare of burgers and bangers? Again, Richard has some tips: people can cook pretty much anything on a barbecue if it can be grilled, roasted, smoked or baked. It is possible to use direct heat (placing the food over the fire) for cooking something which would normally cook in a frying pan, and indirect heat (moving the coals to the side to create a trench, place the food over that trench and then shut the lid) for anything which would normally be cooked in the oven.
Even without a thermostat on a barbecue (although all Weber’s gas barbecues do have them, and of course the temperature is easier to regular in the fuel-supplied machines), those clever chaps at Weber have worked out exactly how much fuel is needed to create a specific temperature range in an outdoor oven, and they have lumpwood briquettes which last from one to four hours, depending on whether it is a chicken breast or whole joint which needs to be cooked.
This means that barbecue fans don’t have to wait for that occasional day of sunshine to use a barbecue, but instead can consider it an extension of their kitchen which can be used all year round. How about cooking a roast chicken in there? Richard’s suggestion is to rub some oil, salt and pepper into the chicken, and then put it on the centre of the barbecue (ensuring that the coals are pushed to either side so that the chicken can cook using indirect heat). Chicken needs to be cooked for 20 minutes per pound plus an additional 20 minutes, but Richard advises that it is more cautious to consider using a temperature probe to be sure that the chicken is cooked through: the internal temperature will need to reach 82 degrees before it is ready to serve.
As well as roasting chickens, other options include creating dry rubs for roast pork (imagine that crackling on the barbecue!), or hot-smoking some salmon on there using some flavoured wood chips (the range from Weber includes apple and cherry, hickory, mesquite, oak, pecan and beach). Just soak the chosen chips in water for 20 minutes before applying them directly to the coals, and cook the salmon fillets in a fish basket (to avoid the delicate fish breaking up and dropping through the grill) for around 8-10 minutes, with the lid on the barbecue.
As always, for the best (and safest) results, ensure the fish and meat is as fresh as possible, and the highest affordable quality.
To learn more about creative cooking on the barbecue, Weber offer the Weber Grill Academy, where participants can learn from barbecue experts like Richard about optimum barbecueing. The day costs £130 and includes all ingredients, instruction, food and drink, plus a goodie bag. Find out more by visiting the Weber website.