Here's how to take your barbecue to the next level for National BBQ Week - according to chefs

Monday, 25th May 2020, 11:52 am
Updated Monday, 25th May 2020, 11:52 am
Need some tips to take your barbecues to the next level? Here's what the experts recommend (Photo: Shutterstock)

National BBQ Week (25 to 31 May 2020) has arrived, and the forecast is looking good.

Here are some top tips from award-winning chefs and butchers on how to get the best out of your barbecue.

Try barbecuing fish for smoky, sweet flavours

Roberta Hall-McCarron is the chef owner of the award-winning The Little Chartroom in Edinburgh and finalist in Great British Menu 2020.

A big fan of barbecuing in the restaurant, she shares some of her top tips for putting a home BBQ to good use.

“Meat aside, there are plenty of foods that work on a barbecue. The direct heat from it really enhances the flavours of fish," advises Roberta.

"Try some mackerel, add a little salt and butter then wrap it in tin foil. It’s a thin fish, so will only take around a minute and a half to cook, make sure to flip it so it cooks evenly. Shellfish like scallops work really well, cooked directly on the heat. The smokiness adds so much depth to the sweetness of the fish.

"I also like to cook asparagus directly on the barbecue to char it, and served with some freshly made hummus - it makes a lovely side dish.

"Flatbreads are a must when I am barbecuing. Try adding anchovies - the warmth softens the anchovies and they sort of melt into the bread, it’s so tasty. I like to serve the bread with smoked pâté and dips too."

Ditch delicate cuts for something more substantial

Sophie Cumber is based at Bowhouse on Balcaskie Estate in the East Neuk of Fife. She sources organic beef, lamb and mutton, and free-range pork and wild venison, produced on a small scale on the estate.

She takes a nose-to-tail approach, and specialises in traditional hanging techniques and cuts that allow the natural flavour of the meat to shine.

Sophie shares her secrets for making the most of your meat on a BBQ.

“Don’t go for the delicate cuts when choosing the meat, you want to go for cuts which have lots of flavour to stand up to the smokiness," she says.

"You don’t want to cook anything too small and delicate as the heat from the BBQ is often hard to judge and small delicate cuts can easily be overcooked. Choose mutton chops over lamb cutlets, rump steak over fillet, chicken leg over breast.”

"If you want to serve steak, then go for something you can cook as a whole piece, and make sure it is a decent thickness.

"This means you only have to watch and turn one steak and can give it your full attention. Normal rules apply, so make sure the steak is well rested when it comes off the BBQ, at least five minutes, then slice it against the grain ready for people to come and grab.

"My favourite steak cuts for the BBQ are a thick cut full slice of dry aged rump steak, seasoned simply with salt and pepper.

"Or a whole piece of bavette or onglet, cuts, which also take marinades really well.  A butterflied leg of lamb or aged mutton also works fantastically on the BBQ for similar reasons. A simple marinade of garlic, lemon and herbs and a little red wine will help to elevate the flavour."

Steak doesn't have to be expensive to taste great

Tom Kitchin, Michelin Star chef and owner of The Kitchin and The Bonnie Badger also favours a bavette cut of meat, saying, "There are so many different varieties of steaks. If you’re buying really good ribeye or sirloin or something like that it can be really expensive.

“So, we use a bavette steak which is a really interesting cut of meat and you are supporting the local butchers, because you won’t really find that cut in the supermarket, you have to go to the butchers, speak to your butcher and get it.

“There are cuts like bavette, flat iron, rump steak, these are really good meats and if you enjoy cooking outside especially when the weather is nice.

“It doesn’t have to be just that big treat to have a steak - a steak can be much more affordable which is actually really much more interesting to eat as well.

“I love playing with the BBQ, with the coals, the wood, getting it to the right temperature and even just having the kids outside being part of the process, that’s really good as well."

Vegetables are more than just a BBQ afterthought

Wendy is a popular cookery show presenter and highly respected campaigner for finest local produce, where to find it and what to do with it.

Here she shares some practical tips to consider, along with a delicious way to jazz up vegetables.

“Firstly, long tongs and oven gloves are an essential part of the kit. Make sure you have these to hand to make your life easier," Wendy begins.

"To add different aromas and tastes to your dishes, toss some rosemary and thyme onto the embers. It will give a subtle yet tasty flavouring, especially when cooking fish or meat.

"If you are cooking meat on a skewer, soak the wooden skewers before use for about 10 minutes in water. This will stop the skewers from burning.

"Vegetables like courgette, onion, mushroom, and cauliflower work really well on a BBQ.

"I would usually marinade the veg oil, chilli, and seasoning. Thread them onto skewers and BBQ for seven to 10 minutes, turning until the edges are caramelised and the vegetables are becoming tender but still with a little bite.”