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Grilling is the easiest way to barbecue your food. It is quick to setup and the range of food that you can cook in this way is probably the greatest. Certainly this is the best technique to begin with as it will let you develop your barbecue skills and let you cook some great BBQ. You may have heard of direct cooking, well I like to adapt that technique as I think this is a more reliable method for cooking.

When you grill you will typically be cooking over a high heat, relatively quickly and you will have smaller items to cook such as sausages, steaks, chops or kebabs. The direct cooking that is described in barbecue manuals or that you seen on the TV or internet will show the food directly, which is why it is called that, over the heat. Once you have finished reading the next few paragraphs I think you will understand why my technique will help you produce good BBQ and why the direct method is not something to be taken too literally.

The secret to not burning your food is quite simple;

  • Don't cook too soon, use the charcoals heat, not flames
  • Use all of the grill space to cook, not just above the heat
  • If you have a lid for your barbecue you can use the lid to control flare ups and heat

As with all charcoal cooking, the charcoal is ready to cook on when the charcoal has a light covering of grey ash. When the charcoal reaches this stage it will give off heat for a surprisingly long time, particularly charcoal briquettes. There is no need to rush to cook and it doesn't take too long to reach this cooking heat stage.

Charcoal for grilling

When grilling on your BBQ, place your charcoal in the centre

By placing the hot charcoal in the centre 1/3 of the barbecue, like a gas grill will have the heat above the burners, there is room for you to move the food away from the heat. The flare ups that you may have seen on other people's barbecue are caused by fat melting, dripping on to the charcoal or burner and then igniting, causing more flame. By placing your food around the column of heat the food will cook, the fat will melt but it won't splash on to the hot charcoal. As you cook you can rotate as well as turn your food to make sure that it cooks evenly. You will also avoid the criminal offence of producing blackened inedible BBQ as a result. Cooking sausages in this way will take about 20 minutes, pork chops about 30 minutes. Don't worry if it takes longer but if it is quicker, or starts to look blackened, move the food a little further from the heat.

A steak is perhaps an exception to the above as it will be on the grill for a shorter period, unless you like it more than medium rare, it's only going to be there a couple of minutes. By placing steaks above the heat you will have a beautifully cooked steak that is just beginning to sizzle on the outside whilst still moist and tender in the centre. If you are cooking larger steaks, those steaks so thick that they become legendary, you can also cook these offset from the heat column too. If there is a bit of fat, such as that found on a rump steak, you can soften this by placing it facing the heat. Later, the steak can be placed directly over the heat to cook to your taste.

If you end up with the barbecue flaring up for any reason work quickly. Move all the food away from the heat starting with those items that are being licked by the flames. With all of the food moved away the flames should die down. If they don't look like they are going too or you want to arrest them more quickly you can use the barbecue's lid. If you are using a gas barbecue just fold the lid down and think about turning the burner down a little. The reason for turning the heat down is because with the lid closed the heat will build up very quickly and your food will cook but lack that grilled look. If you are using a kettle barbecue close the vents on the lid and place it on the barbecue checking it is seated correctly.

With the lid of the barbecue on you are starving the fire, particularly the charcoal fire, of oxygen. The result is that the flames will subside quickly. Give it a minute before you take a look. If it flares up straight away replace the lid. Give it another minute and try again. You may have to turn your food once the lid is removed, to see what has happened and to rearrange the food.

Excess charcoal can cause problems as the heat can become immense and it is difficult to move food to a safe area. However, and whatever you are grilling start small until you feel you have mastered that, then cook a bit more gradually increasing the amount that you cook.

Here's a simple cheeseburger recipe you can try that uses the grilling technique. Or try Simple BBQ 1, 2, 3 Steaks.

Find more ideas for food to grill.



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