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Hot Roasting

If you have a kettle grill or a gas barbecue with a lid you can try hot roasting. Typically this will take longer than grilling so it is worth planning this in advance. By using the lid of the barbecue you are creating an oven where the heat will circulate around your food cooking it evenly. With a chicken it will have hot air in the cavity too helping it to cook from the inside as well as the outside. Some barbecue manuals will refer to this method as indirect cooking.

Charcoal barbecues are very easy to set up for the indirect or hot roasting method. The two outside 1/3's of the charcoal grate are used with the centre 1/3 being left empty. Once the charcoal is hot enough to cook, the food grill is put in place and the food put above the centre third. If you are using a starter chimney, charcoal is placed evenly in to each side. If you are not using a starter chimney the barbecue will, in effect, be made up of two smaller fires.

Charcoal for hot roasting

Hot Roasting on your BBQ requires the charcoal to be placed on opposite sides

Once the barbecue is at cooking temperature you put the cooking grill in place. Were I deviate from the barbecue manual is to place the food I am going to cook in a tray with a grill in the bottom. This protects the meat from the direct heat of the burning charcoal. If you don't do this you can end up with some very dry or even burnt parts of your meat. The tray and grill will eliminate this. The ideal tray and grill will be just a bit bigger than a chicken. You might like to buy two of these trays and grills if you want to cook two chickens simultaneously. Lining the tray with foil before you put the grill in makes cleaning the tray an absolute doodle, without the foil you could be scrubbing cooked on juices for hours. Put the grill into the tray and put your chicken, pork or whatever you're cooking on the tray. Have a jug/kettle of cold water ready by your barbecue.

Put the tray in the centre of the barbecue with the long sides towards the charcoal. Pour some of the cold water into the tray and stop just before you reach the grill. This added moisture is going to help keep your food moist. You can use beer, apple juice or any other liquid but in my experience it doesn't add any flavour to the meat, it just helps to keep it moist. Place the lid on the barbecue, with all of the vents open, and put the lid on, vents away from the thickest meat. In other words the lid's vents should be above the area where there is no charcoal at the leg end.

There is no need to do anything to the barbecue now. Leave the barbecue to run up to temperature and begin cooking your food. After 45 minutes, and don't be tempted to do so before, you can remove the lid. Check the water level in the grill and replace the lid in the same orientation as before. Give it another 45 minutes before looking again. After an hour and half a small chicken, 1.4kg or 3lb, should be done. Check the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh (83°C or 180°F) and look to see that the juices run clear. When you have done this a often enough you can see if the drum stick comes away easily, it is just a guide and you should satisfy yourself that the chicken is done. If it isn't done check the water level and give it another 20 minutes with the lid on before testing again. A large chicken may require a further 45 minutes but check it is cooked, it isn't about the time it takes.

A pork joint will probably need a little longer to cook. Salt the skin before putting it in the barbecue. If the crackling starts to burn, cover it with foil. The foil will protect your food. Making pork skin into crackling in a barbecue is just a matter of letting it cook at the higher temperatures that hot roasting achieves. If you struggle to make crackling in the oven try it on the barbecue.

If you light a lot of charcoal, a couple of starter chimneys full, you will probably need to use your vents to keep the initial heat a little lower. Start with both sets of vents about half open. After 30 minutes you can open them a little more until after an hour or so they should be open fully. You will need to have a clear idea of temperature and how the charcoal is burning so hold rushing into doing this unless you have found you need too. A better approach is to add charcoal, either lit or unlit, if you find that you need it. A single starter chimney of briquettes will let you hot roast for a couple of hours. If you believe you need to cook longer than this add a couple of handfuls of charcoal to each side of the barbecue after 45 minutes and then again 45 minutes later.

Gas barbecues, if they are big enough for this method of cooking (Three burners or more probably), should have the centre burner off with the two outer burners set to run. When the lid is closed the burners need to be turned down so the heat within the barbecue will be around 160°C to 180°C or 325°F to 350°F. Use the same tray and grill method described above to cook your meat in. Most gas barbecues have a thermometer in the lid but a good quality oven thermometer will give you a better measurement for not much more than the price of a couple of chickens. It is worth the small investment.

A variation of hot roasting is to set just a single fire, rather than two, in a barbecue. Place the food that you would normally grill (except steaks, just grill those hot, please) around the column of heat as described in the grilling method. Put the lid on and check the meat after 15 minutes, turn it and replace the lid. Cooking sausages like this will cook them much more gently, retaining more moisture and with the food a little further from the column of heat not at all charred. Natural sausage skins become almost crisp, very satisfying indeed.

You can also cook chicken pieces in this variant way too. You can either place the chicken just out of the heat column skin side down with the thickest part towards the heat. At about 15 minutes rotate the chicken keeping the skin side down but the side that was furthest away from the heat should now face the heat. At the mid-point 30 minutes turn and rotate the chicken, so it should be skin side up with the thickest part towards the heat. Cook for another 30 minutes. If you prefer to cook the chicken in the tray and grill method simply have starter full of charcoal burning in 1/3 of the charcoal grate. Put the food grill in place and put the tray of chicken opposite the heat. Put the lid on with the vent above the chicken. Cook for about 1 hour 15 minutes.

Find more ideas for food to cook in the Hot Roast method.