Barbecue tips for al fresco dining

a dining table featuring wine glasses and lots of food fresh from the barbecue

What’s the best way to enjoy a sunny day? I’m thinking out in the garden, of course, with a fiery grill and some ice-cold drinks! As nothing can beat a delicious BBQ outdoors, I’ve asked food writer and culinary expert Judi Rose about the best ways to grill meat and veggies, plus her top tips to help you barbecue and entertain like a pro.

But first, if you’re looking to upgrade your garden and design an outdoor kitchen, use Georgina’s complete guide. Then follow Hannah’s barbecue tips to complete your kit.

Now, I guarantee that these ideas will make you head straight for the barbecue! Read on for Judi’s top tips…

Barbecue tips: Have snacks at the ready

The whole process of heating up the grill and cooking takes a bit of time. So have something on hand for everyone to snack on while the main course is underway. I like to brush some flatbread with a little water, then throw it on the the grill for a minute or so. Once guests arrive, serve it warm with a bowl of hummus or a simple yoghurt, garlic and cucumber dip.

tortilla chips in a guacamole dip with a slice of lime
Barbecue snacks: ensure you have lots of snacks nearby. Photography: iStock.

Prepare beforehand

To make life easier, prepare any sides and salads well ahead. One of my favourites is a gorgeous platter of garlic and herb grilled veggies.  

Barbecue tips: Tame the heat

Make sure you don’t have the grill super hot unless you’re cooking steak or lamb chops. Otherwise, you can end up with the food that’s really done on the outside before the middle is even cooked.

a selection of vegetables including sweetcorn, courgette and mushrooms being grilled
Barbecue tips: tame the heat. Photography: iStock.

All about the meat

Remember that meat continues to cook even after it’s off the heat.

Use an instant read meat thermometer to see if it’s cooked in the centre. Once it’s done, don’t keep it on the BBQ or even on the warming rack as it will continue to cook – or, more likely, over-cook.

As soon as it’s at temperature, transfer it to a platter and cover it with foil to keep warm and rest. This will help make it juicier as it’ll draw juices back to the centre from the surface.

If you’re cooking chicken, choose thigh fillets or joints – they stay much juicier than breasts. If they have skin on, cook skin-side down for the first 10 minutes until golden, then turn them over.

Fish can be tricky. It tends to stick to the grill and fall apart when you try to take it off. Use firm fish like salmon or tuna and grill it on a bed of herbs, wrapped in lightly oiled foil. Or – more fun – on a BBQ plank.

meat being grilled on a barbecue
Barbecue tips: meat continues to cook even after it’s off the heat. Photography: iStock.

All about the vegetables…

If you’re planning to grill veggies in real time, remember that they take longer than you’d think. Chunks of onion, peppers or mushrooms, sized so they don’t fall through the grill rack, are at their best when cooked long and slow.

Either start them off before the protein or, easier still, toss them with a dash of oil and a pinch of sea salt and give them a blast in the microwave to soften slightly beforehand – you can do this several hours ahead, too.

This is especially useful for starchy vegetables such as potatoes, but isn’t necessary for tender greens such as asparagus or pak choy – but do toss them with oil and a dash of sea salt right before your throw them on the barbecue. 

Think outside the burger

Much of the world’s most delicious street food is cooked on a barbecue, so stay tuned for our street food barbecue tips. Whip up an easy marinade and you can wow your friends with world flavours such as Thai Gae Yang chicken, tandoori paneer, satay tofu, or Mexican fajitas.

Not forgetting the glorious flavours of the Mediterranean, from spicy lemon and oregano halloumi to succulent herbed lamb brochettes (skewers).  

burgers being grilled on a barbecue
Barbecue tips: it’s not just burgers you can cook. Photography: iStock.

Last but not least, desserts

Halved fresh peaches, apricots and chunks of pineapple are wonderful when seared on a BBQ – the heat caramelises the surface bringing out their natural sweetness while the flesh become extra juicy. Thread mixed fruit on bamboo skewers that have been soaked for a couple of hours – or use metal ones.

Now you have her barbecue tips, get more inspiration from lots of delicious recipes in Judi’s most recent book. To Life! Healthy Jewish Food is available on Amazon.

Featured image: iStock/ ozgurcankaya

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