Richard Holden on how to get the most from your barbecue
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The barbecue expert reveals the secret to creating summer suppers, perfect for those garden get togethers
Barbecue is so much more than burnt sausages and burgers and being scared you’ve not cooked your chicken properly,’ said Richard Holden, barbecue and outdoor dining expert.
‘If you’re able to get the basics right, you can have a lot of fun with it. If you can’t get those right, it will be really difficult to cook your food properly. People are scared of cooking outside the norms but once you know the tips and techniques, it really is very easy.’
Richard discoverd his love for outdoor cooking and barbecue while he was living in Canada. He was working in health and safety and realised he wanted something different.
He moved back to the UK and spent the summer working at Honeywells Meats learning how to properly break down carcasses as well as general shop work before doing an intensive 22-week course in classic French cooking at the Tante Marie Culinary Academy in Surrey.
It was an experience that not only gave him the skills he needed but also helped him find his passion again.
‘When I lived in Canada no-one let the weather get in the way,’ said Richard. ‘The barbecue was an extension of the kitchen.
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‘I’d love for people to see that a barbecue is another oven, there to be used, not something you pull out four or five times a year. You can even cook your Christmas dinner on it.
‘People are put off because they think it’s messy. But barbecuing outside, particularly with meat, means you can keep all of the fat and smells away from the oven and your kitchen oven can be used for vegetables or other sides.
It works really well. There is real joy, now more than ever, in being able to share a meal outdoors with friends and family.’
Raising the steaks: Richard’s top tips
Use a lid: Cook with the lid down and you will achieve a wonderful authentic barbecue flavour as fats drip on to hot coals and create aromatic smoke. Lid on cooking also helps reduce flare-ups and will cook your foods faster.
Grill at 250oC: This will give you the control and time to cook foods through before they have a chance to over colour and burn on the outside.
Use rapeseed oil: It has a much higher burn point than olive oil so won’t ruin the taste of your food. You can also use it to oil the grill and as the base for salad dressings.
Leave a small section of your barbecue without fuel: This is called indirect heat. With the lid down this creates a safety zone where meat can be put to cook through, rather than just burning.
Cook meat from room temperature: Bring meats up to room temperature for 30-40 minutes before putting them on the barbecue. The high heat will penetrate the meat easier, cooking it faster and keeping it tender.
Preheat your barbecue: Ensure your barbecue is burning for 10 minutes before cooking. This will burn off anything left over from its last use and sterilise the cooking grate. It will also help your barbecue to hold its temperature while you cook.
Get a wire brush: Clean your cooking grates with a wire brush after the grill has preheated and before you put your food on. This will get them smooth before cooking.
Have two sets of tools: Use one for raw, uncooked meat and one for taking cooked food off the grill. This will avoid any chance of contaminating your grilled food.
Rest: For mouth-watering results, leave meat to rest once you’ve taken it off the grill. For steaks and smaller pieces of meat allow 10 minutes, for bigger pieces like joints a good 20-30 minutes will do the world of good. Rest on a warm serving plate, under foil and insulate with a clean t-towel. You’ll notice the difference.
Use a thermometer: Temperature is king when it comes to a barbecue. A digital thermometer will guarantee your food is safely cooked every time. ‘75 stay alive’ is how I encourage people to remember the target temperature for anything that is cooked through.
Barbecues hit the news recenlty when some of Lancashire’s moors were set alight by disposable barbecues. Be responsible, always be aware of your outdoor surroudings and any potential fire hazard.
Richard says: ‘Whether you are using charcoal or a gas grill make sure you invest in a decent barbecue, you won’t regret it. A decent kettle barbecue will cost you anything from £100 with a gas grill. You don’t have to spend a lot but it is worth investing wisely to make it really work for you.’