The Neanderthal in me; challenged as I strategically pile the charcoal around the fire lighters, comforted as I watch the sunset-red flames dance around the coals, rapturous as I fan the fire to make sure the black coals are turning white. BBQ season is upon us. And in my household (i.e. me!) it means being as adventurous grilling as it does cooking in my kitchen.
Yes, grilling. Not barbecuing. In much of the English-speaking world, “barbecuing” and “grilling” are used interchangeably. However, in USA’s South “barbecue” describes a cooking method in which food is cooked slowly over the indirect heat and smoke from a charcoal or hardwood fire. The food is never placed over the hot coals hence closing the lid helps to create an oven-like environment to retain the heat.
Whether you have a large family-sized terrace, garden or 2m x 1m balcony, cooking over a live fire is neither a weekend ritual nor a professional technique. Everyone can do it. And in Gibraltar, during the Summer months, everyone does. As you walk around the different housing estates, you can smell the characteristic chemical smell produced by firelighters or alternatives and burning charcoal. But if you’re really lucky you also get to smell the delicious offerings the grilled meats and fish fill the stifling, summer evening air with.
“Pinchitos, burgers, sausages, steaks, ribs, lamb kebabs, seafood…”
1st: Once the flames have died down on the barbecue, place a saucepan onto the grill and add butter, maple syrup and dark muscovado sugar. Mix together.
2nd: Rub olive oil, salt and pepper onto the rack of ribs and place onto the grill. If your bbq set has a lid on it then you can choose to “barbecue” it. Make sure to place the ribs on the coal-free area as you are cooking indirectly.
3rd: Regularly baste the rack with the maple syrup glaze.
4th: Once the ribs are cooked, it is always a good idea to split the individual ribs to give it one final basting on all sides.
“Fork test: stick a large fork into whatever you’re cooking and try to pick it up. If the fork slides out of the meat without grabbing onto it, it’s done; otherwise, keep cooking.”
Essential Grilling Tools
Having the right tools will undoubtedly make the task easier. A pair of heavy-duty, long-handled, spring-loaded tongs are the undisputed number one grill tool. Like an extra hand that doesn’t get burned, they are ideal for placing food on the grill, moving it around whilst it’s cooking, picking it up to check for doneness, and taking it off the grill. Don’t buy those cheap supermarket barbecue kits with tongs & spatula as they are both disastrous to use!
Convenience is the order of the day, especially if there are guests. Use disposable skewers for pinchitos and kebabs and disposable foil trays. Foil trays have many uses other than being disposable. Whilst grilling, they are ideal for covering thick cuts of meat or bone-in chicken that’s not quite done but that you don’t want to burn to a crisp. Without the use of a lid you can create a mini-oven.
Next to tongs, your favourite beverage, may be the most indispensable grilling tool. It helps keep you calm and collected while you’re tending the fire – a key to success.
So why not relish in the near-mythic social ritual that is the barbecue and stand, like Homer Simpson, with tongs in one hand and beer in the other.
Do it alone, invite people round, keep it cheap or go crazy at the supermarket – either way light the fire, open a beer and grill away… come on…unleash your inner caveman!