How to make your barbie the best
Luke Powell’s tips for a great home barbecue
KEEP IT NICE
First make sure your barbecue is clean. Last week’s barbie should not be this week’s disaster. Use a wire brush on wet bars and create a clean surface, so you can respect the produce you’ve just bought — and impress your guests.
BE PREPARED AND PRE-COOK
You can make it easier on yourself by slow-cooking some proteins the night before. Try slow-roasting beef short ribs at 85C for 12 hours in the oven. Then wrap it tightly in cling film. Simply caramelise on the barbecue on the flesh side, then warm through on the bones. Braise a slab of pork belly, press it under weights in the fridge overnight, then cut “steaks” and cook skin side down on the barbie to get your crackling and warm it through. It’s a failsafe way of impressing and reduces any chance of overcooking your meat.
Cooking anything on the bone is better, and it’s almost a must for steak to ensure you don’t ruin someone’s meal. Rib-eye and sirloin on the bone or T-bone are great because the bone will help retain moisture in the meat and provide an even conduction of heat. Also go for a thick steak — it’s harder to overcook and gives you more time to get it right.
Ribs or pork loin chops are the go-to for pork, particularly the latter. It’s even more important to cook pork on the bone, and you really don’t want to overcook it, because it dries out easily. If you want crackling, put a skewer through your chops to connect them and stand them up so the skin is face down on the barbecue to get a good crackle. Then lie it on its sides to cook. Brining your chops overnight will also help them stay moist.
Whatever you do, don’t ever prick them (an old method to negate expansion and splitting). If you prick the sausages you lose all the natural juices and fat and they will end up dry. Instead, cool your jets. Cook the snags slowly on lower heat. High temperatures will cause them to split. Take your time, flip them consistently and cook them all the way through. Also, for better results, dry your sausages overnight by leaving them in the fridge uncovered. This will reduce spitting and allow them to cook more evenly.
Chicken can dry out but if you cook it on the bone it will be a star. Buy a small chicken or spatchcock, cut the backbone out with scissors and spread it out, butterflied. Place it bone side down, close the BBQ lid and cook until almost done. This cooks and steams it and the underneath takes all the heat. Turn it over near the end and cook it on the skin so you crisp that up. Marinades should really keep to a
minimum. Lemon on cooked chicken will bring it to life.
For best results always cook fish whole on the barbie. Whole snapper, baby barra or mackerel are great. Pull the guts out, season the cavity and the outside. Add oil and lemon and make sure you have a fish slice so you can get under the fish and flip it over. Just have a peek inside the fish and the thickest part to see if it’s cooked. Don’t tear it too much, just enough to see in. The bone protects the flesh and you’ll get the real flavour of the fish. Don’t have the heat too high.
Leave these whole in their shell. Salt them and cook them as is. The shell protects the delicate flesh inside, but you’re also getting the rich flavours from the prawn head, and the thin membrane of fat inside the shell adds flavour. This is especially the case for big prawns. If you want to split your prawns, be careful and keep them moist. Cook them flesh side down and flip them after a minute. Be careful not to overcook.
Corn, asparagus and zucchini all work really well. Slice the zucchini and oil and season it. Peppers love the char, too.
REST YOUR MEAT
As a rule of thumb, resting is half the cooking time. That’s just a general rule. Meat on the bone rests differently, and slower. High heat tenses the meat up: the juices go to the middle, then when the heat is removed it relaxes and lets it all out. If you rest the meat it will absorb the juices and be a better eating experience.
THE CAKE TESTER
If you don’t have a thermometer, get a cake tester. It’s essentially a skewer with a heatproof bit to hold. You put it in and if it comes out clean, the cake is cooked. Simply insert it in the meat and pull it out; feel the skewer and you can find out if it’s warm, hot or cold in the centre without cutting into the meat.