How To Master The Fine Art Of Barbecuing, According To Top Chefs

Make sorry sausages and burnt burgers a thing of the past

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Being able to man the barbecue on one of those rare British summer days is, cliched as it may be, a source of culinary pride for many; one that involves an intuitive approach to grilling and years of blackened trial and error... there's always a few "rare" chicken drumsticks along the way, aren't there?

But even if you'd consider yourself a pro when it comes to firing up the old meat pitt, it's never a bad thing to take a few pointers from those who are really in the know. Like chefs.

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Top, top chefs.

Jamie Oliver on the virtues of a 'herb brush'

Jamie Oliver: Loves his wife, hates E numbers and knows how to innovate when it comes to a barbecue.

While it's easy to think that all you need to create the perfect summer feast is you, some tongs and a charcoal 'cue (much better than gas, but you already knew that), one thing you might not know about is the ingenious herb brush.

"All you need is a selection of sturdy, woody herbs like rosemary, sage, bay leaves, oregano or thyme, a wooden spoon and some string or twine," says Jamie, before dipping your new herb brush in olive oil and using it to spread delicious oil and herb flavour wherever you please... hopefully on the meat.

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The Ginger Pig on having a hot side

The trendiest butcher shop in all the land, it's safe to say The Ginger Pig knows a thing or two about providing and cooking quality meat; knowledge that extends to perfecting the temperature of your barbecue.

"Once your coals are burning white", they write "stack more up on one side and have a very thin spread on the other.

"This means you can sear meat quickly on the hot side, but cook slowly on the cooler side. No more blackened outside and raw insides!"

Mark Hix on the perfect barbecue steak

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Finding the perfect cut of steak for al fresco cooking is a point of contention for many an amateur barbecue master, but allow former Esquire food columnist Mark Hix to set you straight: it's a 800g–1kg porterhouse, which incorporates both the fillet and the sirloin and is ideal for sharing.

According to Mark, "Very little needs to be done to a steak like this, just nicely seasoned with sea salt and coarse-ground black pepper then onto a barbecue for maximum flavour for 4-5 minutes on each side." Make sure you carve it at the table for maximum effect.

Anthony Bourdain on staying patient

One of the easiest traps to fall into when in charge of the barbecue is to panic and mess around with the goods by prodding, poking or prematurely slicing into it, a particular bug bear of traveller, author and chef Anthony Bourdain, who writes...

"Don't poke your meat with a fork. Use tongs to move it.

"Don't ever press meat with a spatula to speed up cooking. That's the good stuff you're squeezing into the coals! Be gentle!"

"And don't peek—meaning, don't cut into the steak to check its progress."

Richard Turner on the three ways to cook

The man behind Hawksmoor and Pitt Cue, Richard Turner knows his stuff when it comes to the cookout. Allow him to explain the three ways you can cook over a live fire, as told to Esquire... that's us!

  1. Direct, which is how you grill steaks, straight over coals. So the coals are underneath the griddle, and you put the steaks on top of the griddle, which is how everyone grills in this country.
  2. Indirect, where you move the coals over to one side and you cook off to the side so it hasn't got direct heat and it cooks much slower. And you use that for muscles that work hard and have a lot of cartilage and connected tissue in them, like shoulder and pork butt (which is another name for shoulder) and leg and stuff. So you cook at a lower temperature and it becomes very tender and starts falling apart after a lot of hours.
  3. Finally, there's a method called clinching, which is straight into the coals or on the wood, which closes down the oxygen between the flame and the meat so it doesn't actually burn – it just gives it an intense caramelisation around the outside, and it's totally delicious. You have to bang it a big to get rid of the ash, but ash is perfectly edible, just looks a bit messy. And it's a great way of cooking.