Forget cremated chicken drumsticks and shop-bought chipolatas, the barbecue game has changed. These days, expectations are high. And, guess what, those expectations are aimed in your direction.
If you're having friends over this summer, the real BBQ points can be scored with contemporary American-style grilling – larger, premium cuts of meat, cooked slowly and tenderly on the barbecue with melt in the mouth results.
The question is, how do you successfuly pull off this feat of man versus fire on the first time of asking? We asked self-confessed 'beef-eterian' Darragh O'Shea, of O'Shea's Butchers in London, for some advice on getting it right:
"Prime cuts of beef such as a beef rib, a butterflied leg of lamb or a spatchcock chicken are even more delicious when cooked low and slow on a barbecue. Always buy the best quality meat you can – I may be biased but I always recommend visiting your local butcher for both good quality produce, and also good advice on which cuts work best and how to cook them for the tastiest results."
1 | Get Organised
"The key to a great barbecue lies in the planning. Marinate your meat 24 hours beforehand to ensure the flavours are absorbed. I recommend using dry rubs (more on those coming later…), before returning your piece of meat to the fridge overnight. Meat should be removed from the fridge two hours prior to your barbecue so it can return to room temperature, ensuring it cooks evenly."
2 | Rub v Marinade
"Dry rubs work best for adding new flavour dimensions to your meat. A dry rub usually consists of salt, cracked black pepper, herbs and spices – when combined, you should pat (and not rub as the term may suggest!) the mix into your joint. Garlic and rosemary works well with lamb whilst chicken pairs well with Cajun spices and lemon. If you like your meat to be a little saucy, paint a flavoursome marinade all over, basting as its cooks."
3 | Prepare The Grill
"When thinking big with your meat, you need to cook it away from the heat source. For an authentic flavour, I always recommend cooking on coals - either put your charcoal to one side of the barbecue, or around the edges and use the vents to keep the temperature under control. If you are using a gas barbecue, try lighting the burners on one side and placing your meat on the other for the same results."
4 | Get Your Timings Right
"It's always worth investing in a meat thermometer if you plan on barbecuing regularly, and it's particularly important when being ambitious with bigger pieces. As a general rule, medium rare meat will measure around 60° in the centre and aim for 55° if you like your meat rare and 75° for well-done (verging on charred!)."
• A medium-sized spatchcock chicken (roughly 1.7kg in weight) should be cooked bone-side down first, and will take around 20 minutes on each side.
• A butterfly leg of lamb will take around 15 minutes on each side if you wish to serve the meat rare.
• Côte de boeuf should be sealed for two minutes on each side, before allowing 10 minutes for cooking on each side for rare meat.
Don't be tempted to lift the lid of your barbecue too much whilst cooking though – the heat will escape and it will only take longer to enjoy.
Darragh O'Shea was speaking in association with Leerdammer Toastie and Burger cheese. More barbecue recipes are available here.