How To Up Your BBQ Game
From brisket to chicken to ribs to fish, four super-chefs share their crowd-pleasing recipes .
Long gone are the days when a man could pitch up at a barbecue with a dozen supermarket sausages and a six-pack. “What’s the butcher’s pork mix?” and “Does he blend offal?” are questions just as likely to be asked of your offering as “Did you get a lime for the Coronas?” Any man worth his rock salt ought to be able to serve up a decent medium-rare steak but you’ll need to do a bit more than that if you want to impress your guests.
Barbecuing doesn’t have to be complicated; nor does it need to take up your entire day. But some dishes do need prior thought and preparation – especially when marinades are involved. And there is an art and a gentleman’s etiquette to grilling, as anyone familiar with the cult short-film The Tongmaster will know.
Men are expected to be able to step up to the hot plate. In an increasingly competitive arena, these four impressive but deceptively simple recipes will give you a chance to show off your barbecuing chops.
Beef brisket with burnt ends
Difficulty: 2/5 Cooking time: 5 hours Serves: 6 Pair with: A chocolately schwarzbier such as Full Sail Session Black or Rogue Farms Dirtoir Black Lager
Ingredients: 2-3kg beef brisket 4tbsp Worcestershire sauce 5tbsp American mustard (French’s is ideal) 2tbsp rock salt 2tbsp cracked black pepper 1tsp smoked paprika 1tsp garlic powder 1tsp crushed chillies
Method: Ask your butcher for a small joint from the brisket cap and to trim it completely free of the sinew that will toughen the meat. Start by laying the meat flat on your workspace and rubbing the Worcestershire sauce and American mustard into the flesh using your hands – they’re more effective than any brush at making sure the seasoning sticks to the meat. Mix the remaining ingredients in a pestle and mortar to create a fine-as-dust spice rub. Massage this into the sauced meat, making sure all areas are covered and refrigerate for as much time as you have: overnight is ideal, an hour or two is fine.
When ready to cook, put the meat in a small tray and cover with tin foil, making sure it’s airtight at all the corners. If you don’t, air will escape and prevent the meat oxidising to create the tenderness beneath the burnt ends. Cook for 3-4 hours on a 160°C barbecue (if your barbecue doesn’t have a thermometer, add it when the coal/ wood is completely white), or until the middle of the meat has reached 88°C (you’ve got a meat thermometer, right?). Pressing down with your finger on the meat will tell you if it’s tender enough. You’re looking for the perfect char, tender pinky-purple meat and the crispy burnt ends that add bite to burgers. Rest it for an hour, then slice and serve, cutting off the burnt ends in cubes. Serve with barbecue sauce.
Charcoal grilled black cod with pak choi
Difficulty: 2/5 Prep time: 45 minutes Serves: 4 Pair with: A light-pink Provençal rosé such as Château du Galoupet Cru Classé Rosé 2013 or Estandon 2012 Estandon Légende Rosé
Ingredients: 4 black cod/ cod fillet (skin on) 1 head pak choi 200ml sake 200ml mirin 300g brown sugar 500ml white miso
Method: Start by bringing the sake and mirin to the boil for 15 minutes to evaporate the alcohol, then add the brown sugar and whisk thoroughly until it’s completely melted. If you don’t, you’ll get a granular texture to the fish. Add the miso – whisking all the time – and let it cool to room temperature. Place the cod in a sandwich bag with the marinade and leave it for as long as you have time.
Fire up the barbecue and once the coals are white and glowing red, place the cod skin-side down on the bars. Grill it until the skin is crisp (about 10-12 minutes) and the flesh is golden. Take the fish off the grill, then dip the pak choi in oil and char on the grill – the leaves will wilt after about 30 seconds. Once a blackened ring develops on the white part of the leaf, remove and serve with the cod and extra dressing drizzled on top. Healthy, tasty and simple to make.
Twice-cooked pork ribs, quince glaze and sage
Difficulty: 2/5 Prep time: 2 hours Serves: 10 Pair with: a malted ale such as Samuel Adams Octoberfest or Goose Island Pepe Nero
Ingredients: 2kg middle-cut pork ribs (ask your butcher) 150g sea salt 4 bay leaves 1 stick of cinnamon 3 star anise 5 cloves 1/2 bulb garlic A few sprigs of thyme 2 litres chicken stock 200g quince paste (membrillo is best) or fig jam, melted with 50ml of red-wine vinegar A few sprigs of sage, leaves picked
Method: When it comes to ribs, the salting process is key to packing in flavour. Cut into three-bone pieces, place in a tray and rub in the salt. Then cover with clingfilm and leave to marinate for 90 minutes in the fridge. Next, wash the ribs with cold water (warm water will prematurely start the cooking process and make them chewy rather than fall-off-the-bone tender), pat them dry and place in a large pan with the herbs, garlic and spices. Pour over the stock and then top up with water to cover. Place the pan on a medium heat and bring to the boil. Skim off any impurities then turn down to a simmer and cover with foil. Cook for two hours. This is best done the day before if you’re prepping for a lot of guests.
When you’re ready to cook, cover them with oil, season and put on the grill for five minutes. Take them off, baste with the quince paste or fig-jam marinade, return to the coals for another seven minutes, watch the sparks fly and guests gather. Place all the ribs in a serving tray, cover with the remaining marinade, toss and serve. Warning: will require several napkins.
Hamburgers with chilli relish and onion pickle
Difficulty: 3/5 Prep time: 1 hour Serves: 4 Pair with: An ice-cold pale ale such as Sierra Nevada or Adnams Southwold
Ingredients: Red onion pickle 750ml rice wine vinegar 345g caster sugar 4 cinnamon sticks 2 dried red chillies 3 onions, sliced into rounds Tomato and chilli relish 1 onion, finely chopped 1 red chilli, finely chopped 60ml olive oil 2 garlic cloves, chopped 1 thumb-sized knob of ginger, grated 7 tomatoes 110g caster sugar 2 tsp salt 1 1/2 lemons, juiced
Hamburgers 800g coarsely minced grass-fed chuck steak 4 bacon rashers 4 slices Gruyère cheese 4 brioche burger buns 4 baby cos lettuce leaves
Method: Start by making your extra elements. If you use sterilised jars and refrigerate them, they will last up to three months.
For the pickle, put all of the ingredients bar the onion in a large pan and boil. Then reduce the heat to low and simmer for three minutes. Only afterwards add the onion rounds to the still-warm liquor, store in a large jar then refrigerate.
For the relish, combine the onion, chilli, olive oil, garlic, ginger and salt in a large pan over a medium heat and cook until syrupy (15-20 minutes). Add the remaining ingredients and simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a jam-like consistency that sticks to a spoon. You’ll have about 600ml, which should do about 20 burgers.
For the burgers, season the mince with salt and pepper and divide it into four portions. Roll each one, in your hands, into a sphere until the meat becomes sticky. The proteins and fat will be binding together, meaning it’s less likely to fall apart when it hits the heat. Shape the patty then grill at your barbecue’s highest heat. Turn once after 90 seconds for medium-rare. Place the cheese on top and grill the bacon. Give the buns 30 seconds each so they start to release the butter they’re made with, which acts as a barrier to stop too much liquid soaking deep into the bun. Start by piling the onion, then the burger, cheese and bacon on top before adding a generous spoonful of relish.
The game has moved on from the age-old charcoal versus gas debate. Serious barbecuers are now adding wood smoke for flavour. Here’s which wood to use (or not) where, when and for how long
1. Fruit woods The simplest rule to remember here is that if the wood has got a fruit in the name – peach, cherry, apple, pear – then serve it with lighter foods such as fish or poultry; anything with a delicate flavour.
Serve with: White fish, chicken, pork loin Add the wood: last quarter of cooking time
2. Birch It’s a good match for fish that packs a bit of punch with its flavour. The wood creates a relatively heavy smoke that needs competition on the palate.
Serve with: Salmon, kippers, mackerel, sardines Add the wood: first half of cooking time
3. Maple and pecan These two work beautifully together as a pair. Go for a 50/ 50 mix of each and use with meats with robust flavour.
Serve with: pork sausages, steaks, pheasant Add the wood: second half of cooking time
4. Oak and hickory Your go-to smoking woods. They give a distinct smoke that flavours without overpowering, while also adding colour. Use it with slabs of meat such as steaks and joints.
Serve with: pork shoulder and chops, beef joints, large steaks Add the wood: entire cooking time
5. Pine and green or resinous wood Steer well clear. Don’t be tempted to throw these on. Immediately they let out a dense dark smoke that does nothing but add a sulphurous taste to the meat. If any wood you’re trying lets out black smoke, take it off immediately.
Serve with: nothing Add the wood: never