Barbecues and summer go hand-in-hand. Hosting one however can be as exciting as it is daunting
Barbecues and summer go hand-in-hand. Hosting one however can be as exciting as it is daunting once the time comes to light the coals or ignite the gas.
Being able to comfortably work a grill and barbecue food to perfection is an admirable life skill that we sadly can't all stake a claim to having. Some of us seem to majestically gain a smooth autopilot persona with a pair of tongues to hand. To help anybody reach those levels of confidence, we provide below our guide to what the modern gent needs for mastering his barbecue.
Not only is it the means by which you’re cooking your food, it is also a metonym for the party that you’re throwing. What other parties do people throw that are named after an appliance or a piece of furniture? If you’re going to have a pool party, you want an actual pool. No one inflates and fills up a paddling pool, then invites their friends to come round for a pool party. They’d be expecting a good pool if it’s the basis of the event. Similarly, if the modern gent decides to host a BBQ, then he needs an actual, decent BBQ. It doesn’t have to be the centre of the party, but it must be more than an afterthought. One of those little charcoal packs from the supermarket won’t do, neither will the little tripod thing with broken wheels that gets the cobwebs dusted off once a year.
If you want to show off your green credentials, there’s the solar route. French company ID Cook make solar panelled BBQs that need nothing but the sun to cook food. The gent with one of these would not only be barbecuing to a sustainable tune but by landing such a space age styled piece of gear in the garden, they would equally be showing their keen eye for design. Alternatively, you could go in completely the opposite direction and purchase a gas-guzzling American monster. The Americans are the undisputed kings of BBQ. Now, you may not be able to recreate a Texas style Mesquite Smoked Barbecue Shack in your back garden but you can grill rather fine tasting meat on a Texas size gas BBQ. There are a few companies in the UK making them but one of our favourites is Weber. Though they don’t come cheap. Most of these machines cost in the region of £1000. The very top of the range costing £2000.
With this in mind, we want to ensure that absolutely anybody's summer barbecue from this point will have the right foundations set in place.
With the foundations of a perfect barbecue in place with the right gear, you now need to know how to nail the menu. For help with this, we reached out to the expert butchers at Ginger Pig for some essential tips and guidance.
Firstly, one of the most important things to remember is to use the best quality ingredients when you can - both on the grill and underneath it. The Ginger Pig consensus regarding the best cut of meat to barbecue, as well as overall value for money is rump – particularly the rump cap (also called picanha). It looks impressive on the grill and is packed with flavour.
1. Always use the best charcoal you can. At Ginger Pig we use a special blend of beech, oak, ash, birch and English fruitwood that comes from The London Log Company who supply London’s top restaurants.
2. Make sure the coals are properly hot before cooking. They should be a grey/white colour. If you’re running short on time then don’t be afraid to start any meat off in the oven and finish over the barbecue to add that smoky aromatic quality.
3. Season your meat just before cooking it - not hours in advance - with sea salt crystals and freshly ground black pepper. Don’t marinade a good steak either - there will be enough flavour in a good rib-eye or sirloin with just seasoning alone. Marinating could mask the true flavour and will be a waste of money.
4. Make sure you sear meat all over on the grill and then cook over indirect heat - this is where stacking your coals up more on one side that the other, creating a hot and a cool end of the grill, will help you.
5. Remember to rest your meat for a good period of time before serving. The juices need time to spread evenly back through after travelling towards the middle during cooking. This will also mean the meat will be nice and tender. Wrap meat in tin foil and then a tea towel to ensure it stays warm.
With decades of experience with good animal husbandry, Ginger Pig prioritise the welfare of their livestock, knowing that if it is looked after well in the field, it will simply taste better on the plate. For additional tips, head over to the Ginger Pig site and be sure to pop by any of their London shops for further advice and assistance from their expert butchers.
Don’t also go forgetting your five a day! Don’t also think that this shouldn’t also involve your brand new grilling machine! Corn on the cob, and sliced peppers are vegetables that dream of being grilled. Don’t let them down. Plus any number of side dishes are necessary. Moroccan couscous, pasta salad with tuna and raisins, and the classic potato salad would be Murdock's suggestions.
The summer plus England equals Pimm’s. And Pimm’s must always be shared with a good group of friends. This is the main reason why a lot people go to barbecues in England. Make the most of it while you can. Unlike cooking on a BBQ in the winter, which may be frowned upon but can also be quite a good idea, drinking Pimm’s No.1 Cup in the winter is like celebrating Christmas in the Summer (we’re looking at you Australia). For it to be perfect it must be one part Pimm’s No.1 mixed with 3 parts chilled Lemonade, and topped with cucumber, mint, orange, strawberry and ice cubes. Anything else is blasphemy.
When it comes to beer, it should be bottled, light and probably from a foreign country a bit more used to summer heat. So pilsners such as Mexico’s Modelo Especial, or the Catalan Estrella Damm, as well as the Brazilian pale lager Brahma are all good company for a gourmet burger in the sun.
You can bring the rest of your drink choices back to Blighty with cider, and the cider you should choose is Thatchers Katy Rosé. This is the zenith of the gentrification that alcoholic apple juice has undergone in the last decade. A cider that thinks it’s a wine. It comes in a wine bottle, it calls itself a Rosé and indeed it does look sparkling pink wine. The difference being that it’s not wine, it’s cider. And as wine is perhaps not the best of complimentary BBQ drinks, Thatcher’s Katy Rosé is the perfect replacement.