With the summer months approaching, many of us will be dusting off the barbecue in anticipation of cooking and eating alfresco on those sunny evenings and weekends.
Just in case you don’t fancy yourself as the perfect barbecue host- maybe you’re worried about burning the meat or finding yourself too busy cooking to join in the fun-here’s a few tips to make sure your barbecue is talked about- but for all the right reasons.
1. Be creative
It’s not just about steaks and burgers. Go on, admit it. You get bored of the same old rump and sirloin steak or chicken breast. Then why not try something a bit different. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results. Substitute your usual cuts of steak with steaks like flat iron, hangar, and skirt which are a lot more flavoursome. Your local butcher will almost certainly supply at least one of these. Treat these cuts with a bit of TLC and you’ll be onto an absolute winner. Get advice from your butcher if you’re not too sure how to prepare or cook these lesser-known cuts.
2. Be organised
Its’s all in the prep, as many a chef would say. For starters, make sure you get the barbeque going before guests arrive so it’s at optimum heat for when you want to start serving. Marinate all your meat the night before, so the marinade penetrates the meat and prepare all food as much as you can. This will than give you more time to play perfect host.
3. Take cover
We all know how Manchester summers can be, so have a gazebo to hand to make sure your barbecue doesn’t become a wash-out.
4. Sides, sides, sides
A bit of balance never goes amiss especially with such a protein and fat-induced heart attack waiting to happen. Pimp up your slaws and salads with seasonal ingredients and add extras such as nuts, seeds, herb oils or croutons to give you something a bit different and add vibrancy to your foodie offerings.
5. Cooking times
If you’re cooking chicken or pork, slice into the meat down to the bone (if it has one) to check the flesh is cooked. If the juices run clear it will be cooked all the way through (above 75oc is the temperature you’re looking for). For steaks, always allow the meat to rest instead of slicing straight away. This allows the muscles in the meat to relax and retains the juices rather than losing all the flavour as the blood and juices leak out. What a waste that would be!
6. Use good quality, seasonal produce
It’s not just about basking in the afternoon sun and having a drink or two. It makes your job as a cook easier if the ingredients you have are great in their own right. This will certainly impress your mates. The summer season is incredibly bountiful so try using fresh seafood such as mackerel or sardines. If you have a vegetarian in your midst, asparagus at this time of year, griddled and doused with a herb and garlic butter, is a wonderful thing.
7. Get the drinks flowing
This might seem rather contradictory to my previous food-focused comments, but drinks are just important as the food. Make sure you ask people to BYOB and when you’re supplying your own beer and wine (how generous of you), make sure you keep it chilled in the fridge, preferably the night before. There’s nothing worse than a warm pint or glass of wine on a hot summer’s day.
If your passion for barbeques goes beyond your back garden and you want an event to get you in the mood for the sunny months ahead, Grillstock is returning for its third year in Manchester to whet your appetite. This two-day festival of meat, music & mayhem takes place over the weekend of the 30th/31st May and celebrates all things barbecue. With big names in the food and drink biz such as BrewDog, Brooklyn Brewery and Frank’s RedHot, food stalls, competitions and some of the very best music acts specializing in the stompin’ rhythms of the American south, it promises to be a weekend you won’t want to miss.
A weekend ticket will set you back £40, whilst a day ticket is just £25.
For more info visit www.grillstock.co.uk