Entertaining | 10 ways to barbecue better - top tips from TV chef Henry Herbert

Entertaining

10 ways to barbecue better - top tips from TV chef Henry Herbert

A report on an all-day butchery and barbeque course at Hobbs House cookery school I went to a couple of summers ago. A great day out for any BBQ enthusiast (or women who live with one who want to keep their end up ;-)

Henry Herbert of Channel 4’s Fabulous Baker Brothers, who runs the school with his brother Tom, showed us how to cut up different types of meat, joint chickens and make burgers and sausages then how to cook them on the barbecue

Here are his top ten tips for improving your barbecuing skills:

1. Buy a barbecue with a lid to avoid flare-ups

2. Heat your charcoal or briquettes in a chimney starter

Probably the most useful tip for inexpert fire builders. You need a purpose-built chimney starter like this one (see also right and below). It provides the exactly the amount of fuel you need and it gets hot quickly and evenly. If you leave a few briquettes in the bottom of the starter and top with more you have extra coals for topping up the barbie when you need them.

3. Char your veg directly over the coals while the starter is heating

A great way to blister the skins of aubergines and peppers for a baba ganoush dip or a salad

4. Suit the heat source to the cut

If you’re cooking thicker pieces of meat like chicken legs use indirect heat - i.e. where the food is not directly over the coals. Cook thinner cuts like butterflied chicken breasts, steak and burgers directly over the fire.

5. Butterfly your chicken breasts

In other words cut through the breast lengthways leaving it attached at the side so you can flatten it out into a fillet. That way you don’t need to cook it too long

6. Leave the basting till the last minute

Especially if you're using a marinade that contains sugar which will burn if you expose it to a high heat for too long (hence burnt chicken legs).

7. Pre-cook your sausages

In beer, preferably. Or at least that’s what Henry did by sweating off some onions in butter, topping up with beer and poaching the bangers very gently in the liquid for about 10 minutes. Or you can use water. Then finish them off on the grill. It avoids burnt sausage syndrome - and the risk of food poisoning - and makes them extra-delicious

8. Buy your mince freshly ground from dry-aged meat

It made a huge difference in the burgers we handled which were sticky rather than slimey and wet. It also improves the taste (obviously) so you don’t need to add other ingredients such as onion. Just salt and pepper*

9. Heat your burger buns over the coals

For a warm bun - and perfect melty cheese - lay the cheese over the burger and top with the two halves of the bun

10. Have your burgers and steak at room temperature before you start

So you can cook them rare without leaving them raw. Actually that applies to all meats but obviously don't leave them out in the blazing sun.

* And if you’re making them in advance season them at the last moment like a steak to prevent the meat drying out. Otherwise the salt will draw out the moisture.

Butchery and BBQ masterclasses are held monthly at the Hobbs House cookery school in Chipping Sodbury, just north of Bristol and cost £185 including all the barbecue you can eat! For details see the website. The next is on July 18th.

I attended the course as a guest of Hobbs House.

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