We can’t discuss outdoor living without talking barbecues. The smell of charcoal smoke and sizzling meat pervade the air most weekends throughout the UAE’s cooler season and gathering round a grill is one of the most sociable get-togethers you can plan – be it at home, on the beach or out in the desert.
Food just tastes so good when it’s cooked up in the great outdoors, well it does if you get it right. Blackened burgers or under-done kebabs are not so appealing, so it’s important to follow a few rules to make sure your cook-up is a success.
And who better to help us with some top tips, than super chef Jamie Oliver himself. Here’s his advice for brilliant barbecues.
Get the right tools for the job
Invest in some long tongs to protect your hands and make barbecuing super safe.
Vary the heat
Whether cooking on gas, charcoal or wood, always try to have a hot side and a cool side. Use the hot bit for searing and to get things nice and gnarly, then move them to the cooler area to cook through.
If you use standard-sized steaks or chops they’ll cook very quickly. Go for a double – or even triple – thickness steak or chop and you’ll be able to build up a brilliant bark on the outside but it’ll still be blushing and juicy in the middle.
Make your own burgers
Homemade burgers are so easy to do. Simply use really good-quality meat mixed with a little seasoning and you’ll be onto a winner.
Make a herb brush
Get a few fresh woody herbs – such as rosemary, thyme, sage, bay – tie them onto a wooden spoon or stick, dip it in some oil and brush on to meat, fish, flat breads and whatever on the grill. It adds a beautiful extra level of flavor.
Don’t forget the fish
Fish and smoke are great friends (think of smoked salmon). Get a whole trout or side of salmon, throw some oak chips onto your coals for added flavor and cook like the caveman you always knew you were.
It’s not ALL about the meat
Fire does wondrous things to vegetables, too. What you want is that lovely charring from the bars, so slice your veggies thin, dry grill them, then transfer straight into a bowl of dressing and toss well.
Don’t cook straight from the fridge
Chilled meats take longer to cook. Take them out of the fridge half an hour or so before you’re ready to barbecue so they can come up to room temperature.
Love your sides
Never an afterthought. Try classic potato salad, beautiful grilled corn on the cobs, or Navajo flat breads, awesome for mopping up marinades.
Two barbeque’s are better than one
Why not have a second barbecue on the go that’s at a lower heat to keep food warm? Great outdoor chefs always do this – it’s a lifesaver if you’re cooking for a crowd over a long period.