Top BBQ tips from Fifteen Cornwall’s junior sous chef Jack Bristow
Our junior sous chef Jack Bristow is a big fan of cooking over coals, and has shared with us some of his top tips for barbecuing success. So make the most of September before the evenings draw in and fire up the barbie.
What are the best meats for grilling?
I likes cuts with a high marbling of fat within the meat, for example a ribeye, sirloin, or rump of beef; lamb leg, chops or pencil fillet; or pork chops. The heavy marbling self-bastes the inside of the meat keeping it moist and succulent.
Spatchcocked chicken can be cooked quickly, in under 10 minutes for a whole chicken, where a whole one can take over an hour.
Fish like turbot and monkfish, preferably nothing too delicate, allow for heavy char from the grills without the fish tearing. If kept whole, mackerel or bass work well. Stuffing the inside of the fish means the flavours infuse through the fish with the smoke.
Cooking a larger cut of meat, such as a ribeye for two instead of two smaller cuts, allows the meat to be on the barbecue for longer, giving a heavier char and longer exposure to the smoke.
What are the best for smoking?
Meats with a higher fat content tend to work well, as this is where all the flavour comes from as it renders through the meat. Cuts like pork shoulder or butt (shoulder on the bone), and beef brisket are great smoked, or where possible a whole animal such as a suckling pig. Bigger cuts of meat are ideal for smoking as it allows the meat to form a ‘bark’. This is where the outside seals, and keeps the moisture trapped inside. If it gets too dark you can also wrap the meat with foil.
Not everyone is brave enough to start off with big cuts, I get as much pleasure from catching mackerel or pollock, or buying a whole salmon and smoking this which takes nearly no time. Smoking butter or salt is also quick to do and very effective.
What fuel should you use?
I would recommend using lumpwood or seasoned wood where possible, as it’s important to keep the smoke clean. We should treat our fuel as well as what we would produce cooking over it.
A gas barbecue doesn’t offer any more flavour than cooking on a chargrill pan. You can get a smoking box: chips of wood that smoulder inside a metal box that add the wood/smoke flavour to your food. There are lots of different woods to use, every species has its own unique flavour that can complement your grill and add to the flavour, it’s fun to play with and experiment.
Tip: Wait for the charcoal or wood to turn white and smouldering before starting to cook.
We’ve got our ingredients and fuel sorted. How should we approach cooking it?
There are two main methods of cooking: direct and indirect cooking.
Direct is simply cooking directly on the grill over the charcoal, a fast method of cooking ensuring large bar marks and a good char on the meat. Indirect offers more control and involves cooking to the side of the charcoal, or a lot higher over the coals. This works particularly well for bigger cuts, or cuts that need to tenderise more. A perfect example is a chicken leg or thigh, offset will ensure it doesn’t burn directly over the coals but will cook the meat through so it’s falling from the bone. This is easily done at home by only lighting one half of your barbecue and cooking on the unlit side.
Tip: When cooking big cuts don’t be tempted to keep looking, there’s a saying, ‘if you’re looking, you aren’t cooking’. Every time you lift the lid of your barbecue all the heat and smoke escapes meaning your cook is going to take a lot longer.
I would advise to check every few hours, and when you do as quickly as possible. You can buy an internal probe that will alert you when your cut of meat reaches an internal temperature. I prefer to use my own instincts. Generally you are looking for a nice smouldering of smoke circling out the top of the barbecue. If it’s rather violent you know there may be an issue or a flare up inside. If the smoke dies or starts to fade you know you need to increase your fuel.
Can you recommend any useful gadgets?
There are many toys and gadgets to buy, but a good pair of tongs and a metal skewer or probe is all you need…and maybe a bottle opener!
Probes can make your cooking a lot easier especially when it comes to cooking the perfect steak. I prefer to use a metal skewer. If you like rare or medium rare beef, no matter how big or small the cut is, simply push the skewer into the centre of the cut, hold for 5 seconds and place on your bottom lip. As soon as you feel warmth on your lip your steak or joint of beef is ready for resting.
Sauce or marinade recommendations?
Barbecuing is all about injecting flavour into the meat. It’s surprising how much you can add to the flavour by using different types of wood and salts. I like to not over complicate things.
For chicken I love ‘nduja, and for pork I love a chipotle marinade or sauce. I find I like to keep the chipotle thick like a rub for a marinade and then looser for a sauce. For example, you could marinade a pork shoulder with chipotle, then when it’s pulled apart, mix it with the sauce.
Beef and coffee pair amazingly, you wouldn’t think it but coffee adds sweetness and bitterness to your charred meat.
And what about veggies?
I love to cook my veg in with the coals, the outside smoulders against the charcoal or wood and seals all the flavour in. Beetroots, potatoes and aubergine are great to try but my personal favourite is a leek. There is a lot of water in a leek. Place it directly onto the coals and it burns the outside but the moisture inside steams the leek. You can then peel back the burnt layers and you are left with a smokey, succulent cooked leek.
And for pudding?
Bananas are really good on the barbecue. Peel and cut them length ways down the middle, and simply grill with sugar and serve with cream. So simple!
Favourite drink pairing?
Traditionally when people think of barbecue it’s all bourbon and heavy whiskies. I personally like to keep it quite light. I find barbecues can be rather full on, not just for the person cooking, but also for the people eating.
I prefer something refreshing,that lifts the meal from being too heavy. For example, a nice cold beer or a light cider works well. Cider is a great choice especially if cooking or eating pork.