The 17th National BBQ Week!

May 23, 2013 by The Co-op Observer The Co-operative BBQ range

There’s a “National Week” for all sorts of things these days – but National BBQ Week is one that has got me thinking. This year is the 17th annual barbecue week and it runs from 27 May to 2 June.

I love to barbecue.

I love the little disposable ones that we’ll take to the beach on unusually organised days. We’ll use them to cook up a simple meal after a great day of running around, rock pooling, swimming and generally working up a big appetite. The smell of it is enough to drive anyone else left on the beach wild with envy, even though we’ll only have basic fare, unless someone catches a mackerel or something similar.

At the opposite end of the scale is the one we have built in the garden at home. It’s near the kitchen so we can ferry food and drink to and fro, and it’s big enough to feed lots of us if we light the whole area. I like to use a charcoal grill, but I understand the appeal of a gas unit, while you might not get the same taste, the better control, fast set up and easy clean are all attractive.

With a few basic skills you can create a great meal on the barbie. Here are a few thoughts about what you have to get right. The rest is down to what you decide to cook.

Get the heat right: This is largely down to lighting the BBQ a while before you need it. For a charcoal grill I’d give it at least thirty minutes, by then all your flames should have died down and you’ll have an even bed of hot embers. If you’re using wood chips then be sure they are well seasoned and give them even longer to burn down to embers. Even a gas BBQ will need some time to get up to heat.

You need to get those metal bars really hot so that the meats instantly seal where they have contact, and that helps prevent them from sticking.

Too much heat will leave you with the barbecue of British comedy, meat burnt on the outside and still raw in the middle. This is not a good combination for health or flavour. My test is to hold my hand about 15 cm above the charcoal, it should be hot, but not unbearable, if you can’t keep your hand that close for a minute then it’s too hot – give it some time to cool down.

Marinate: Marinades give you a huge range of flavours that stretches your choice so much further. Marinated meats will have greater succulence, they won’t dry out as quickly over the fire, and you’ll be able to create several different flavours from a single meat.

Give the marinade time – ideally overnight, but if you’re not that organised, or an unexpected sunny evening presents an opportunity too good to waste then just give your meat as long a soak as you can.

Take your time: I’ve already suggested giving your fire plenty of time to reach its ideal temperature. And giving your meat time to soak in some lovely flavours. Likewise the cooking shouldn’t be rushed. Try searing your meat on a high heat to seal in the juices, then move it away from the centre to cook more slowly and evenly.

Experiment: Sausages and burgers are great – but you can widen your repertoire so much further with a little imagination.

Oily fish on the grill, or white fish and salmon cooked in foil are rewarding side steps from the obvious.

Try kebabs alternating between marinated meats and vegetables, or even fruit. Courgette and peppers are both good on the skewer as well as simply grilled on the rack.

Haloumi is an amazing Greek sheep’s milk cheese that is ideal for a meat free kebab, it browns nicely on the outside and has a salty taste that’s concentrated by the bbq.

Then how about getting some fruit on too. Bananas become gooey and sweet wrapped in foil in their skins and left on the side. Or pop a few pineapple rings onto the grill, they look great with a criss-cross pattern just like the meat.

A bulb of garlic can roast at the side of the charcoals wrapped in foil, you can later squeeze the rich pulp over bread for a surprisingly rich and sweet garlic bread.

You can even experiment with your fuel, and if you have rosemary going a little wild in the garden then chop off some stems and pop them onto the fire, the smell is lovely and will take your mind to Greece or southern Italy where it just grows wild in the scrub.

Salads: All that meat is likely to feel a little heavy if you don’t balance it with some great salads, I like to knock up a couple of different ones, and a fruit punch too. With Jersey Royals in season, and on offer at The Co-operative I’ll have a bowl full lightly boiled, buttered, seasoned and served with some torn mint.

Before you start get down to your local Co-operative and check out what’s good on the shelves. You’ll find some excellent deals that will get your outdoor feast started. Through to 11th June there are offers on those most magnificent of potatoes, the Jersey Royals, as well as other barbie essentials like Foster’s Gold, Chardonnay, chicken breasts, finger rolls and coke. Melons and berries are also on offer and ideal for a refreshing fruit salad to finish your meal.

Of course you don’t have to wait for National Barbecue Week – but it’s a good excuse to get started!

Take a look at our latest deals: http://www.co-operativefood.co.uk/food/deals/Shopping-List/all-deals/

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