The barbecue is also a very versatile cooking tool, which can be varied in a whole bunch of ways to suit different occasions or events.
For an informal barbecue, perhaps for the family on the weekend, you have plenty of options. You could do hamburgers and hot dogs for the kids, or any other favorite family meal. Chicken, chops, steaks, sausages and fish are all great standard options. Barbecue cooking always adds a frisson to the food – as does the fact that it will be dad cooking for a change!
Easy accompaniments are leafy salads, and vegetables cooked on the grill. Corn on the cob is a classic, as are baked potatoes. Other starchy vegetables, including pumpkin and root vegetables, are also ideal for barbecue cooking, either wrapped in foil or placed directly on the grid to absorb that delicious smoky flavor. For a summer dessert you can’t go wrong with fruit salad and ice cream.
But you can also get really creative with a barbecue. Cooking on charcoal or an open fire really does boost the taste of meats, and you can be as adventurous as you like. Joints of beef, lamb or venison, partly pot-roasted and finished on the barbecue give a special taste for a more elaborate meal. We have a barbecue with a huge hood and a swinging rack. I place a few chickens on this rack and 3 hours later the meat is tender and falling off of the bone – an added bonus to the Sunday roast.
Creative marinades can turn your chicken drumsticks or lamb cutlets into something really exciting and you’ll find plenty of recipes and mouth-watering ready-made barbecue sauces to assist you. My current faves are Guiness sauce from Heinz and honey smoked barbeque.
For an upmarket barbecue, you have some great choices that are even suitable for formal occasions. Pit barbecues and slow-cooked spit-roasts are ideal for larger gatherings and will deliver a meal to remember. Just remember that you may have a lot of left overs with a spit-roast,
A great barbecue menu will probably feature red meat as the centrepiece of the meal. If you want a lighter option, kebabs are a great choice, and can be a good vegetarian alternative. Check that you can cook the vegetarian option away from the meat area…
With kebabs the trick is to cut the chunks of meat or fish, vegetables and fruit to exactly right size, so they all cook perfectly. You’ll find a wide selection of exotic kebab recipes from Asia and the Middle East, for a barbecue with world cuisine sophistication.
Barbecues often have a lot in common with a buffet, with lots of side dishes to accompany the meal. Common sense applies. If you’re grilling a rich red meat, choose complementary flavors, as you would for any dinner, and include lighter side dishes to balance the menu.
It’s rumoured that you can even make bread on a barbecue – or go for the classic garlic and herb baguette stuffed with cheddar. If you’ve got an open fire going, roast some chestnuts. Toast some marshmallows while you finish up with coffee.
Adapt your favorite ‘indoor’ meals. For the kids, try bananas with brown sugar or syrup, wrapped in foil and cooked till soft on the grid.
With barbecue the possibilities are endless. With a bit of imagination and forward thinking you can create a barbecue fit for any occasion, with the foods and flavors that tickle your palate and give you maximum pleasure. We just need the weather to go with it.