Barbecues: Rain or shine, it'll be a grilliant summer

They are hot – as in fashionable. To get it right, you need the most modern kit and dishes beyond boring old burgers

Who needs the sun to have a barbecue summer? Not us Brits, that's for sure given the soaring number of restaurants specialising in ribs, racks and rumps. But how can we ensure a healthy plate of food, cooked safely, without harming the environment, or costing a fortune? Read on...

The gear

Barbecue lovers fall into two opposing camps. Firmly opposing camps. The "How-can-you-use-anything-other-than charcoal?" purists are in the majority, with two-thirds of Brits opting for charcoal as fuel, according to research for manufacturers Weber. Coals definitely provide that smoky tang, provided you've opted for pure charcoal, rather than briquettes, which are doused with firelighter solutions that can taint your food.

It's on eco grounds that the picture gets a bit murkier. Gas-powered grills win out when it comes to carbon emissions: stats produced by the US Department of Energy (our own Defra is above such matters, apparently) show that propane-powered barbecues produce 5.6lbs (2.5kg) of carbon dioxide per hour. You can double that for charcoal, which also emits nitrous oxides, soot, and various volatile organic compounds. Not to mention that most charcoal is imported, some from countries guilty of unsustainable logging. Briquettes are produced using an energy-intensive process of pulverising and repeated baking. But gas is a fossil fuel, so provided you shop for your coals sensibly you could make a case for charcoal. Tom Adams, the man behind barbecue supremos Pitt Cue Co, sources his from the London Log Company. The Big Green Egg also sells sustainable pure charcoal.

To cook on, the serious money has to be on a smoker: there's no better way to get that intense smoky flavour. And we are talking serious money. A large Big Green Egg (a covered barbecue-like smoker that can be used indoors, beloved by chefs such as Michelin-starred Simon Rogan and John Salt's Neil Rankin) is quite the investment at £799. For that, you'll be able to cook a 20lb turkey. Or there's Weber's Smokey Mountain Cooker, which seems almost cheap in comparison at £339.

The food

Sure, it's easy to chuck a burger, or even a steak if you're splashing out, on the grill, but there are other things to barbecue. Not only does fish make a tasty alternative, but, whisper it, even hard-core barbecue enthusiasts such as Adams rate grilling the odd vegetable or two. Five of the six side-dishes at his restaurant in London's Soho are vegetarian, ranging from little gem lettuce and courgettes to broccoli and even cabbage. Veggie-wise, the new Pitt Cue Co Cookbook includes recipes for "Burnt leeks with anchovy hollandaise" and "Burnt tomatoes and shallots on toast". "Burnt", in this context, means delightfully charred, rather than incinerated.

There's also the issue of greenhouse gas emissions caused by raising the cattle to get that beefburger in the first place. Swap burgers for something like Portobello mushrooms (leave whole and stuff with lemon, basil and feta, or garlic and mozzarella) and you can light those coals with a much clearer conscience. If you're going down the pescetarian route, then opt for something more sustainable than a tuna steak. Think mackerel, sardines, squid, gurnard, or even cuttlefish.

The health factor

You'd think it couldn't come much healthier than a piece of grilled meat. And yet, barbecues come with a whole range of health warnings, from causing cancer to being riddled with germs: one recent study claimed your average barbecue grill contains twice as many microbes as a lavatory seat. Not to mention the risk of salmonella from that clichéd undercooked chicken thigh.

Everything hinges on how you use your coals. Patience is key to avoid burning your offerings, which is where the danger lies. Wait for the flames to die down and the coals to cool slightly, because it's when food like meat is cooked over high temperatures or touches the flames that carcinogenic compounds (heterocyclic amines, or HCAs, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, PAHs, to be precise) can form. Another tip is to marinate your meat or poultry in some sort of olive oil and lemon juice combination. These two ingredients reduce the formation of cancer-causing compounds by up to 99 per cent.

The technique

Dads, look away now; or rather, don't. Barbecuing is not, repeat not, about blasting the hell out of a cheap packet of bangers and singeing a burger or two. Rather, it's about taking your time. Serious amounts of time, according to the pros. Like 10 hours minimum, which is somewhat tricky to pull off in an afternoon, but can be achieved using a smoker – and planning ahead. Richard Turner, executive chef at the meatfest that is the Hawksmoor restaurant chain, says the best results come from cooking food slowly over indirect heat at between 75C and 110C. "You tend it, and love it, and care for it. And 10 hours later you've got something to die for."

If you just can't wait that long, then Weber advocates managing your heat, by putting the right amount of charcoal on in the first place and keeping the lid on while cooking, which turns the barbecue into a mini fan oven. You should also avoid fiddling with your chops: sear each side over the hot middle bit, before sliding it over to the cooler edge to finish cooking.

The fad

To put it simply: barbecues are hot. So hot that this summer, that London will play host to the UK's first Meatopia barbecue festival, thanks to Richard Turner's decision to give Brits a taste of the Stateside extravaganza. The focus will be on Texan-style grilling, with Aaron Franklin, from Austin's famed Franklin Barbecue, arriving to start smoking his brisket a good 15 hours before the event kicks off on 7 September. Meatopia follows Grillstock, which started in Bristol three years ago. All that, plus pop-ups like Sam Daffin's BBQ Whisky Beer at London's Wargrave Arms or specialists like John Hargate's Brighton-based BBQ Shack, mean it's clearly going to be a barbecue summer regardless of the weather.

Asian-inspired barbecue pork neck

Here's a recipe from cafe ODE in Shaldon, Devon, 2013's "Sustainable Restaurant of the Year". At the prestigious Grillstock BBQ festival in Bristol this year, its team came third in the dessert class and fourth in the pulled pork category. This simple, Asian-inspired recipe can be adapted to suit almost any type of meat or fish.

500g pork neck cut into strips; 125ml tamari soy; 50ml cider vinegar; 75ml rice wine or sherry; 30ml honey; 20ml hoi sin sauce; 10ml sesame oil; 10g garlic; 10g ginger; 5g coriander; orange peel; 10g five-spice powder (anise, clove, cinnamon, fennel seed and peppercorns)

Method Crush the garlic, ginger, coriander and orange peel with a pestle and mortar or pulse in a food processor. Add all the remaining ingredients, mix and transfer to a bowl.

Add pork strips and mix thoroughly. Marinate overnight. Drain and place on to the barbecue, cook for 3–4 minutes each side, basting continuously with the marinade and using tongs to turn.

Rain Plan (a barbecue recipe requirement in the UK)

Alternatively, you can roast in an oven on a rack 220C for 15 minutes each side. You can also try this recipe with fish, mackerel being a great example. Fillet the fish leaving the skin on and place in marinade for 30 minutes. Cook skin side down for 3-4 minutes, again basting often.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

    £25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

    £20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager

    £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager required for ...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator

    £25000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator A...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent