How do you prepare for a BBQ?
Are you preparing for a barbecue among your small group of friends? Or are you preparing for a BBQ party? For a hassle-free experience, make sure to read our tips before you get that grill ready.
What BBQ should I buy?
Now, the first question you may have is what BBQ should I buy? When deciding on what BBQ to buy, you might want to consider:
Gas or charcoal BBQ?
Gas and charcoal both have pros and cons. There is no perfect answer to this question and it all boils down to your preference.
- Quick startup time
- Accurate cooking temperature
- Better for more complicated dishes involving different temperature settings
- It’s easy to cook food like burgers, hotdogs and steaks over charcoal
- Grilling over charcoal is said to be tastier
- More expensive than a charcoal grill upfront
- The cost of buying charcoal bags can accumulate over time
Size of the BBQ
Is bigger always better? You may be swayed by a big grill with all the accessories, but do you really need all the razzle dazzle? Consider the space in your home where you plan to do the BBQ and what storage space you have in your home.
Another thing to ask is: how do you want to use the grill? Are you going to host BBQ parties regularly? If it's just you and your partner who will regularly use it, then you may not need a big grill.
The rule of thumb is to have 50 square inches of cooking space per portion of food. If you plan to host parties quite regularly, you may need a bigger grill that accommodates a searing, slow cooking and finishing space.
Material used in BBQ
Invest in quality materials such as stainless steel which may be pricier upfront but cost-effective in the long run. A cheaper BBQ that is made from aluminium or sheet metal is more likely to become rusty after several uses as it is exposed to high heat and other elements.
Stainless steel is also easier to clean. A dual-layer stainless steel hood can keep heat inside, making cooking time more efficient and accurate.
What BBQ accessories do I need?
Now that you have the grill and the meats, what are the BBQ accessories you need and other essentials? We’ve divided these items into the must-haves and good-to-haves:
- Tongs: Make sure they're strong and sturdy but lightweight. Giant grill tongs may look fancy but if they don't fit your hand or they're too big for you, they can be a dealbreaker.
- Spatula: Find one that is long, lightweight, and easy to maneuver. These are perfect for flipping burgers or fish fillets!
- Metal skewers: Opt for metal ones instead of wooden skewers. They're reusable and environmentally friendly. They're also more efficient as you don't need to soak them in water before using them. Make sure they also have an easy grip hold at the end of the handles.
- Cast-iron skillet: If you plan on grilling steaks and burgers, it's recommended to have a skillet. It's safer to use than putting the meat over the grate since the fat that drips down can cause flare ups (which may burn you). It can also make the food taste bitter. Using a skillet eliminates all that.
- Grill brush: Choose one with bristles that are less likely to bend or break off. Heavy-duty nylon brushes work wonders.
- Meat thermometer: A good investment that you can also use for different types of cooking such as baking. Having a reliable thermometer lets you know right away if your meat is done or not.
- Carving board: Look like a pro with a carving board to impress your guests. It also makes a good platter when you're carrying the meats from the grill straight to the table. Unlike other plates or platters, a carving board has a well on the perimeter to catch any juices.
- Rimmed baking sheet: Having this will make organising all your ingredients so easy. The rimmed sides keep everything in one place. They're also easy to clean.
- Cooling rack: This is a good alternative to single-use grill baskets. You can also use this on your grill for your vegetables, to prevent them from falling through the grate.
How to start your BBQ
Now, for the fun part! If you’ve done this before then you can skip this part, but if you’re a beginner, then it’s worth taking note of these pointers:
How to light a BBQ
1. Set up your grill in an open space
Make sure it's away from fences, trees, curtains, or anything that can catch fire easily. Have a fire extinguisher or a bucket of water nearby. Others may think you’re overreacting, but fires from BBQ parties can cause significant damage.
Be prepared and read these fire safety tips in case of emergency.
2. Be sure that your BBQ is stable
No wobbly legs? Standing on a flat, sturdy surface? Unstable grills can cause food spillage and other accidents.
3. If you're using a charcoal grill, buy quality charcoal
Charcoal containing accelerants may taint the flavour of the food. Sustainably produced charcoals light easily and also burn better.
You may also want to use charcoal briquettes which are uniform in size and burn at an even temperature. They're ideal when cooking a huge quantity of food for large crowds. On the other hand, lumpwood charcoal delivers a smoky flavour and they're best for small cuts of meat or veggies.
4. Use a chimney starter
A lot of BBQ experts agree that this may be the easiest way to light and burn your charcoal instead of using the good ol' newspaper or dry twigs. The cylindrical shape of the starter allows the charcoal to light quickly and evenly.
If you don't have this, you can also arrange your charcoals in a stack then use natural firelighters in between them.
5. Keep checking if your coals are ready
Don't try to cook when your coals aren't ready yet. Learn to recognise the readiness of charcoal.
If they're black or grey with flames, they're not ready yet. If they're glowing and white hot with red centres, they're ready for direct heat. If they're ashy white, they're ready for indirect heat cooking.
6. Prepare for different zones on your grill
Plot areas that would need direct or indirect heat. This depends on the type of meat or finish you're after. Some people would just use direct heat all the way through while others would have the charcoal on one side of the grill and leave the other half empty for indirect heat.
How to use a charcoal BBQ
To light a charcoal BBQ, you either need a charcoal starter, lighter fluid, an electric starter, or instant lighting charcoal.
Each of these would come with its own specific instructions, and the type of charcoal grill you buy or own, should come with instructions on which one is best to use for your equipment.
When using a charcoal BBQ, there are several tips you must remember:
- Place the cooking grate into position and close the lid.
- Make sure that vents, dampers are open so that airflow can be regulated easily. To increase temperature, open the damper beneath the fire and to lower the heat, open upper dampers. If you need more heat, you can always add coals in between grilling.
- Wait for the grill to heat up which takes about ten to fifteen minutes.
- Clean the grate with a grill brush.
- Maintain proper temperature to make sure food cooks evenly.
- When putting out heat, you must extinguish the charcoal but make sure they are completely cooled.
When do you close the BBQ lid?
Another frequently asked question when doing a BBQ is when to close the lid? Is it similar to using an oven where opening the lid can affect the cooking of the food?
It’s quite simple, really. The rule of the thumb is if you are grilling meat that is two centimetres or less, cook with the lid off. In case you’re doing a big juicy steak or patty over two centimetres, close the lid to let it cook faster.
It also goes without saying that the lid should be open while you are preparing to light your charcoal. When they are well-lit and going, it’s time to close the lid.
What are good BBQ food ideas?
Are you a meat lover or are you looking for vegan options? Are you deciding which meats or other veggies to cook for your BBQ party? Here are some options:
BBQ meat options
- Poultry: The most common options are chicken or turkey. Depending on the number of guests, you can get them either in whole or in chops. Whole chicken or turkeys cook according to their weight, but smaller pieces may take 15 to 20 minutes to cook on an average. You may also opt for ground turkey breast for burger.
- Beef: The choice cuts are top loin, flank steak, sirloin, or porterhouse. T-bone steaks don’t need so much sauce or seasoning, just good ol’ salt and pepper!
- Veal: Get trimmed cuts or chops. It's recommended to coat the chops with oil, salt, pepper, and some thyme. They should cook about eight minutes on each side.
- Pork: Go for chops or tenderloin. For boneless pork chops about an inch thick, you may cook for 8-12 minutes over direct heat turning every 3-4 minutes. Close the lid after every turn. Rest for five minutes after taking it off the grill to give time for the juices to set in the meat.
- Lamb: Preferably the loin part of lambs. Just two to four minutes on each side, depending on the preferred doneness.
BBQ vegan options
Looking for some ideas? Here are easy-to-cook vegan BBQ options for your veggie-lovers:
- Tofu and cucumber skewers
- Grilled sweet potato (grill them like steaks and top them off with some coriander)
- Veggie burgers made from lentils or mushroom
- Corn that you can season with spices or coconut lime cream
- Brussel sprout skewers with red onion
- Eggplant that you can season with soy sauce or hoisin sauce
- Portobello mushrooms
- Grilled vegetable platter with bell peppers, asparagus, which you can top off with BBQ sauce, hummus, or even pesto
How to clean a BBQ
Here are the step-by-step instructions on how to clean your BBQ after every use.
1. Dispose of fat, oil properly
Scrape off excess meats into a newspaper before putting them into the bin. You may also use a fat trap in the kitchen to dispose of oils. Another technique is to mix the oil with absorbent materials such as coffee grounds before throwing them away.
2. Choose your cleaning ingredient
Steam cleaner: Cover the grill with water-soaked newspaper and close the lid. After 30 minutes, the steam will have done its job on the inside of the grill.
Dishwasher: If you have a small BBQ, the hotplates should fit in the dishwasher. Use the Pot cycle to clean it up.
Onion: An old technique would be to rub an onion over the bars while it's still hot.
Vinegar spray: When you mix 500 ml of vinegar and 500 ml of water in a spray bottle, you can spritz it onto the grill for a thorough clean. Leave it on for ten minutes before scrubbing off excess dirt.
Coffee: Soak your grill in coffee for food that got stuck onto the grills. The acid in the coffee loosens up the food remains.
Baking soda: Sprinkle this baking ingredient onto the grill and wash with water. You may need to put some muscle in scrubbing the grills until all baking soda and dirt are gone.
Hot water and foil: Simply use hot, soapy water if you don't make much of a mess. You may pair it with some scrunched up foil in case you don't have a grill brush for cleaning.
3. Don't forget to clean the base and scrub the outside of your BBQ too
Remove ash and coals. Clean the base with warm, soapy water. For the exterior of your BBQ, you can also give it a good scrubbing with the same ingredients.
4. Heat up your grill once you're done
No, you're not going to start the BBQ again. Heating up your BBQ after a good cleaning is one of the ways you can make sure that you get rid of any residues from the cleaning agents you used.
Do this for at least 15 minutes so that the food for your next grilling session won't taste like cleaning liquids!
Why won't my BBQ get hot?
If you're using a gas grill, there are several reasons:
1. You're out of propane. Check the level of propane in the tank. If it's full, you should reset the pressure regulator.
2. You need a new regulator. If it's still not working with the tank full and a reset regulator, then it's probably time to buy a new one.
3. Clogged burner tubes. Spills and clogs can prevent proper heating. Simply clean these parts on a regular basis and you're good to go.
However, if you're using a charcoal grill, then it may simply be a case of putting more charcoal or helping them out a bit by fanning those flames.
Why won't the BBQ light?
Here are several reasons that may explain why your BBQ won’t light:
You're lighting the wrong burner. Read the instructions on the control panel of your grill and in your manual.
Grill burners could be blocked by pests or insects. Clean them out and try again. Make sure to do a maintenance check on your grill burners especially when you haven’t used them for a long time.
How do you stop food sticking to a BBQ?
It's really simple. All you have to do is to clean the grill and keep it clean. Starting with a clean grill without any leftover food from the last time does wonders. Then get your grill real hot and keep it well-oiled while grilling!
Can BBQ gas bottles explode?
Yes, but they rarely do. If they are used and stored correctly, then there's no need to worry. Be wary of leaking gas smells, especially if you're storing your gas cylinders indoors. They can cause suffocation, poisoning, or even small fires. Ideally, they should be stored outdoors.
What do you do in case of a BBQ fire?
We never expect accidents on such a fun occasion such as a BBQ party but they’re still a possibility.
1. Turn off the grill's burners if you can reach the knobs on your grill.
2. Throw salt over the fire.
3. Close the lid and grill vents to starve the fire of oxygen.
4. If the fire gets worse or spreads, try a fire extinguisher. If it's a big fire that can't be contained, call the fire department and your home insurance agent.