Local butcher Michael Fleming shares his barbecue know-how.
What’s the best type of burger to cook on the barbecue?
The main thing to look for is the fat content; if your mince is too lean, it’s impossible to produce flavoursome, juicy burgers. Look for meat with a fat content of about 15%. Rib eye steaks, for example, make fantastic burgers; just ask your butcher to grind some for you. In terms of the actual burger mix, I find it’s best to keep things simple and add just some softened onions and a good pinch of black pepper.
Is there any type of meat that you would recommend pre-cooking before you put it on the barbecue?
This can be a very good idea when barbecuing chicken legs, thighs or drumsticks. If you par-boil or steam them, then finish cooking them on the barbecue, you’ll still get that great just-off-the-grill flavour without running the risk of food poisoning.
What cuts of meat are under-used by Irish barbecue lovers, in your opinion?
In Ireland, we tend to focus on quick-cooking barbecue options, forgetting about the slow-cooking methods favoured by barbecue experts in the American Deep South. Brisket, pork shoulder and a butterflied leg of lamb can all be made truly special by cooking them “slow and low” on the barbecue, and I’m beginning to notice some of our customers becoming more interested in this approach.
Are there any cuts of meat that you would not recommend for barbecuing?
Whole roasts, in general, are not ideal unless they’ve been specially prepared, as they need to be much flatter than their natural shape. A whole chicken, for example, will need to be spatchcocked for even cooking, while — as I mentioned — a leg of lamb should be butterflied.
What meats would your dream barbecue include?
It’s a tough choice, but I would go for some rib eye steaks on the bone (sometimes known as “cowboy steaks”), a beautiful butterflied leg of Irish lamb and some nice prawn skewers, with a few different salads on the side.
What selection would you recommend when barbecuing for a crowd?
Keep it simple. Choose just a few items, but focus on buying good-quality meat. Burgers are easy to cook and almost everyone enjoys them; marinated chicken fillets are another great crowd pleaser. You can get plenty of different types of sausages these days, so an easy way to add variety is to pick up a few different flavours, such as apple and leek or honey and mustard.
Is marinating essential for tender meat?
It’s definitely not essential, as it doesn’t really make much difference in terms of tenderness. However, it can be helpful in adding flavour to things like skewered prawns, or leaner cuts of meat such as chicken fillets.
Is it tricky to cook fish on the barbecue?
This is something that I think many Irish people find daunting. It certainly can be tricky, but there’s a foolproof solution: wrap the fish fillets individually in double-layered tin foil parcels along with some slices of lemon or lime, some fresh herbs, a knob of butter, some salt and black pepper and a splash of white wine. Seal the parcels and place on the barbecue for 10-15 minutes. This cooking method actually steams the fish inside the parcels, and the end result is flavoursome and moist.
Is it worth buying a meat thermometer?
Yes, definitely. A thermometer is a handy utensil to have in the kitchen at all times of the year, but is particularly invaluable when it comes to barbecuing, as meat can look charred and ready to eat when it’s actually still undercooked in the centre. While this doesn’t matter so much with beef or lamb, it’s possible to get very ill from undercooked poultry or pork, so it’s always better to play it safe.