Butcher’s block: barbecue advice

By easyFood

17 August 2018

We spoke to a local butcher to find out what exactly they recommend to put your barbecue a cut above the crowd! Here’s what we found out…

What meats should I go for to provide a good selection at my barbecue?

Chicken and beef are the obvious crowd-pleasers, but pork shouldn’t be neglected or restricted solely to the realm of sausages. Try pork and pineapple skewers, or pork chops with a teriyaki glaze. 

What types of sausage would you recommend for a barbecue other than the standard variety?

Toulouse sausages are made with red wine and lots of garlic. They can be difficult to get your hands on in Ireland but are definitely worth a search. Fresh chorizo sausages are easier to find and are great for those of you who fancy something a little spicier, while a German bratwurst makes for a flavoursome alternative. If you fancy taking the road less travelled, you can branch out into other meat sausages such as beef or venison — just go with your gut and see what you can find.

What are the most important things to remember when barbecuing sausages?

Buy good quality sausages with a fair amount of fat as this will keep them moist during cooking; there’s nothing worse than a dry, cremated sausage. As with everything on the barbecue, temperature is important. If your grill is too hot, the skins on the sausages will shrink and burst before the insides even start to cook; alternatively, if the barbecue isn’t hot enough, you will be left with pale, unappetising sausages, which will shrivel up the moment they leave the grill. Turn the sausages every few minutes to get an even colour all over.

What cuts of chicken would you recommend other than chicken fillets?

Chicken thighs are full of flavour and work well on the barbecue. They take longer to cook than chicken fillets, but are worth the effort. Try marinating them in lemon, chilli, garlic and honey for an hour or two before grilling — this gives the thighs a kick as well as a sublime sticky coating. Chicken wings are great if you’re having loads of people over — they require minimal preparation and make perfect finger food.

Do I need to par-cook wings or drumsticks before putting them on the barbecue?

Par-cooking wings and drumsticks is a good idea if you’re pressed for time, and it also helps to keep the meat moist. Put them in a pot of cold salted water and bring to a boil over a medium-high heat. Boil for 1-2 minutes (wings will only need a minute), then remove, toss in a little oil and seasoning and place on the barbecue. However, if you’re confident about the temperature of your barbecue, feel free to grill from raw. Seal the meat on a hot part of the grill and then transfer to an area of medium heat, turning every 3-4 minutes. If cooking from raw, drumsticks will take 20-25 minutes and wings 15-20, but always check that the meat is cooked through before serving.

What are the most important things to remember when barbecuing chicken?

Chicken can carry food poisoning bacteria, so the most important thing to remember is to cook it through fully. Take the meat off the grill and check it with a meat thermometer; the centre should be at least 75˚C. Alternatively, pierce the thickest part of the meat: as with any roasted meat, the juices should run clear. While undercooking chicken is a no-no, it’s also important that you don’t overcook it and make it tough. Get familiar with your grill and you’ll soon get to know how long to cook it. For chicken fillets, it’s best to either butterfly them or bash them into an even thickness; this means that no part of the meat is incinerated while the rest is still clucking.

What types of burger would you recommend, other than beef?

Lamb burgers work great on the barbecue as the fat takes on a beautiful smoky flavour and keeps the burger moist. Try doing a take on a lamb kofta: spice the minced lamb with curry powder and garlic and serve with tzatziki.

What are the most important things to remember when barbecuing burgers?

Like chicken, minced meat is a high-risk food in terms of bacteria. Always cook burgers through fully, unless you’ve acquired your beef from a reliable butcher and have had it freshly minced. A common mistake is to make your raw patty the same size as your bun; always make the burger a little larger and, after the meat shrinks during cooking, it will be the perfect size for your bun.

I’m looking for something a bit different. Are there any unusual meats you would recommend for a barbecue?

Venison on the barbecue is delicious and you can treat it in just the same way you would on a pan. Let a 3cm-thick venison fillet come up to room temperature. Drizzle with a little oil, salt, pepper and thyme and flash it on a hot barbecue for just two minutes per side. Remove to a plate and rest for five minutes before serving with barbecued veg.

What’s your number one rule for barbecuing any meat?

Don’t play with your food! Try not to poke or press any meats you have on the barbecue — using a fork to pierce or grab sausages is a big no-no! You will squeeze the juices out of the meat and the finished result will then be dry and lifeless.