BBQ season: Five chefs give their top hacks for a perfect summer barbecue 

From giving veggies some love to seasoning everything properly, this is how the pros do it.
BBQ season: Five chefs give their top hacks for a perfect summer barbecue 

If you’re looking to have the best BBQ season ever, this is what the professionals think you should be doing

As the sun begins to shine and the weather warms up, that means one thing: it’s BBQ season.

There’s nothing better than the charred, delicious flavour food gets when cooked over fire – but the unpredictability can be quite daunting.

If you’re looking to have the best BBQ season ever, this is what the professionals think you should be doing… 

Grill your veg

Chef Josh Katz knows a thing or two about cooking over fire – the first restaurant he set up was the Berber & Q Grill House.

While he isn’t vegetarian or vegan, he wants people to build their BBQ confidence by grilling vegetables. “There’s this perception a BBQ is for meat – people just think it’s for hamburgers, sausages, hot dogs and steak,” he muses. 

“When actually, there are so many vegetables that are enhanced by grilling and cooking over charcoal or wood. Whether it’s broccoli, leeks, spring onions, or onions – I could go on.” 

  • Berber&Q: On Vegetables by Josh Katz (Kyle Books) 

Food for days

The grill requires a slow and patient hand - take it easy, say the experts
The grill requires a slow and patient hand - take it easy, say the experts

Melissa Hemsley’s top BBQ hack is about making life simpler for yourself. “When I was younger, I used to think a BBQ was about BBQing food and eating it that day,” she says. 

“But if I’m bothered to get the BBQ going, I always make loads extra, so I’ve got food for the whole weekend.

“If I chargrill loads of extra courgettes and tomatoes and vegetable skewers and mushrooms – that can all form the basis of something delicious. 

"Maybe I’ll BBQ some broccoli and some extra corn on the cob. 

"The night after, I’ll make pasta – I’ll fry up some garlic, I’ll toss that chargrilled veg through, add my scoop of pasta water, throw my pasta in and add a little grating of cheese – there’s my dinner, with that lovely, delicious BBQ’d veg through it.

“I think what’s important for a BBQ is to not make it a one-day-only event.” 

  • Feel Good by Melissa Hemsley (Ebury Press) 

Try barbecued potatoes

“My wife is quite fed up with me, because I’ve got four different types of BBQs at home!” says Atul Kochhar. “I love cooking everything on the BBQ – during lockdown, we spent most of our days cooking outdoors.

“I particularly like potatoes, courgette, tomatoes, cauliflower… These things work incredibly well on the BBQ. 

You just have to remember it’s a naked heat, and it can burn the vegetable very fast before it cooks it. So, you have to get the temperature right. Don’t marinade it [before cooking] – first start cooking it, then have a marinade you can press on slowly as time goes by.” 

Kochhar recommends trying potatoes on the BBQ. “I cut them into thick slices and brush them with a little bit of oil, salt, pepper, and then start cooking them on the lower heat. 

Halfway through I bring them to the higher heat, so they get nicely charred, and then take them back to the slow heat area – and that’s the time I brush the marinade on top. It cooks perfectly, and takes about 10 to 15 minutes.” 

  • Curry Everyday by Atul Kochhar (Bloomsbury Absolute) 

A Mexican twist

Tlayuda: a thin BBQ tortilla that's served like a pizza
Tlayuda: a thin BBQ tortilla that's served like a pizza

If you’re looking for some new recipes this summer, why not try Mexican on the BBQ?

“I’m making a lot of tlayuda at the moment – it’s a bit like a pizza,” says Thomasina Miers. 

“They serve them in Oaxaca [Mexico] in the streets late at night. 

"They’re normally made with corn, but my ones are made with organic flour. 

"You make these flat wheat tortillas and you cook them on the barbecue until they puff up. 

"And then you can top them with all sorts of things – chargrilled courgette, blackened aubergines, habanero oils, herb oil, slow-cooked lamb or mutton or goat. You could spatchcock a chicken and shred it.” 

  • Meat-Free Mexican: Vibrant Vegetarian Recipes by Thomasina Miers (Hodder & Stoughton) 

Invest in a thermometer

“Number one: don’t give anyone food poisoning,” Chris Baber says with a laugh. 

His top tip for staying safe during BBQ season is “invest in a meat thermometer, to make sure you have your product cooked”. 

To really make sure nothing’s raw, he also says: “Start it in the oven – something like chicken – and finish it on the BBQ to give it the smoke.” 

Baber adds: “It’s all about the sides as well – not just what you cook on the BBQ. Really good sides can elevate everything you put on the BBQ.” 

Ultimately, Baber is all about keeping things easy. “If you find quality meat, cook it on the BBQ nice and simple – don’t overcomplicate it, I think that’s the key.” 

  • Easy by Chris Baber (Ebury Press) 

Season everything

Seasoning can really make your BBQ veg sizzle
Seasoning can really make your BBQ veg sizzle

For Megan McKenna, the key to nailing tasty BBQ food is seasoning. 

“You can make sauces from scratch, and marinate your meat before,” she says.

McKenna is even keen on seasoning the sides properly. 

“I’ll do some salads – tomato and onion and balsamic vinegar – it’s all about dressings and sauces for me. I think it’s got to be completely full of flavour – not just a sausage roll.” 

  • Can You Make That Gluten-Free? by Megan McKenna (Hamlyn)

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