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How to make barbecuing less work

How to make barbecuing less work 

These barbecue secrets can help you relax allowing space during your cook-out to have a chat or get another from the fridge.

But if you lovingly tend your barbecue armed with a Dutch oven, temperature probe, plancha plate and fish basket, this article is not for you.

Basics: The heat is on (and off)

To get a good result (and wiggle room in cooking times), set your barbecue up with a direct heat area and a cooler area off the coals – which means putting them to one side rather than in the middle.

If your barbecue has a lid, you can cook with indirect heat – a bit like roasting – and your food is unlikely to scorch as long as the lid is on. A lid is for chicken pieces, large joints of meat, or anything you’d usually bake rather than griddle. Without a lid, you’re basically trying to bake with the oven door open. If you want to barbecue chicken without a lid, bake it in the oven before grilling.

But if you are directly grilling, choose boneless of meat or veg. Alternatively, follow advice from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to pre-cook meat on the bone (like these gorgeous ribs) in the oven before finishing on the grill. This prevents the charred/raw conundrum.

Your barbecue needs time and space

The distance between coals and food is important, especially if you’re cooking meat that drips and causes flare-ups. A little flare-up doesn’t matter if the fire can’t reach the food to leave those bad-tasting sooty deposits. But if it’s too close (disposable barbecues!), you have little option other than to watch your dinner burn.

One last thing about timing: it’s gospel to wait for the coals to be covered in grey ash so they’re hot enough to cook on. So start your barbecue 15 minutes earlier than you think you should. How many times have you stressed over the food being late, while everyone gets and fills up on crisps, only to find at the end you have the perfect set of coals for cooking?


The FSA is clear on how to avoid food from poultry, pork and foods made from minced meat, such as sausages and burgers. Stick to these rules and always check food before serving:

  • Check meat is steaming hot throughout
  • Check no pink meat is visible
  • Check juices run clear in chicken.

Don’t feel the burn

We’re not averse to a little charring, but a completely blackened, flaking sausage (especially one that’s not cooked inside) is no fun.

Instead, bring a large pan of water to the boil, add your sausages and simmer for 8 minutes, or until cooked. Drain them and they’re ready to be grilled to perfection with no chance of being raw inside. Not only do they take a lot less time over the precious hot space, they stay juicy and plump. You can also pop them on sticks and brown them over the cartoon-style.

The more sugar there is in your marinade, the more likely. If your attention might wander go easy on yourself and leave the sugar out. Switch in a final brush for a sweetened sauce such as hoisin, barbecue sauce or even honey, then cook for a final 5 minutes to reach maximum stickiness before taking off the heat.

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