We grilled chef and author of BBQ -Fire & Smoke Rich Harris for his absolute top tips for getting the barbie started and searing that meat to perfection.
When it comes to backyard cookouts, Rich says: “For me, barbecuing is about getting everyone around for a good time, feeding the masses and enjoying yourself without slaving over the grill for the whole time.
“The results that you get from cooking over fire can be really special. Those lovely smoky flavours come through with meat, fish or vegetables and when it's done right, you really can't beat it.”
To ensure you don't suffer any epic barbecue fails this summer, Rich has listed a few pointers to help you get it right every time. From cleaning the grill without nasty chemicals to choosing the right dessert to please the crowds, check out Rich's top tips below.
Rich says: "To clean your grill for the first time since last summer, cut a large onion in half, prong it onto a large BBQ fork and just keep rubbing it backwards and forwards on the hot grills. This will get rid of the sticky bits and mess without using any nasty chemicals, so you can start cookin straight away without worrying about any weird tastes working their way into your food."
Patience is a virtue
"The biggest mistake people make is trying to cook immediately on a barbecue – particularly when using charcoal grills," says Rich.
Instead, stick to the 30-minute rule. "Light your barbecue, get your meat out of the fridge, wait half an hour and then your coals will be ready and your meat at the right temperature to grill."
To amp up the smoky factor in your meat, Rich recommends adding some smoke chips to your coals.
"Soak them in water for 15 mins first so they smoulder rather than burn, then sprinkle a layer on top of your charcoals," advises Rich.
All the right tools
When it comes to the right gear for the job, Rich recommends a simple but highly effective toolkit that suits every occasion.
"You'll need a long-handled fork and a good pair of tongs. These allow you to control the food easily; the stronger the better."
As well as your fork and tongs, "Marinades that include honey or syrup really stick to the grill, so a good, solid wire brush is essential for cleaning. A barbecue thermometer is also a great bit of kit -particularly if you’re cooking something like poultry or pork."
Don't forget dessert
It's a fact scientifically proven*, no matter how much food you've eaten, there's always room for dessert.
For a quick and simple barbecue pud, Rich recommends chocolate-stuffed banana boats.
"If you've got people coming round, make sure you’re armed with dessert! Even if it’s just ice cream or toasted marshmallows, everyone will fancy something sweet after all that rich, smoky food.
"Chuck on a couple of whole bananas wrapped in foil onto the grill or into the coals. I like to slice them lengthways and fill them with chocolate. Sliced up Mars bars also work really well, and the nougat turns into a delicious, molten mess."
*Definitely not scientific, but we like to believe it's true anyway...