Three jaw-dropping barbecue recipes from grilling expert Genevieve Taylor

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In my world, there is no “barbecue food”, just tasty food that I cook over the fire. Fire is the original heat source and every country has a history of cooking over fire. Once you know how it works, you can use a barbecue to cook anything from steak and fish to a rainbow of vegetables. You can even cook, and at Bristol Fire School (where I teach) we end the day with a fire-baked cake.

It is crucial to understand the difference between direct and indirect cooking. With direct cooking, you place the food over the fire, to be cooked by intense infrared radiation from the heat of the charcoal. With indirect cooking, food is placed on the fire side, heated by conduction from hot metal surfaces and convection currents from the hot air you trap when the lid is down. Most things are best cooked indirectly, slowing them down on low for juicier, more delicious results, and avoiding the dreaded burnt-out/raw-in scenario.

I love starting a real fire, but you can get great results on gas grills. The indirect versus direct principle is the same: turn on one burner and cook the food on the other side; cook directly on the burners for higher heat.

You can also control the heat by moderating the grill’s air vents. Airflow is essential to fire, and the more you start a fire, the faster it burns and burns. Lower the vents for a lower heat. This is one reason to keep your barbecue lid closed whenever possible – if it’s always up, you can’t control the air. A lid makes cooking more efficient. You wouldn’t dream of trying to cook in your fan oven with the door open, would you? It’s the same with a barbecue.

Invest in quality fuel – it can make or break your cooking. I will not burn anything that is not sustainably made in Britain from pure lumpwood sources. Have you ever heard that charcoal has to be white and “ashy” before it can be cooked? It’s a made-up myth for charcoal loaded with chemicals of unknown provenance, because you have to burn off the chemicals before it’s palatable or even safe to cook with. A good charcoal is 95% pure carbon, completely inert, tasteless, odorless and smokeless when burning. It’s good to cook within five minutes of lighting, and you can add it piece by piece while cooking, to maintain an even heat.

Because good charcoal does not produce smoke, if you want to “smoke” food, as in the salmon recipe below, you must add wood. I much prefer fist-sized chunks to wood chips, which burn quickly unless you dunk them in water; but wet chips produce dirty, soggy smoke. The chunks smolder slowly, delivering a pure smoky flavor.

These recipes show what I love about barbecuing – you get color and texture in spades and a hint of smoky goodness, with a mix of different techniques.


Caraway Hot Smoked Salmon with Grilled Hasselback Potatoes

Hot smoked salmon is easy, but you need time to dry it out first. Curing adds flavor (here it’s black pepper and caraway) and is an important step in developing the pellicle, a sticky surface that helps the smoke stick and penetrate the fish.

Hasselback potatoes also take a bit of time, but are worth it for their crispy exterior and chewy interior. You can bake them in your oven indoors, but I enjoy the satisfaction of cooking my entire meal outdoors. By closing the barbecue lid, you can create an oven-like heat and cook anything in it.

It needs nothing more than a large green salad to serve.

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