Throwing another shrimp on the barbie? Read this first!

James Haywood dishes out his tips to ensure National BBQ Week doesn’t go up in smoke

The smoky, caramelised flavour you get is more than worth the effort
The smoky, caramelised flavour you get is more than worth the effort
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The smoky, caramelised flavour you get is more than worth the effort
The smoky, caramelised flavour you get is more than worth the effort

As summer is peeking around the corner, today we celebrate the start of National BBQ Week. Now in its 18th year, the seven-day grillfest is a celebration of all the things we love about barbecues: meat, marinades and…well, more meat.

Before I start giving you tips on flavours of food, let’s just get one thing straight. I don’t – and won’t – cook on a gas barbecue. The simple fact is that they just don’t get hot enough; you have to get it hot, particularly when cooking fish. So get the grill as hot as it can be, otherwise it will stick and you won’t get that chargrilled flavour we all know and love.

As soon as I light my barbecue, I put the coals down and then leave the grill on top, this allows any residue from a previous barbecue to heat and come off.

What to cook

I love my steak on a barbecue; if I have a steak at home I will do it on the grill, come rain or shine any time of year. When it’s raining I look like a madman dashing in and out with a steak under an umbrella, but the smoky, caramelised flavour you get is more than worth the effort.

I find that lamb cutlets also work well. I spread mine with mustard and demerara sugar and that tastes absolutely sensational; you don’t taste the mustard but you get this sweet and intense flavour.

I’m personally not a big fan of cooking fish on a barbecue as I find the heat and flavour you get from coals is too harsh for the delicate flavours. At a push I would very lightly cook prawns on there, before smothering them in garlic butter.

Chicken is a contentious issue when it comes to barbecues. Similarly to sausages, people are so afraid of undercooking the meat and poisoning themselves that they cook the meat beyond all recognition. I’ll always cook my chicken in the oven first, then finish off on the barbecue to get that chargrilled flavour. Top tip: As soon as it comes off the barbecue, I’ll add plenty of fresh lemon or lime before wrapping it up in foil to hold in the flavour before serving.

If you do one thing…

The biggest mistake you can possibly make when cooking food on a barbecue, is to lather the meat in oils, sticky sauces and marinades before cooking. This is because when you cook it, the heat is so high that the marinades and oil will simply caramelise and burn, which isn’t particularly tasty and much of the flavour is lost.

I advise that you leave the meat as oil and marinade-free. Once the meat is cooked, you can lather it in marinade or sauce before putting it back on the heat for a few seconds to warm up.

Feeling hungry? Read my recipes for success here and fire up those coals!

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James Haywood

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James Haywood

I’ve been working for Center Parcs since 2006 and, as Group Executive Chef, I am responsible for all restaurants on our Villages, from recipe development to quality control. Tuck in to my monthly posts to get a taste of my day-to-day life, as well as discovering recipes and tips.