The weather is warming up and the great Australian barbecue season is beginning. Firing up the grill is almost a mandatory summer activity, but do you know your way around the flames? We’re here to help with this guide to maintenance, cooking and the age-old debate of gas vs coal.
Gas vs Charcoal
If you’re looking to buy a new barbecue, chances are you’re tossing up between gas and charcoal, so let’s look at the main benefits of each to see which one comes out on top.
Benefits of a mains-connected gas barbecue:
Evenly cooks food – With a gas barbecue you can control the intensity of the flames with a dial – meaning you can ensure the temperature is consistent and food is evenly cooked.
Heats up and is ready to use much faster – Unlike a charcoal BBQ, you don’t have to wait around for coals to get hot. Once you fire up your natural gas barbecue, you’re ready to go after it has been seasoned.
Easy to clean – Charcoal produces a lot of ash and grime, which can be tedious to clean. With a gas barbecue you don’t have the same level of cleaning after each use.
Lower risk of fire – Gas barbecues are safer than their charcoal counterparts. Charcoal fires can have flammable coals and sparks fall out. Depending on the location of the barbecue, this can be a recipe for disaster. Should a gas barbecue be at risk of fire, you can simply turn the flames off.
Cheaper to run – Even with the initial cost, a gas unit barbecue soon starts to pay for itself. O might initially be more expensive, however, once you have a professional connect it to your natural gas supply, you will be ready to grill all summer!
Greater convenience – Having gas at your fingertips means spontaneous barbecues come without the hassle of last-minute dashes to pick up a gas cannister or bag of charcoal.
Benefits of a charcoal barbecue:
Smoky flavour - Coals adds a smoky flavour to whatever you’re cooking. Even though you can also add this with a gas BBQ smoker box, many people prefer the taste of a charcoal barbecue.
Build your own – Those who enjoy DIY will love the challenge of building their own barbecue. With a few relatively inexpensive items and some determination, you can create a functional barbecue. Just be wary where you build it and make sure it is a safe distance from buildings and vegetation.
More affordable – Charcoal barbecues are less expensive than gas ones; however, the cost of fuel can add up over time.
Getting your barbecue summer ready
After a few months of inactivity (unless you’re a winter BBQ fiend) your barbecue will require a clean before you get your grill on. If you’re not sure how to clean your barbecue - follow these five simple steps.
Step 1 - Turn off your gas before you get started (obviously doesn’t apply to charcoal barbecues).
Step 2 - Brush and scrape the cooking components to ensure all burnt food and grease is removed.
Step 3 – If your grates fit, you can put them in the dishwasher. Otherwise, wash them with warm soapy water in the sink.
Step 4 – Clean out the drip tray and wipe down the inside components with warm soapy water.
Step 5 – Reassemble everything, turn the gas back on and fire it up for 10 minutes to burn off all soapy water residue – now you’re (almost) ready to go!
Before each time you cook, you should lightly spray or brush your cooking components with oil and heat them for 15-20 minutes to season. This will stop items from sticking and ensure you get a good sear on your food.
Top grilling tips
Now your barbecue is ready to go, it’s time to look at how to use it. These hot tips will help you up your BBQ game and impress friends and family with your grill skill.
Lid positioning – Do you know when to use your barbecue’s lid? If you answered no, don’t panic! A good rule of thumb is to close the lid on large items (like a leg of lamb), or that need to be thoroughly cooked (like chicken). This will ensure they are cooked through, as the heat surrounds the food and penetrates the inside. Don’t use the lid if you want rare meat or vegetables with a bite to them.
Use the right utensils – This is an often-overlooked aspect, but it’s an important one. Make sure you use the right utensils. Most of the time this means throwing out the giant fork that came with your barbecue and going for tongs or a spatula. With both meat and veggies, you don’t want to pierce the outside skin and lose the natural juices. If the juices escape, you’ll find your food becomes dry and tough. And never mash or press food with a spatula, it will do the same thing and probably make a mess.
Space it out – Everyone likes their personal space, and this includes the meat and veggies on your barbecue. If you overcrowd the cooking surface, you’ll find the heat distribution is uneven and your food won’t cook well.
Rest up – Make sure you rest meat for five minutes after cooking to ensure the juices don’t run out, this will result in a more tender meal.
Don’t over salt your meal – Try not to douse meat in salt before you cook, this will draw out the juices and make it dry. Season after you’ve rested the meat and you’ll find the results are better.
Last but not least – You are encouraged to use your BBQ, experiment with different styles of cooking and at the end of the day no pun intended the sky is the limit! Love your BBQ!