If you can cook in a kitchen – why is barbecuing so hard?

I’ve been outdoor cooking for longer than I remember and I forget that there are still so many people out there who simply don’t know how to BBQ. When I’m asked ‘So, how do you barbecue?” I get a bit dumbfounded and not really sure where to start…

My first question is ‘Do you cook at all?’ and, if the answer is ‘Yes, of course’ then I always think – what is the difference? Why do people think they can’t charcoal barbecue when they have good cooking skills?

1. How to start a fire? Most people have started a fire at some point whether in a fireplace or on camping. Anyone whose watched Bear Grylls should have a basic idea. It is exactly the same! Briquettes are the biggest issue to lighting a barbecue not your fire making skills. Use lump charcoal, add firelighters and wait.. Which Charcoal?

2. What can I cook on a barbecue? Real question is: What can’t you cook you on a barbecue? If you enjoy cooking your favourite recipes indoors, try them on a barbecue. It’s all about your taste in food and using all your favourite rubs and sauces.

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If you are a vegan – cook vegan food. Pizza lover? Make your own and cook them on your barbecue. Meat head? Knock yourself out with low and slow cooked meat. Mad about real bread and baking? Easy on a barbecue. Barbecuing is just another way of cooking. Your taste in food shouldn’t change – just how you cook it.

2. When do you start cooking? When you turn on your oven, how long do you wait for it to heat up? 10-15 minutes? It is about the same for a charcoal barbecue: light it up and then wait. Absolutely no difference to your indoor oven. When the flames are gone you start cooking.

3. Why do I always burn my food? Do you burn food in your kitchen? So why on your barbecue? Think about it – use your kitchen sense. Food burns because you are too close to the heat and the temperature is too high. If your food is burning on your cooker – what do you do? Turn the temperature down – on a barbecue that means moving your food further away from the heat either by raising up the grill, using a heat deflector or moving the charcoal away from under your food.

Also, you would never consider cooking in flames on your cooker – so why think it’s a good idea on your barbecue? Charcoal is just a source of heat and flames are the sign that your charcoal isn’t done yet.

4. How do you cook a whole chicken or meat joint on a barbecue?  Again, the same principles as your cooker applies. Your cooker is an oven as well as a stove and so is your barbecue. Stove cooking is all about open lid barbecuing and oven cooking is all about closing the lid and turning your barbecue into a charcoal outdoor oven. So, if you are cooking an oven dish (roast chicken, chicken casserole etc) you need a barbecue with a lid.

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5. How do you know what temperature to cook at? Most good barbecues have inbuilt thermometers and if you have a good understanding of oven temperatures – why should a barbecue be different? How long do you cook for? More or less the same as your oven – a thermometer is the best way to know when your food is cooked (Do you cook using time or temperature?)

6. I need a lot of barbecue tools, don’t I? No – look around your kitchen and use whatever you already have. I strongly believe in not buying barbecue gadgets – all your pyrex and creuset dishes, frying pans, woks, copper pans and dishes can be used. Just take care of plastic handles! Take a look at my article What BBQ Tools Do You Actually Need?

Kamado Joe: Smoked Farfalloni Pasta and Cheese

Just because you are outdoors doesn’t mean you leave your cooking skills indoors. It’s all common sense and I defy anyone who can cook well indoors to not cook well outdoors. Tell me how you get on…

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