Cooking with gas (or coals): 10 rules to get the best from your barbie

Take your barbecuing to the next level with recipes from Luke Hines. Picture: Shutterstock
Take your barbecuing to the next level with recipes from Luke Hines. Picture: Shutterstock

Sick of snags and steak? Looking to get out of your barbecue rut? Luke Hines, former My Kitchen Rules contestant and one of Australia's leading wellness personalities, says it's easy to elevate the barbecue to the next level.

"The flames of a barbecue bring people together, connecting communities and providing a place of warmth and comfort," he says.

"In Australia, it holds a particularly special place in the hearts of so many. This book aims to amplify this love of being in our backyards, local parks or down the beach connecting, while also encouraging you to cook in a way you might never have done before."

Don't worry too much. Follow Hines' 10 barbecue rules and you'll be cooking with gas ... or coals.

Luke Hines: the barbecue holds a particularly special place in the hearts of so Australians. Picture: Mark Roper

Luke Hines: the barbecue holds a particularly special place in the hearts of so Australians. Picture: Mark Roper

1. Don't Start Cold

Gas barbecues need about 10-15 minutes on high to preheat. Once hot, turn the heat down a little and heat for a further 10 minutes or so for medium-hot. For medium-low, reduce the heat a little more and heat for another 10 minutes. If you can, it's great to have one side on high and one side graduating down to low to slow things down while cooking if need be. Charcoal barbies need a little more care. Take the time to build the fire up and let it burn down for 30-40 minutes, and remember that you need to add a steady stream of fuel during cooking to keep it at temperature.

2. Don't Start Dirty

A hot, clean barbecue will brown food better, with less chance of sticking. Your preheat time burns off any excess fat and dirt from the grill, at plate and burners, giving your barbecue a good clean before cooking. Get stuck in there yourself as well using a strong brush, because a clean barbecue equals a successful meal.

3. Season Like You Mean It

Salt is your new best friend - nothing brings out flavour in barbecued food more - so find a great pink, rock or sea salt and keep it on hand. Extra-virgin olive oil and herbs are also your go-to for seasoning. Oiling your food first, then seasoning with your salt, herbs and spices helps them to stick on, while also reducing the chance of your food sticking to the barbecue.

4. Match Meat to Heat

There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to the right barbecue heat - you need to match the heat to your meat (or vegetables!). Usually, smaller, leaner cuts of meat require fast cooking over high temperatures, whereas thicker, fattier cuts of meat are best over low and slow heat. This is why having multiple heat zones on your barbecue is great for cooking the perfect dish. Create some direct and indirect heat zones and you'll be setting yourself up for barbecue success every time.

Barbecue This! By Luke Hines. Plum, $39.99. Pictures: Mark Roper

Barbecue This! By Luke Hines. Plum, $39.99. Pictures: Mark Roper

5. Don't Crowd

Your barbecue is not the local Bunnings sausage sizzle, so please don't crowd the grill and at plate like you're needing to feed the entire country. Always leave about one quarter of your cooking space empty so that what you are cooking has space to breathe, there is room for your tongs and spatula to get in and around food, and you can adjust the heat zones appropriately.

6. Less is More

Leave your food alone! Don't stand there prodding and poking at it more than you need to. When you over pierce and keep moving things around, you release all the juicy goodness, lose flavour and sacrifice those perfect char marks. Turn your ingredients only once or twice. If in doubt, wait it out, legends!

7. Rest Baby Rest

I can't stress enough how important it is to rest your protein after you've cooked it and removed it from the heat. Residual heat continues the cooking process once off the barbecue, giving your meat the best result. Plus, it allows all the juices to relax and settle in the protein, meaning that when you cut into your meat they don't just drain out all over the plate, leaving your dish bland and dry. My recipes specify the perfect resting time depending on what you're cooking.

8. Be Creative

I understand we all get into the routine of cooking the same types of meals over and over. It's safe and feels comfortable because you know what you're doing. But this book is designed to get you away from simple snags and steak. Give yourself the challenge of trying a new recipe from each chapter every time you open your grill - you'll thank me later and they'll soon become staples that you can whip up anytime.

9. Perfect Pairings

Most of my animal protein recipes come with just a simple sauce or side, meaning you'll have time to make one of the incredible salad or veg recipes in here, too! You'll see lots of my recipes include some great main, side and salad pairing suggestions, so don't forget to hero all the ingredients at the barbecue - yup, meat AND veg!

10. Keep a Lid On It

When a recipe says to close the lid of the barbie for convection-style cooking, I suggest you keep it shut for the recommended time. This will maintain an even-cooking temperature, make sure your food actually cooks through and help control flare-ups, as well as capturing that incredible smokiness that only barbecuing can create.

READ MORE:

Butterflied chook with chimichurri. Picture: Mark Roper

Butterflied chook with chimichurri. Picture: Mark Roper

Butterflied chook with chimichurri

This recipe is both a really simple South American way to cook chicken with a fresh and chunky chimichurri sauce, and an easy way to transform your next barbecue into a fiesta. I've given you instructions on how to butterfly your chook, but most butchers will do it for you ... if you ask with a smile!

Ingredients

1 x 1.8-2 kg whole chicken

2 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp ground coriander

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large handful of coriander leaves, to serve

lime wedges, to serve

Chimichurri:

1 bunch of at-leaf parsley, leaves picked and finely chopped

3 tbsp oregano leaves, finely chopped

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons

2 tsp apple cider vinegar

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

1. To buttery your chook, place it on a large chopping board, breast-side down. Using a pair of sharp kitchen scissors, cut along each side of the chicken backbone to remove it, then turn it over and press down on the middle of the chicken with the palm of your hand to open it up and flatten it out.

2. In a small bowl, combine the paprika, cumin, cayenne pepper, coriander and olive oil. Use your hands to massage this spice mix into the chicken, then season really generously with salt and pepper.

3. Preheat the barbecue grill to medium.

4. Place the chicken on the grill, breast-side down, close the lid and cook for 10 minutes. Turn over, close the lid and cook for a further 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes, or until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through. Transfer to a wooden board, cover loosely with foil and leave to rest for five to 10 minutes.

5. While the chicken is resting, make the chimichurri. Place all the ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6. Chop the chicken into large pieces, then top with the chimichurri and scatter over the coriander leaves. Serve with lime wedges and a gorgeous green salad, if you like.

Serves 4-6.

Charred cauliflower with really good romesco. Picture: Mark Roper

Charred cauliflower with really good romesco. Picture: Mark Roper

Charred cauliflower with really good romesco

It's no secret that I am a lover of all things cauliflower, and I view each cookbook as another opportunity to introduce you guys to new, delicious ways of enjoying it. This time, I was playing around with flavours and was blown away by how well a smoky romesco sauce paired with cauliower, so I just had to share it. The total cooking time for the cauli will vary based on how thick you slice the steaks and the heat of your grill, so please check as you go and simply add or subtract a few minutes either way to ensure it is cooked to perfection.

Ingredients

2 heads of cauliflower

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tsp honey, maple syrup or monk fruit syrup

sea salt

1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes

3 tbsp finely chopped at-leaf parsley leaves

3 tbsp walnuts or pecans, toasted and roughly chopped

1 lemon, cut into wedges

Really good romesco:

2 large red capsicums, quartered, de-seeded and membranes removed

80g blanched almonds

1 garlic clove, quartered

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 tbsp tomato paste

2 tsp dried chilli flakes

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

1. Preheat the barbecue grill to hot.

2. For the romesco sauce, place the capsicum on the grill and cook for four to five minutes on each side or until the skin is blistered and blackened. Transfer to a bowl, cover and set aside for five minutes.

3. Remove and discard the skin, then place the capsicum in a food processor with the almonds and garlic and process until finely chopped. Add the vinegar, olive oil, tomato paste and chilli flakes. Season well with salt and pepper. Process until the mixture is combined, then set aside.

4. Cut off the stem at the bottom of each head of cauliflower so that they sit at on a chopping board. Cut each one in half, then trim off the rounded edges to create four thick steaks. Alternatively, you can cut each head of cauliflower into four thinner steaks, which will cook slightly faster if you are short on time. (Make sure you save any off-cuts from creating your steaks for another use, such as drizzling with olive oil and roasting in the oven until lovely and crispy!)

5. In a large, shallow bowl, mix the olive oil, lemon zest and juice, garlic and sweetener of choice. Season well with salt, then add the cauliflower and gently toss with your hands to coat.

6. Reduce the barbecue grill to medium.

7. Place the cauliflower on the grill, close the lid and cook for five to six minutes or until beginning to char. Brush any remaining marinade over the cauli, then turn, close the lid and cook for a further five to six minutes or until charred on the outside, golden brown around the edges and tender inside. You can tell when your cauliflower steaks are done by gently inserting a fork - if it glides in easily without much resistance, you're good to go. Remove from the grill.

8. To serve, spread the romesco sauce on a large platter, then top with the cauliflower steaks. Sprinkle with the chilli flakes, parsley and walnuts or pecans. Serve hot with the lemon wedges for squeezing over.

Serves 4.

Simple sardines with garlic and rosemary. Picture: Mark Roper

Simple sardines with garlic and rosemary. Picture: Mark Roper

Simple sardines with garlic and rosemary

Sardines are an incredibly delicious, healthy and sustainable choice of seafood. A little platter of these makes the most delicious entree or serve them with one of a salads to turn it into a hearty and filling main.

Ingredients

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve

3 garlic cloves, finely sliced

1 tbsp smoked paprika, plus extra to serve

1 lemon, zested and cut into wedges to serve

4 rosemary sprigs, leaves picked and bruised

1 long red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 large or 16 small sardines, gutted and cleaned

Method

1. Place the olive oil, garlic, paprika, lemon zest, rosemary and chilli in a small bowl. Season with a little salt and pepper and mix well, then pour into a baking dish.

2. Add the sardines to the baking dish and toss well to coat. Cover and place in the fridge to marinate for two to three hours.

3. Preheat the barbecue grill to medium-hot.

4. Place the sardines on the grill, close the lid and cook for eight to 10 minutes, turning halfway through, or until caramelised and charred.

5. Transfer the sardines to a platter, drizzle over a little more olive oil and sprinkle with some more paprika. Squeeze over the lemon wedges and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

This story Cooking with gas (or coals): 10 rules to get the best from your barbie first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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