For us Northern Irish lot, the art of BBQ is so rarely practised that it can go very wrong, all too quickly – and it’s not necessarily the weather’s fault.
Just what are the secrets to capturing the trademark barbecue flavour – and avoiding the curse of the burnt offering? Saul O’Reilly, head chef at the Bullitt Hotel’s Taylor and Clay restaurant in Belfast reveals his favourite techniques – and how to make this year’s bbq(s) all that more special.
1) The equipment: Saul’s preferred BBQ would be a big fire pit stocked with plenty of wood to generate a healthy bed of embers, kept fired by charcoal.
2) Preparation: “Marinades are good way of preparing any meat, chicken, fish or vegetables and one of my favourite staples is a nice chermoula.
“It’s like a Moroccan style marinade made up of toasted cumin and paprika, garlic and coriander and garlic and that’s great to get you going,” said Saul.
3) Pimp up the sauce: It’s simply not a BBQ without barbecue sauce. While many store bought varieties will do very nicely, jazz the up with the addition of some nice vinegar, garlic, freshly chopped herbs – even chopped vegetables and cucumber.
“We used a lovely Bois Boudran sauce in the restaurant and it’s basically Heinz ketchup, olive oil, shallots, plenty of fresh herbs and goes with anything from chicken, fish or meat.”
4) Cooking technique: When it comes to cooking, Saul points out that what you’re aiming for is “heat not flames”. Too high a flame will result in over-charring and give the food a foul taste. “If you can, wait till the flames die down to embers and it’s this heat that will prevent burning the outside and ensure the food is cooked the whole way through.”
5) A side of… A good potato salad is the mainstay of any BBQ. Get inspired by some international cuisines and introduce some grain salads, like tabuleh, cous cous or curried lentils.
6) Steaks are high: “The marbling of fat can often react with the flame so the cheaper cuts, like rump, can often be best.”
7) The ultimate BBQ favourite: A nice kebab with some salads, rolled up in some nice bread.