The guru ... Bob Hart.
Guru Bob Hart lists the rules, tools and recipes you need to perfect the art of cooking over flames.
It's that glorious time of year again when the roar of the footy crowd gives way to the smell of smoke from a million backyards as barbies - scrubbed, fuelled and readied for serious griller warfare - are fired up for the first of the summer campaigns.
Barbecuing, we like to think, is a national pursuit: a curious ritual that drives man (and, yes, often men - some of whom would struggle to find their way around their own kitchens in broad daylight) to take charge of ferocious, gas- or charcoal-powered backyard cooking devices with, it has to be said, mixed results.
There are a few local masters of the dark art of cooking outdoors over a flame, but there are many more who struggle to do justice even to the humble snag and who seem, dangerously, to confuse the word "barbecue" with the less-pleasing word "cremation".
But help is at hand. Barbecue mastery of sorts is available to anyone prepared to give the matter a bit of thought and digest the following. You have nothing to lose, after all, but that layer of charcoal on your chops.
Barbecued food cannot be expertly prepared by anyone who cooks with the lid of his barbecue open so he can constantly poke and prod the meat, or who cooks - horror of horrors - on a metal hotplate rather than on a cast iron or stainless steel grill that exposes the meat to the kiss of the flames and the swirl of the smoke. Ridiculous novelty aprons are also to be frowned upon.
Mastering the dark art of barbecue is not something that requires advanced culinary skills. Learn the tricks, follow the rules and you will dazzle your friends and confound your enemies, while quite possibly infuriating and/or tantalising your neighbours.
To grill or roast things over smoke, the kettle barbecue is the answer. But to grill things at high temperatures - cleanly, quickly and efficiently - the gas grill is the superior option. But just as it takes a supreme effort to achieve stratospheric temperatures with a kettle, it is impossible to achieve real smoke flavour with a grill. So the choice is yours.
A few rules
- Don't use firelighters to light your charcoal because, despite claims to the contrary, you will taste them in your food. Use a chimney charcoal lighter (Heat Beads are an excellent choice) and fire up the charcoal with three or four sheets of newspaper or, if you have one, a gas flame or blowtorch.
- If using a kettle, place a few unlit briquettes or chunks of charcoal in each of the side baskets and top them with the lit charcoal. Ensure you have positioned a large foil tray of water between the charcoal baskets. Replace the lid and let the fire settle and the temperature rise.
- Always use wet hickory chips or chunks when you cook over charcoal: add them (just before the food) to your fire or fire baskets . Let the smoke begin to rise before placing the food on the grill.
- And finally, whether you settle on a gas grill or a retro charcoal-powered device, remember, "Barbecue is the enlightened application of heat, smoke, spices and ingenuity to protein, fruit and vegetables ... outdoors" - or so someone once said. Hang on: I think it was me.
Below is a series of barbecue recipes and guides from the goodfood.com.au collection.