Tongs at the Ready

. January 13, 2016
Photography by Aaron McLean.
Tongs at the Ready

It’s barbecue season – here are some tips for getting it right every time.

Whether you’re cooking with gas, on a wood-fired barbecue or charcoal, there are some key pointers to ensure you get the most out of your barbecue experience. 

Before you start

•    Make sure you have adequate fuel, gas or charcoal. (We’ve all been to that barbecue when the gas runs out halfway through!) 

•    Ensure the barbecue is on a stable, non-flammable surface, in a sheltered place.

•    Allow time for the barbecue to heat up (if using firelighters make sure you wait at least 15 minutes before cooking, as they release fumes when they first burn.)

•    Ensure you’re cooking on a clean grill. Heat the grill and use a wire brush to remove any residual burnt on food.

•    Once the barbecue is lit, don’t try to move it.

Preparing the food

•    Defrost meat and fish fully before cooking. Overnight in the fridge is best; don’t defrost meat in full sunlight.

•    Have meat at room temperature before cooking for best results. 

•    Use separate plates for raw and cooked food. Never serve cooked meats in the same dish in which they sat when they were raw. 

•    Ensure poultry is cooked through and that the juices are clear. Place in a preheated oven to finish cooking if necessary.


•    Season the food well before cooking. This is particularly important for meat; rub it with a little oil and sprinkle over salt and a grinding of pepper. 

•    Oil the grill lightly with vegetable oil if necessary. Use a thickly folded paper towel held with long tongs and dipped in oil. Alternatively, oil the food.

•    Once food is seared and well coloured turn the heat down, or move to a cooler part of the grill to allow it to continue cooking without burning. 

•    If cooking large pieces of meat cover them for more even cooking. If your barbecue doesn’t have a lid you can use the lid of wok, or a large roasting pan – disposable foil ones work well.

•    Ensure food is well spaced on the grill plate – if too crowded it will take longer and won’t cook evenly. 

•    Don’t prick meat or fish while cooking (especially true for sausages) or the juices will run out and they will become dry. 

•    Avoid turning the food too often, once should be enough for small items. 

•    Rest meat after cooking. This is essential to allow it to relax and for the juices to disperse throughout the meat. Remove it from the barbecue to a clean dish and cover loosely with a piece of baking paper and a tea towel. Don’t use foil as this will create steam underneath and continue cooking the meat, which will become dry. 

•    Avoid flare-ups by trimming excess fat from meat and take care when basting that oil doesn’t drip onto the heat source. Use a layer of fat absorbing material in the base of the barbecue too. 

How to cook the perfect steak

The best beef cuts for barbecuing are T-bone, sirloin, rump and fillet. Season and/or marinade the meat. 

Heat the grill and oil it. Wait until it reaches optimum temperature before placing the meat on it. 

These timings are based on cooking a steak about 2cm thick. (This will vary depending on the steak’s type and thickness and how hot your barbecue is.)

  • Blue: 1 minute each side
  • Rare: 1½ minutes each side
  • Medium rare: 2 minutes each side
  • Medium: 2¼ minutes each side
  • Medium-well done: 2½ - 3 minutes each side.

Don’t turn your steak more than once as this will dry it out. 

Remove it from the grill to rest before serving (see above). 

Check out our collection of top barbecue recipes by clicking here.