Is the Kiwi barbecue doomed? If the barbie isn’t, then a lot of the food cooked on it certainly is. New Zealand’s barbecue cooks are not exactly setting the world on fire – although they’re pretty good at burning everything else. With a company of gas fitters in West Auckland reporting increased demand for gas cooker installations in outdoor kitchens, does it mean the BBQ is on the way out, as well as the big barbie mistakes that Kiwi cooks make? It may take a while before the barbecue is officially declared as extinct, so until it is here are a few of the big barbecue boo-boos that backyard chefs continue to make.
- They cook meat while it’s too cold. Many barbecue cooks take the meat out of the fridge and throw it straight on the barbie. That’s Mistake Number One. Cold meat takes longer to cook and results in undercooked steak and chops being served to guests. Experts say that you should take red meat out of the fridge about 30 minutes before cooking to allow it to get close to room temperature.
- They poke everything with a fork when they shouldn’t. The big fork is a staple of every bbq accessory set, but it shouldn’t be. By using a fork to poke holes in steaks, chicken, chops and sausages during the cooking process, you’re simply letting juices escape which robs the meat of moisture and leaves you with dry, leathery cuts. Professional chefs recommend using tongs or a spatula should you need to turn the meat over while it is cooking.
- They sear the wrong way. Searing steak and chicken to “lock in” juices and get that appealing crust is a traditional barbecue method – but it is usually done in the wrong order. By searing red meat on a hot grill from the start, the surface of the meat carbonises before the heat can get to the centre of the meat. And with chicken, the fatty skin will char and blacken before the meat is cooked. The best way to sear is to do it in reverse. Cook the meat at a lower temperature to start with, then when it is cooked properly, bring up the heat and sear quickly to get that nice crusty effect you’re after.
- They cook fish directly on the grill. Fish is too delicate to cook directly on a plate or grill. It will simply stick to the surface, making it difficult to turn over, and the flesh will dry out. A good tip is to cook fish on top of a layer of lemons, which will keep the flesh moist while adding great flavour.
- They cut vegetables too thin. Barbecued veggies are delicious, and break up the meat monotony. However, many backyard chefs slice them too thinly which means they become soggy with oil and unpleasant to eat as a result. So instead of opting for paper-thin zucchini or eggplant, go for a slightly thicker cut to preserve the integrity of the flavour.
These basic barbecue mistakes are common in backyards all around New Zealand. As a result, too many Kiwis are eating food that is undercooked, under flavoured and definitely underwhelming. But as you’ve just read, it doesn’t take much to turn a bad barbie into a beaut one, so print off these tips and keep them handy the next time you’re cooking alfresco.