How To BBQ Like A Pro
How To BBQ Like A Pro

How To BBQ Like A Pro


It’s the time of year when greasy grills get rediscovered in garden sheds across the country. To help you boss BBQ season 2023, we went to eight pros for their tips. From the meat and the prep to the cooking and the must-have tools, here’s what you should be doing…
Photography BIG GREEN EGG


“Before you even consider firing up the BBQ, give it a good wash with hot soapy water to ensure you thoroughly remove any remnants of last year’s grilling. Ideally you should clean the grill after every use, but a good deep clean at the start and end of barbecue season is essential. As with all outdoor cooking, you are lighting a fire and need to ensure it’s done safely. Ensure your BBQ is placed on a non-combustible surface such as a patio, gravel or paving slabs – not grass. Most BBQs have a handy base and drip tray to catch fat and prevent it from sticking and burning. The base will catch any errant sparks that could cause a fire hazard so make sure to use it.” – Phil Wood, grill expert at Contura

“Before you light the fire, prepare the meat and marinades. I’m a huge fan of green sauces – salsa verde is my favourite as it goes with most meat and fish. Blitz together a small bunch of basil, mint and parsley, plus capers, cornichons and a teaspoon of mustard. Add in a good glug of olive oil and blitz until you have a spoon-able sauce. I’m a Big Green Egg guy through and through, so firing that up is my next task.” – Jimmy Garcia, chef

“My top prep tip is to use mayonnaise as a marinade – trust me it works. I was dubious at first but I’ve been using Hellmann’s for decades. The emulsification from mayo creates a non-stick surface on the grill and encourages the Maillard reaction when cooking which gives you extra colour and flavour. I like to blend fresh ingredients like garlic, fennel and fresh herbs into the mayo before slathering over the meat.” – Richard Turner, meat consultant at Meatopia & Blacklock


“Chicken, sausages and burgers are all failsafe options, but don’t be afraid to think outside the box. I’m loving barbecued pork belly at the minute – Tamworth and Middle White are great breeds and you can dry-age them at home. The skin becomes so hard you need to score it with a Stanley knife, meaning it’ll have insanely good crackling. I make a simple rub of Maldon salt, lemon zest, sage and fennel seed, then work it into the scored skin. I like to grill it over very hot charcoal and smouldering wood (preferably oak, apple or almond), turning regularly for the first 10-15 minutes, before putting it on a higher shelf to continue cooking slowly until it reaches 92°C. Let it rest for 15-20 minutes before cutting into thick slices. It’s delicious with a Mexican salsa verde of charred green tomatoes, jalapeno, garlic, cumin, lime and coriander.” 

“When it comes to burgers, simple is best. I only ever use plain beef mince for the patties. No other ingredients, except salt and black pepper. Source the very best beef you can, with 20% fat content. When the beef is exceptional, you don't need to add other ingredients. Roll them into 90g balls and smash them down onto a hot skillet so they get nice and crispy on the outside. Top with American cheese and serve in a soft potato roll or milk bun (ditch those brioche buns) with a little raw onion and gherkins. Add mustard, mayo and ketchup as you wish. Simple.” – Andrew Clarke, co-founder of Acme Fire Cult

“Chicken thigh was made for the BBQ. Marinate it overnight in honey, soy sauce, sesame oil, lime, lemon juice, chopped chilli and ginger for a zingy sauce. Then chargrill it on a low BBQ with a smoky log and keep spraying with water when the flames come back. The juicy brown meat on the bone takes on the smoky flavour well, while the slightly burnt skin is crispy and delicious.” – Dean Parker, chef at Celentano's

“Lamb is easily one of my favourite meats to cook – and lamb fat is the best. The shoulder has loads of fat and connective tissue, so it really works well with a slow-and-low cook. A good-sized lamb shoulder can take anywhere from 3½ to 6 hours depending on the size, how the animal was raised, the fat content, and other factors. It loves a good basting: this helps keep it nice and moist, and adds layers of flavour. Take the lamb shoulder out of the fridge at least an hour before the cook – it’s got to be at room temperature when you put it on the grill. Take a sharp knife and lightly score the fat to create more surface area for the rub and basting sauce. Massage the olive oil all over the scored lamb shoulder, then rub your meat liberally with the seasonings. Add seasoned wood chunks to your fuel, put the lid on, and slow-cook that baby! Do not touch the lamb for the first hour; this will help create a tangy crust and keep the moisture in. After the first hour, baste the lamb, then baste again every 45 minutes or so. The lamb is done when it’s done. There is no exact timing. You’ll need to keep an eye on the joint and do some prodding. There should be a bit of give when you touch the meat, and you want to see the meat pulling away from the bone. When the meat starts to fall off the bone, you have a major success story. Rest the lamb under loose foil for 30 minutes, then serve.” DJ BBQ, chef


“Start with the very best quality produce. Vegetables should never be overlooked. Use organic heirloom varieties from local farms or farmers markets, then half the work is already done. If you grill the vegetable, dress with a little olive oil and seasoning, it’s going to taste great. The nuances of the fire will elevate it, but you can’t expect good results with inferior produce. Bury hard root vegetables in the coals and cook slowly, grill whole leeks in their skins so the insides steam in their juices, and lightly char leaves and stems.” – Andrew 

“I love cabbage or courgette on the BBQ. Simply char the cabbage and top with caesar dressing and parmesan. For the courgettes, slice them in half and marinate in mint sauce, then grill and serve with crumbled feta for a delicious and fresh side. Marinated king oyster mushrooms are also delicious (throw in any Asian-inspired ingredients) as are slow-roasted onions. Cut them in half through the root and char them on the BBQ. You can always finish them off in the oven for 20 minutes if you like them soft and falling apart.” – Jamie May, The Butcher’s Tap & Grill


“There are pros and cons to all BBQ methods but wood makes the best flames and infuses the best flavour into your food. Different woods create different kinds of burn – a mixture of birch, ash and sycamore will create the perfect slow and steady burn for a BBQ. Use kindling and small pieces of wood (under 20cm) to create a stack, adding larger pieces of wood as you go. Make sure not to over stack though, and ensure there is sufficient airflow to maintain that slow, steady burn.

“If you’ve got a modern charcoal BBQ, the lighting process is a lot quicker but be aware it produces a stronger flavour – particularly in white meats and fish. To light it, place the charcoal onto the grate, keeping the pieces away from the edges to keep the fire contained. For a quick catch, add two or three natural firelighters to get an even spread. Once it’s lit, don’t be tempted to put items on too early – oil or fat will trigger the flames and burn the outside. Instead, wait for the fire to die down until the charcoal is grey in colour, then simply place the grills in position to begin cooking. You should also make sure any refrigerated ingredients are brought to room temperature before adding to the grill to guarantee a more even grill. Once you’re cooking, leave the grill alone. It can be tempting to constantly check on your food, but this just allows heat to escape and will increase the cooking time. Best to just leave the lid on and relax.” – Phil

“There’s nothing wrong with low and slow cooking, but I find the faster pace of grilling over an intense heat, and having lots of shelves to hang things, far more exciting. You’ve constantly got to watch everything and continuously move things around. You can still cook things slowly this way too, just by keeping a little more distance between the heat and the food. If you’re short on outdoor space, try using a konro or kasai grill. Both are Japanese robata grills that hold a tight cluster of hot coals in the centre channel, so you can grill at very high temperatures. They’re ideal for little skewers of poultry, vegetables and fish, as well as thinly sliced meats – anything with a cooking time under 15 minutes.” – Andrew 

“To achieve that authentic smoky, charcoal-kissed flavour, you need to use top-quality wood or charcoal. We get our charcoal from Lord Logs in Peckham which uses pruned branches of Holm oak trees. The team are real pros and know everything about quality charcoal. Wood chips are also great for different smoky accents, but remember to soak them in water before adding them. I use a firelighter, with the bottom vent of the BBQ open. Create a pyramid with the charcoal then add more on top so there’s space for airflow. After 20 minutes you can close the lid, wait for another 30 minutes and you’re good to go.” – Jimmy 


“As a general rule of thumb, the low and slow method is made for big joints like brisket (18+ hours), pork back ribs (4-5 hours) and pork butt (10+ hours). Grilling is much quicker and works best for kebabs, chops, fish and veg – anything that takes 45 minutes or less. Most of the smoke flavour happens in the first hour of cooking. After that, you’re good to start applying sauces and bastes. A decent BBQ should also have a built-in thermometer and air flow controls. While the thermometer isn’t the most accurate, it will give some indication of what temperature you’re set to. Try to work between 107°C and 121°C. To prevent it sticking to the grill, rub the meat with a little fat, like oil or butter. It’s always worth using a meat thermometer, so invest in a decent one to up your game. 

“Skewers are a good idea. I like using the big Turkish/Persian skewers and loading them up. I suspend them between bricks, so none of the meat on the skewer is touching anything. It’s a good way to cook fish too, albeit with finer skewers. The fish isn’t touching the grill, so you don’t risk it sticking to anything. Don’t forget to baste throughout the cooking process. If the baste is mostly water-based, then wait until you have some caramelisation and colour on the meat. Glazes are usually high in sugars, so apply towards the end of cooking, so you don’t burn and ruin your food. You can also sporadically spray the fire with water for extra smoking, and to get the flames out to ensure the produce doesn’t burn or charr too much.” – Andrew 

“For items that take longer to cook, use mostly indirect heat (minimal coals under the food) to ensure they’re cooked through without burning on the outside. You can then use the direct heat (over the coals) to finish the food and get the wonderful char on it. I prefer to have the lid down for most of the time as this will trap in the heat of the BBQ and ensure a more even cook. I raise the lid for the final few minutes to get the char. Also, don't try to cook too much at one time. Having room to move food around the grill will allow you to take advantage of hot and cold spots on the BBQ, resulting in perfectly cooked food. Once you’ve gotten to grips with the temperatures, you can experiment with different food and veg.” – Fergus Smithers, Grubby

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