Monday 23 September 2019

Summer ways to graze: Master the art of barbecue with our expert grilling advice


Spicy smoked chicken wings. Photo: Al Higgins
Spicy smoked chicken wings. Photo: Al Higgins
Grilled Padron Peppers. Photo: Al Higgins

Summer is here and so is the sunshine, but true aficionados know that you don't need sunshine to work a grill, just plenty of heat. It's in managing this heat - both in your grill and in your marinades and sauces - that elevates barbecuing above blackened sausages and into the realm of restaurant-quality dining.

This art of cooking with fire and smoke is celebrated at The Big Grill food festival, which takes place at Dublin's Herbert Park in August. Now in it's fifth year, the festival will see chefs and pitmasters come together to give talks and demonstrations in butchery, barbecue and smoking. Twenty restaurants will be cooking on site using 'live fire' techniques - no gas or electricity allowed - and the annual hot wing- and chilli-eating challenges are not to be missed.

Overseeing it all is Andy Noonan, co-founder and curator of The Big Grill. When Andy is not travelling to find new BBQ talent for the festival, he can be found at Fowl Play - his "live fire chicken joint" located at The Square Ball pub in Dublin 2. Using a Vault Smoker brought in from Texas and a charcoal rotisserie, the restaurant aims to show Ireland "what chicken should taste like".

Poultry is not the only thing that features on Fowl Play's newly-launched menu, which includes everything from Filipino pork to charred kale, in dishes designed to be eaten family-style. Here, Andy shares some of the recipes along with his expert barbecuing advice.

Andy's barbecue guide for chicken

The main problem people encounter cooking chicken on a grill is down to flare ups from the fat dripping on the hot coals, resulting in burnt skin and undercooked meat on the inside. That's what's known as 'direct' grilling. When cooking chicken or any other fatty meat, we want the ability to cook both directly and indirectly.

Direct grilling: cooking directly over hot coals/embers/ or over a gas flame.

Indirect grilling: cooking away from the heat source in a safe/retreat zone.

To cook chicken evenly and safely on a grill or BBQ:

1. Create a three zoned set-up on your grill (see grill set up panel, below), with a 'safe zone' where there are no coals or flames underneath to move your chicken to.

2. Close the lid on your grill to stop airflow - remember airflow equals flames.

3. Have a spray bottle of cider vinegar to spray the chicken as it's cooking and also help keep the flames at bay.

Three-zone BBQ set up

For a charcoal grill

1. High heat/searing zone: Achieve this by arranging your coals with a large mound on one side of the grill.

2. Medium heat zone: Arrange a small layer of coals in the middle of the grill.

3. Retreat/safe zone: No coals underneath this side.

For a gas grill:

Figure out where your hot/medium/safe zones are by turning on all the burners at full blast and holding your hand over each area when it's fully heated. Most gas grills come with a three different cooking zones, figure out where they are and you'll always have total control over what you're cooking.

Spicy Smoked Chicken Wings

Serves 6-10

BBQ fuel: Natural Lumpwood Charcoal (no accelerants). Wood chunks of chips (preferably cherry).


2kg full chicken wings (tips on)

Olive oil

Sea salt and cracked black pepper

Chilli flakes, optional

1 bottle of hot sauce of choice (I like Habanero based sauces for maximum flavour and extra heat or classic Louisiana styles like Crystal or Franks work perfectly)

1 pack/454g of unsalted butter

1 tbsp cider or red wine vinegar


1 In a large bowl, add your wings and coat evenly in a little olive oil then season generously with sea salt and pepper. I like to add some chilli flakes to the rub for an extra kick.

2 Place the wings on your low heat/safe zone of your grill. Cook slowly for 40-60 mins using the Indirect Method (see above). If you have a thermometer on your grill it should read 140-170˚C.

3 While your wings are cooking, make your wing sauce. Add your hot sauce and butter to a pan and melt slowly over a medium heat. Set aside but keep warm.

4 Back to the wings…Pull one off and check if it's done. If you have a digital thermometer the temperature should read 75°C (I would highly recommend a digital thermometer for outdoor cooking).

5 When you're happy they're cooked, move the wings to a medium heat to char them nicely using the direct method. Go for nice char marks here. A spray bottle of cider vinegar or water will help control flames, as will closing the lid or moving your wings to your low heat/safe zone. Make sure to get the wing tips nice and crisp, they're the best bit! Make sure not to burn them.

6 Remove wings from grill, toss in the hot sauce and serve immediately.


Sweet & Sticky Filipino Pork Skewers

Serves 6


250ml light soy sauce

200g brown sugar

200ml good quality ketchup

100ml sriracha or hot sauce

70ml lime juice

125ml or ½ standard can of ginger ale

3 cloves garlic, minced or chopped finely

30ml sesame oil

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cracked or ground black pepper

500g free range pork belly (buy the best quality you can afford)

2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

6 strong skewers (soaked in water before using if they're wooden)


1 Combine sauce ingredients - soy sauce, sugar, ketchup, sriracha, lime juice, ginger ale, garlic, sesame oil, salt and pepper - in a bowl and whisk, or a blender to combine. Taste and season accordingly - if you like it a little spicier, add some more heat. If you want some more salt, try some fish sauce.

2 For the pork belly, cut into six equal strips then cut each one into four even squares about 1 inch or less squared. Thread each cube lengthways onto the each skewer. These are nice big skewers, but you can always make them a little smaller if you want to increase the amount of belly - perfect for smaller bites.

3 Grill over a low-medium heat on your charcoal grill, turning regularly to keep the cook even. Once browning occurs, baste with the marinade after turning. Once the sticky sauce sets, turn and baste again, building layers of flavour slowly and taking care not to burn the marinade by avoiding flare-ups from the fat dripping onto the coals. This is why a low-medium heat is essential as is a safe zone on your grill with no coals or flames.

4 Grilling should take 8-12 mins for tender, juicy meat. Baste one final time when you remove from the grill. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds before serving.


Grilled Padron Peppers

eppers _ Al Higgins.jpg
Grilled Padron Peppers. Photo: Al Higgins

Serves 3-6


500g Padron peppers (jalapeños can be used if not available)

1 tbsp olive oil

Sea salt flakes


1 Place the peppers in a medium bowl, add the olive oil, and toss to coat.

2 Set your grill up for the direct method. Arrange the coals for a high heat. When the grill is ready, place the peppers on the grill in a single layer, making sure they're not touching.

3 Grill for 6-8 minutes, turning occasionally until the peppers start to char and blister.

4 Season with good quality sea salt, and serve.

Irish Independent

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