From a Marmite-flavoured butter and punchy overnight marinade, to compressed charcoal and meat thermometers, 10 Irish chefs share their recipes and tips for the perfect barbecue with Katy McGuinness
Head chef, Bastible (pictured)
When talking barbecue, we’re talking charcoal. The flavour of produce cooked over embers is unrivalled. So if you want to get serious about barbecue, first things first: forget about gas.
I learnt the bulk of what I know about barbecuing while working in Mexico with Noma. We didn’t have access to gas or electricity and depended on fire. When cooking large amounts of food, it’s crucial that you can maintain a steady source of heat, so what I do is divide my barbecue in two. I call this the continuous flow method: one side filled with hot charcoal for cooking, and the other side ablaze with fresh fire wood for feeding. That way you always have access to heat and can continue cooking for sustained periods using this feeding method. Compressed charcoal is good. In Japan, binchotan is highly prized as it burns hot for a very long period of time, preventing the need to refill as frequently. The process of how they make it is fascinating; there’s a documentary on Netflix about it. Big K charcoal is a decent alternative. It’s a compressed charcoal like binchotan, but much cheaper. Nothing I’ve worked with can compete with genuine binchotan though.
bastible.com; Instagram: @cuangreene
Chef, photographer and co-founder of Lens & Larder
I like to think of the barbecue as an outdoor cooker rather than just a grill. One of my favourite dishes is chicken, prawn and pea paella (pictured above). I think paella is always best cooked outdoors, either over the barbecue or a small fire. You need a wide, shallow pan because the socarrat — the crust of dark caramelised rice that develops on the bottom of the pan — is the prize. Start by browning chicken drumsticks well, either on the pan or on the barbecue and put to one side. Make a sofrito by slowly frying finely diced onions and garlic until soft, season with salt and pepper and add a tin of tomatoes. Cook for about 3 minutes. Allow half a cup of rice per person, and add it to the pan. For every cup of rice you add 2 ½ cups of stock. Stir for the first five minutes of cooking. Add the chicken, settle the pan at a low simmer and don’t stir again, ensuring a nice sticky and brown socarrat, for a further 15 minutes. Turn the pan a quarter turn every 3 minutes or so, this keeps it cooking evenly. Add some prawns and peas for the last 5 minutes. Then remove from heat, cover with a lid or tinfoil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.
lensandlarder.com; Instagram: @cliodhnaprendergast
Head chef, Nightmarket
If you prepare your marinade and marinate your chicken the day before you plan to barbecue, you will, for minimal effort, have the most succulent, flavoursome chicken thighs and drumsticks.
I find Gai Yang (grilled Thai-style barbecue chicken) is a real winner with adults and children. I make the marinade with: 5 cloves garlic; 10 black peppercorns; 4 coriander roots (scraped & chopped, or coriander leaves if not available); 1 stalk lemongrass, chopped; 1 small galangal, chopped; half tablespoon turmeric powder; 2 tablespoons sugar; 5 torn kaffir leaves; 4 tablespoons coconut cream, and 2 tablespoons each of light soy sauce, oyster sauce and fish sauce. Use a pestle and mortar to pound the garlic, peppercorns, coriander roots, lemongrass and galangal together into a coarse paste, mix with the other ingredients and add the chicken. Cover with cling-film and leave to marinate overnight in the fridge. The chicken pieces will take roughly 10 minutes on each side. Baste as you go with leftover marinade and use a probe to ensure they are cooked through with an internal temperature of 75°C. Traditionally, this is served with spicy papaya salad, sticky rice, nam Jim jaew or, for younger members of the family, with sweet chilli sauce.
nightmarket.ie; Instagram: @nightmarketD6
James Whelan Butchers
In the past I’ve tended not to cook pork on the barbecue as it can overcook and end up dry but my latest discovery is that Iberico pork is way more forgiving, because of the fat content in the meat.
I roast an entire rack over the coals to create the char, and then move it to indirect heat to cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 75°C.
The other thing that I’ve started doing is cooking thicker pieces of meat on the bone, and then taking the meat off the bone and slicing it to share, rather than cooking an individual steak for each person. The fat in a cote de boeuf renders really well during cooking. As with the Iberico, I just char it over the direct heat and then move it to indirect heat until it reaches an internal temperature of 55°C. Rest the piece of meat after cooking to let the juices settle back in and slice it across the grain for lovely pink, tender meat.
Chef and owner, Tiller + Grain
For me, the star of barbecues is always the veg; there is nothing like the flavour of charred corn, leeks or baby vegetables. A big winner in Tiller + Grain is our smoky tenderstem broccoli with yuzu yoghurt and pickled chillies. It’s important to bear in mind that all vegetables are different and depending on the season some may need a helping hand to bring out their flavour. Pre-blanching vegetables in salted water and finishing them on the BBQ is always a nice touch. And remember, it’s a fine line between deliciously charred and smoky and burnt. Once you take the food off the heat is the time to season it... toss the veg in good olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and sea salt. As they cool, they absorb all the flavours. Pairing charred food with a refreshing citrus yoghurt or crème fraiche is always a winning combination.
Head chef, Clanbrassil House, Culinary director, BuJo (pictured below)
A top tip for barbecuing chicken is to spatchcock it (breaking the crown bone) so it cooks evenly and quicker than in the oven — if you buy your chicken in the butcher, they will do it for you, but you can find videos that will show you online. Using a meat probe is essential to getting your meat cooked perfectly on the grill. Chicken should have an internal temperature of 75°C. Rub your chicken in a mix of garlic, thyme, chorizo oil, butter and lemon before grilling. Always wait for your coals to stop flaming before cooking over them. You are looking for the coals to be white rather than red. Be careful not to let the flames hit the food as it gives a bitter taste. For smoking, play around with different woods. You can get Irish whiskey barrel wood, my personal favourite, from irishwhiskeybarrel.com.
clanbrassilhouse.com; bujo.ie Instagram: @grainne43
Head chef, Goldie
While often forgotten, fish is an excellent option for barbecuing as it’s fast, fresh and absolutely delicious. I like to cook it directly on the barbecue (not in foil), so it is particularly important to light your barbecue at least 30 minutes before you plan on cooking. Grilling over a just-lit barbecue with aggressive flames and smoke will ruin the delicate flavour of fish. Just score the fish and marinate with oil as this will prevent it from sticking to the grill. Whole oily fish like mackerel and red mullet work a treat cooked whole on the bone.
I love filling the inside of the gutted fish with fresh herbs and a couple of lemon or lime slices to maximise the flavour. Once on the grill, try not to agitate the fish — just flip over after 5-7 mins depending on the size (you will see the flesh become opaque as it cooks) and grill for the same length of time on the other side.
Now that we are not exporting all of our excellent shellfish to the continent, you can often find a bargain available either in your local fishmonger or via an online retailer, many of whom now deliver all over the country. Langoustines grilled in the shell are a great introduction to seafood on the barbecue. Simply slice the langoustines in half between the eyes, de-vein and place on the grill; no need for oil. Once cooked, dress in your best olive oil, lime juice, a little chilli and lots of chopped fresh herbs. Then dig in.
Chef and owner, Kai in Galway
My number one top tip is to make a lovely compound butter, as you can use it to hide pretty much all things that may go wrong, and while the meat rests you can chill out, safe in the knowledge that the piece of meat or the vegetables are slowly absorbing the delicious flavours from the butter.
One of my favourites is Vegemite fried onion whipped butter, which is basically that. Fry the onions in Vegemite (you can use Marmite if you’re from the northern hemisphere!) and leave to cool before whipping into a block of butter with a pinch of salt, two cloves of smashed garlic and some chopped curly parsley. Roll it into a sausage, wrap in cling film and pop it into the fridge, so you can slice discs off as needed. My other favourite is Bloody Mary butter, which is really sassy. Take one block of butter, 30g of harissa, 10 grams of celery seed, a dash of Worcester Sauce and a dash of vodka or gin and season with white pepper. Mix it all together and roll into a sausage, wrap in cling film and put in the fridge. This is fab with any fish, mussels, haloumi or vegetables.
kairestaurant.ie; Instagram: @kai_galway
Chef and owner, Jack Rabbit
I love barbecuing over real charcoal or wood but it’s important not to get handcuffed to the grill, so use your oven, too. For example, cook chicken thighs all the way through in the oven so you know they’re edible before they reach the grill, then char them to perfection on the barbecue. Rather than make the barbecue the engine for all your work, think of it as the icing on the cake — spend your time tweaking salads, side dishes and accompaniments and pick just one meat, fish or vegetable to which you can give your unbridled attention on the grill and bring it out as the showstopper.
There’s a time and a place for sausage/burger/chicken leg extravaganzas but a barbecue can be a classy affair too. This simple marinade works with any red meat — 1 tub Greek-style yoghurt pureed with 2 red onions, 3 cloves of garlic, the juice of 1 lemon, 50ml red wine vinegar, 1 heaped tbsp sea salt and any spices you like. Marinate overnight ideally, the enzymes in the yoghurt will penetrate the meat and tenderise, flavour and transform it. Just remember to remove most of it before grilling as it will burn.
See jackrabbit.ie/shop for home food kits and sauces. Instagram: @jackrabbiteats
Chef and owner, Dede at The Custom House
Remember to take your food out of the fridge at least an hour before you start cooking, and to season it after it has finished cooking. If you are cooking with charcoal, be patient and light the barbecue in plenty of time, so that the flames have died down before you start to cook and you have good heat but the food will not burn. At Dede, we mix Marienburg organic barbecue coals from ecofuel.ie with compressed charcoal from nisbets.ie and two types of wood, birch and oak. We start with the oak and then add the birch. The flavour is incredible. We use environmentally-friendly and odourless Waxies waxies.ie to light the coals.
A simple marinade for one kilo of diced meat to make Turkish-style kebabs is: one tablespoon each of paprika, black pepper, cumin and coriander, one teaspoon of dried chilli, half a medium onion, three cloves of garlic, two tablespoons of natural yoghurt and three tablespoons of vegetable oil. Blend everything together into a smooth paste and marinate overnight. For a simple dry rub, mix a tablespoon each of onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, ground cumin, dried thyme and dried oregano with half a tablespoon of dried lemon zest and rub on to chicken or meat.
customshousebaltimore.com; Instagram: @ahmet_dede_
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