Barbecue Tips From Genevieve Taylor
Genevieve Taylor is a live fire and BBQ expert, founder of Bristol Fire School and author of ten cookery books. A proud omnivore, her latest book Charred champions vegetarian fire cooking with the belief that a great BBQ is about more than just meat. As part of our BBQ Brave campaign, we invited Genevieve to share some of her top fire cooking tips and tools, together with a fresh and flavoursome Vietnamese chicken baguette recipe.
Barbecue Tips From Genevieve Taylor, Founder of Bristol Fire School and Author of ‘Charred’
It’s turning out to be quite the summer, isn’t it? Whilst we still cannot gather together and have lovely big parties, and I am certainly missing those, there has never been a better time to dust off your barbecue and get grilling. Wonderful weather, perhaps a little more time to cook, 2020 is set to be the year for cooking outside.
As a barbecue chef, I run the Bristol Fire School with one principal aim, to help people ‘do fire better’. Barbecuing needn’t be scary or intimidating if you are armed with a few key skills to inspire confidence. Just like any skill, the more you do it, the better you get so embrace cooking outside with both hands and in a few weeks you will be grilling like a pro!
For me, a critical thing is feeling in control of the fire itself, once you learn the fundamentals, like how to set up your barbecue you are well on your way to cooking success. Here are my top tips to allow you to become BBQ Brave this summer:
1. In the world of professional barbecue we have a really great saying – ‘it’s done when it’s done’ pretty self explanatory but basically, forget recipe timings and embrace your senses of smell, touch and sight. The more you cook like this, the easier it becomes and you will quickly be an intuitive chef.
2. Arm your self with a Thermapen thermometer for 100% confidence that your food is cooked. A thermometer never lies – people are often so anxious about undercooking food, especially chicken, that they go way overboard and cook it to death. A probe allows you to get it bang on, cooked, juicy and tender.
3. Always use good charcoal, think of fuel as your number one ingredient. Is there any point in buying a beautiful bit of steak and cooking it over chemically-laden cheap charcoal? I am a massive fan of sustainable British lumpwood charcoal made from well managed woodlands. As well as providing a beautiful heat to cook with, making charcoal has many positive environmental benefits for wood biodiversity.
4. Charcoal itself is a pure carbon product, and as such doesn’t really create much smoke. You can add a little extra smoke flavour by adding a few wood chunks, one or two lumps is all you need for a good hit of smoke. You can buy smoking wood online – look out for different varieties – one of my favourites is cherry wood, it produces a deep sweet smoke and oak is a classic smoking wood that’s great with all sorts of foods.
5. Always set up your barbecue ready for both direct and indirect cooking – I like to set up my grill with charcoal on one half and no fuel on the other. This is called the half and half method, and it instantly gives you more control over your fire as you can move food between hot spots and cool spots for more effective cooking. Most of the time its actually better to cook slightly indirectly (so off the direct heat) as food will cook more gently without risk of burning on the outside.
6. Don’t use marinades with too much honey or sugar in them, they will burn on the outside before the inside is cooked. Instead use a sweet baste to brush on some lovely stickiness towards the end of cooking.
7. Don’t just chuck ALL THE MEAT at the BBQ, make your grill an omnivorous feast. Not only do fire-cooked veggies taste amazing, you get to cook your whole meal on the barbecue so it’s much more relaxed without all that running back and forth to the kitchen. Get all your prep done inside so you maximise your efficiency at the grill.
8. If your barbecue has a lid, always put it down to create a more even oven-like heat – this will maximise your fuel efficiency. You wouldn’t fire up your oven in your kitchen and leave the door open, would you? If your barbecue doesn’t have a lid you can still grill effectively but you will find it harder to cook bigger joints of meat. You can also improvise a lid with a loose tent of foil, or invest in a metal cloche to cover your food as it cooks.
My top ten essential tools and kit for barbecues
1. A Thermapen thermometer for testing the temperature of meat or fish, remember, the thermometer never lies!
2. A chimney starter – the fool proof way to get your BBQ lit in 10-15 minutes.
3. Good fuel – kiln dried wood for your pizza oven and sustainable British charcoal for your BBQ.
4. A heavy duty plancha or chapa for cooking delicate things like fish, fritters or pancakes or long thin veg that might fall through the grill bars (like asparagus).
5. Use natural fire lighters – twisty wax-dipped balls of wood shavings that contain no chemicals to taint your food.
6. Long handled tongs and spatulas are great for turning without burning your hands.
7. Thick leather gloves to protect your from the heat – great for when you are adding more fuel or moving your grill bars around.
8. Buy metal skewers, they are easy to find in the supermarkets in the summer months – the wooden ones always burn no matter how ling you soak them for.
9. A long length of copper pipe, slightly tamped down at the fire end, is brilliant for blowing a little air into a sulky fire to gee it up.
10. A leave-in temperature thermometer is a brilliantly useful bit of kit for ‘low and slow’ cooking. If you are cooking a pulled pork, for example, you want to know how cooked it is without lifting the lid – every time you lift the lid you will slow the cooking process down so much. Another pro-barbecue saying ‘if you’re looking, it ain’t cooking’!!
Vietnamese grilled chicken baguette with mango and lime leaf butter
Fresh lime leaves can be a little tricky to find, so substitute with a handful of coriander if you struggle to source them.
Watch Genevieve make the recipe on her IGTV.
700g chicken thigh fillets
1 lime, juiced
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 banana shallot, finely chopped (or 2 regular)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp brown sugar
2 birds eye chillies, chopped
1/2 tsp Chinese five spice
1 tbsp vegetable oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
75g unsalted butter, softened
6 fresh kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped
a good pinch sea salt flakes
4 x mini baguettes, or a large on cut into pieces
a handful of soft lettuce leaves
1 slightly underripe mango, sliced
Slash the chicken fillets deeply but not all the way through to help the marinade soak in and put into a bowl. Add the vegetable oil, lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar, chilli and Chinese five spice. Season with a little salt and pepper and stir well until the chicken is evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate for a good hour or two.
Whilst the chicken is marinating, make the lime leaf butter by mashing together the softened butter, lime leaves and sea salt flakes. Set aside.
When you are ready to cook, fire up the barbecue ready for indirect grilling (see intro).
Drizzle the oil over the chicken and toss to coat. Spread the fillets out on the grill bars, away from the fire so it cooks indirectly and cook for about 20 minutes, turning and rotating a few times so they cook evenly and brushing with any leftover marinade as you go. Use your Thermapen to ensure the internal temperature of the thickest part of the fillet has reached 74°C.
Once the chicken is cooked, pile it up to one side of the grill and rest the baguettes onto the grill bars, away from the fire, to warm through for around 5 minutes.
To serve, slice the warm baguettes through the centre and add a little lettuce and mango. Add a couple of pieces of the hot chicken and then top with a good spoonful of the butter. Squeeze the baguette shut and allow the butter to melt for a few seconds before tucking in.
Follow Genevieve @GenevieveEats for more fire cooking recipes.