Curry Weekend! An Amazing Weekend of Cooks

Curry Weekend Montage

UK BBQ Week kicked off on last Saturday, with a focus on BBQ curry, and the response has been unbelievable. We have seen a tremendous response from around the UK, with hundreds of posts across  the various social media platforms, both promoting the week and also many photos to enter the various competitions. The food has looked amazing across the board and shows how strong the BBQ scene is within the UK.

The main prize theme for the weekend was to cook a curry on your BBQ. We received some fantastic competition entries and the whole UK BBQ team has a really hard time picking the winner.

It really was a fantastic way to start the UK BBQ week.

After much debate, Ray Barber was our winner with his cook of Tandoori Chicken and Aloo Sag.

We have created a montage of some our favourite curry cooks from the weekend.

Thank you to everyone that entered and keep those submissions coming in through the week as there are still some great prizes to be won.

Controlling the Temperature of your BBQ

Hood Thermometer on a Kettle BBQ

Learning to cook different food on your BBQ means controlling the temperature is key so we’ve put together some tips to help you add the right amount of fuel and maintain that temperature using your vents.

Why controlling the temperature of your BBQ is important

It may be easy to fall under the illusion that cooking at a higher temperature will result in your food being cooked faster and as long as you turn it regularly it will be fine however this isn’t the case. 

By dialing your temperature back a little and cooking over a controlled heat, the experience is a little more relaxed, your food will cook more evenly and you won’t have to turn or move your food around so much to avoid it burning. Every time you turn or move your food, you will lose a little bit of the natural juices. Turning something like a burger once or twice during cooking will avoid this however turning it 10-15 times to avoid it burning on the outside will result in them drying out.

I’m not going to pretend that temperature control is easy to master, it can take some practice to get right, however there are a few simple principles that will make it easier for you.

Controlling the temperature on your gas BBQ

Controlling the temperature on your Gas BBQ is simple as it is similar to the conventional oven in your kitchen. You can easily control the amount of gas being supplied to each burner using the controls on the front of your BBQ and therefore decide how high or low the temperature is. After pre-heating your BBQ, you can adjust the valves up or down to increase or reduce the temperature.

The basic principle of controlling heat is this:

More fuel = More heat

It is really easy to demonstrate this on a gas BBQ. Opening the valve more provides more gas to the the burner giving you more heat. Opening the valve less will provide less gas to the burner and therefore less heat.

These same rules apply to a charcoal BBQ. The key to hitting the right temperature is by using the correct amount of fuel.

Using the right amount of fuel in your charcoal BBQ

A charcoal BBQ can be a little intimidating when it comes to temperature control as there can be a lot of guess work involved when you are getting started. A recipe will always give you a guide temperature to cook your food at but converting that over to the right amount of charcoal to add can be tricky so here I’ve always found that this is a great place to start.

If you are using a Weber chimney starter to light your coals, and using a long lasting briquette, the following measurements should allow you to hit some key target temperatures. These measurements are based on a 47cm and 57cm kettle BBQ.

Controlling the temperature of your charcoal BBQ

Lumpwood Charcoal can vary due to it’s irregular size but keeping notes on measurements and the resulting temperature will soon give you your go to levels.

Controlling the temperature on your BBQ can be a stumbling point for beginners so here are some tips to help you get to grips with it.

Hitting the exact temperature isn’t essential

One of the first hurdles I had to overcome was to think of BBQ temperatures in ranges rather than an exact temperature. I wasted a lot of time agonising over getting the temperature to exactly what the recipe stated but the great thing about BBQ is that it isn’t an exact science. Let me give you an example.

If I was setting my BBQ up for low and slow cooking and the recipe stated that I should be cooking at 110 C, I would light the charcoal and bring the BBQ up to temperature. I would adjust the vents, remove a few coals or add a few more until the temperature was exactly 110C. It took a lot of time to get this just right and I now realise that it wasn’t completely necessary. 

Getting your temperature within a range is absolutely fine, the important thing is to maintain a consistent temperature. So if a recipe states 110C, as long as you are in the range of 105C to 120C then you won’t go far wrong.

Allow the temperature to settle before putting your food on the grill.

After you have lit your coals in your chimney starter and poured them into the BBQ, put the lid on and leave the temperature to settle. It can take a little time for the coals to finish lighting and reach their peak temperature. If your temperature is running a little high, you can remove some of the charcoal or adjust your vents a little (which we will discuss in the second half of this article) to even out your temperature. Once your temperature is sitting steady, you can add your food.

Keep a note of how much charcoal you are adding each time you cook and what temperature it resulted in.

You don’t have to count the number of briquettes or weigh your lumpwood but simply keeping a note of ‘½ Chimney starter, ⅓ Chimney starter’ etc and the resulting temperature will allow you to refer back to it at a later date.

Controlling the temperature using your vents

Airflow through your BBQ is important to keep your coals burning and your vents can be used to control the heat being produced by your coals. With the lid closed and both top and bottom vents fully open, air will be drawn through the bottom vent and exhausted through the top vent creating an airflow through your BBQ.

Closing both vents completely will result in your charcoal extinguishing as you have removed the oxygen supply needed for fire to burn. Using this theory, it is possible to restrict the amount of air flowing through your BBQ by adjusting the top and bottom vents.

I highly recommend adjusting the amount of fuel added to achieve your desired temperature rather than relying on the vents to manage your temperature. Vents are great for fine tuning your temperature and finding the ideal vent setup will allow you to maintain a steady temperature however if you have added too much fuel you will struggle to keep the temperature down using vents alone.

The smallest of adjustments to your vents can have a dramatic impact on the temperature of your BBQ but remember that closing them off too much can result in your coals going out. If you find your temperature is running a little high or is starting to climb, closing the top and bottom vents by a few millimetres can be enough to steady the temperature. If your temperature is well above your target range, I would remove some of the lit coals to bring it down then fine tune with the vents.

While you are recording the amount of charcoal used in your BBQ journal, make a few notes about the final vent setup used to achieve your temperature. You will then begin to learn your go to vent settings for specific temperature zones.

Fire management can be tricky to master and maintaining a steady temperature for the duration of a long cook is something that will get easier with experience so don’t be disheartened if you struggle the first few times you do it.

Remember that it is easier to add a little charcoal to your BBQ if your temperature is low than to bring down a high temperature. Having the right size of fire at the start will make keeping the temperature consistent a lot easier with your vents. 

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Smoking on a Gas BBQ

Smoking Brisket on a Gas BBQ

Many of us own both Gas and Charcoal BBQ’s and whilst smoking is traditionally done using charcoal, it couldn’t be easier to get started smoking on a gas BBQ!

Before we dive into the article, I just want to mention one thing. The old Gas vs Charcoal debate has been going on for quite a few years and is sure to carry on into the future. On one hand, some people say that gas is more convenient and on the other, some say that charcoal is the only true way to BBQ. There are valid arguments for both and I’m not going to get into them right now.

All I will say is this. If you own a gas BBQ or are planning on buying one then go for it! I’ve learned a lot on my Gas Weber and all those skills have transferred over to my charcoal BBQ’s as well. My first ever brisket was smoked on a gas BBQ and it turned out great! At the end of the day, you are still outside, cooking over flame and learning how to make outstanding food.

How to add Smoke to your Gas BBQ

On your gas BBQ, you would traditionally use wood chips or pellets in a heat proof container to generate smoke. If you are cooking on a Weber gas BBQ, they sell a smoker box that fits directly on top of the flavorizer bars or you can make your own using a foil drip pan covered with some foil and a few holes punched on top.

On a charcoal BBQ, wood chips will generate smoke almost instantly when placed on the coal. Smoking on a gas BBQ is a little different. It can take up to 15 minutes for the chips to start producing smoke so I would recommend putting the smoker box onto the BBQ while you are preheating it so when it is up to temperature, you should be producing smoke.

You can also add smoke using a smoker tube filled with wood pellets. By lighting one end of the tube and placing it on the cooking grate, it will slowly produce smoke.

Tips for smoking on your Gas BBQ

Placement of the smoker box is crucial on a gas BBQ. The ambient temperature inside your BBQ won’t be high enough to get the wood chips smoking. The smoker box needs direct heat from the burner to get the chips smouldering so place the smoker box under your cooking grate, on top of the flavorizer bar. The burner directly below that flavorizer bar should be lit to provide enough heat.

Airflow on a gas BBQ is a little more random than on a charcoal BBQ as it doesn’t have a single vent that channels the air out of the BBQ. This means it’s a little harder to direct the flow of smoke over your meat. When smoking on a gas BBQ, it’s really important that you keep your lid down as much as possible while the chips are smoking to contain the smoke inside the hood. You may find you need to add a second batch of chips to allow your meat to take on the desired smokey flavour!

Always soak your wood chips in water for around 20 minutes before placing them in the smoker box. The idea is to get them smouldering slowly to give off the optimum amount of smoke. Dry wood chips will eventually ignite and burn away. Pellets on the other hand should be dry before placing them in a smoker tube to ensure they keep burning. As the tube will not be placed directly over a heat source, you shouldn’t have to worry about them igniting.

Low and slow BBQ is simple on a gas BBQ. On my 3 burner Spirit, The first burner on high is enough to keep the temperature around 110°C. Place your smoker box filled with wood chips over that first burner and your meat over the unlit 3rd burner and close the lid. As I said above, My first ever brisket was smoked on my gas BBQ and I’ve had some great results with pulled pork as well!

Lots of beginners think they can’t smoke because they use a gas BBQ and they always seem surprised when I explain how simple it is. Don’t feel like you have to wait until you own a charcoal BBQ or dedicated smoker to start smoking, crack on with your gas BBQ and learn the basics now.

Click to Download your Smoking Wood Chart
To help you start smoking on your Gas BBQ, we’ve put together a wood smoking chart to help you decide what wood chips you can use with different meats. 

Click Here to download your FREE Smoking Wood Chart in pdf format

There are many other smoking woods available but this is a great selection to get you started and learn what flavours you like.

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Smoking on your Charcoal BBQ

Smoking Chunk on Charcoal
Smoking on a charcoal BBQ is a great way to get started and learn the basics of smoking. My first attempts at smoking over charcoal were on my Weber Kettle and with a little practice, you can get great results. You can add wood to your charcoal or briquettes for any direct or indirect cooking method to ramp up the flavour.

Should you use wood chips or chunks?

Cherry Smoking Chunks

Depending on the flavour or intensity of smoke you are aiming for, you can use chips or chunks when smoking on a charcoal BBQ. Both are placed directly onto the coals. Wood chips should be soaked for about 20-30 minutes before adding them to the coals. They are smaller in size and if you don’t soak them, they will burn quickly giving you very little smoke. When the wood chips are wet, they should give around 10-15 minutes of smoke so if you are aiming for a mild smoky flavour they are perfect. They are also perfect for shorter cooks or if you are cooking direct

Chunks are larger and will therefore burn for a longer time. One or two chunks added to the coals can provide around 1 hour of smoke. Some people may choose to soak the chunks before adding them to the coals but in my opinion this isn’t necessary. Dry wood will produce a cleaner smoke and if they burn a little quicker, you can always add another chunk.

Tips for smoking on a Charcoal BBQ

When I talk to anyone who is interested in learning how to smoke, I always recommend they start smoking on a charcoal BBQ they already have. You can do almost any form of smoking on a Kettle BBQ and whilst they may not be as easy to manage as a dedicated smoker, you can get very similar results.

Aim to be subtle with your smoke and treat it like any other flavour you add to your food. By all means you can add a little extra if you like the flavour but too much will result in your food tasting and looking like it was in a house fire!

I like to think of it this way.

Let’s say you add a rub to a whole chicken before putting in onto the BBQ to roast. You would never dream of going back and adding more rub every 15 minutes or so until the chicken is cooked. The flavour of the chicken would be overpowered by the layers of rub and result in a rather unpleasant meal! The same rules apply to smoke. 15 minutes of smoke at the very beginning of the cook is enough to give you a great flavour but you will still be able to taste your seasoning and more importantly the meat.

The smoke will only penetrate into the meat whilst the outer surface isn’t sealed. After 20-30 minutes at normal roasting temperatures, the smoke will struggle to get into the meat so there is little point in adding more. Food that is cooking low and slow will take longer to seal so can therefore take on more smoke but remember not to be too heavy handed.

Another important factor to remember is airflow. If you are cooking indirect and want to add smoke, the position of your lid vent is crucial. The same can be said for any indirect cooking. Your lid vent should always be placed directly over your food to ensure the air is drawn in through the bottom vent, through the coals and wood then it passes over your food before exiting the BBQ through the lid vent. If the vent is placed over the coals, the airflow will be through the coals then straight up and out through the vent.The caveat to this setup is that the hood thermometer may now be placed directly over the coals giving you a false reading as to the actual temperature at grill level where your food is placed. I would recommend you have a grill level thermometer to get accurate temperature readings.

A great place to start!

A kettle BBQ is the ideal beginners BBQ as you can do almost any form of cooking on it including smoking. Something like the Weber 57cm Mastertouch has all the features you need to learn all aspects of BBQ. When smoking on a charcoal BBQ, a lid is essential and hinged cooking grates make it very easy to add more coals or wood chips without having to remove your cooking grate from the BBQ.You can easily learn the basics of smoking on a kettle before moving up to a dedicated smoker. Start with adding a few wood chips or chunks to your current cooks and experimenting with different flavours before moving on to some of the bigger cooks like ribs or brisket.

Click to Download your Smoking Wood Chart
By adding a little bit of smoke at the start, then building from there, you will slowly learn what wood flavours you like and how strong you like them. To help you match the different wood flavours with your meat, we have put together a chart with some of the most common smoking woods showing their strength and what meats they go well with. 

Click here to download your FREE smoking wood chart in pdf format

There are many other varieties of smoking wood but this is a great selection to get you started and help you learn the different levels of flavour.


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How to setup your BBQ for Indirect Cooking

50/50 method
Unlike direct cooking, you do not cook your food over the heat source. Instead your food is placed opposite the heat source and with the lid down, it will cook indirectly in the ambient heat within your BBQ.

You can cook using the indirect method on both gas and charcoal BBQ’s and most of the setups are the same with charcoal having a few extra. Each one of the methods below has it’s own advantages and disadvantages and which one you use will depend on what you are cooking.

50/50 Method

Indirect Cooking using the 50/50 method

One of the most common indirect cooking methods is the 50/50 Method. On your charcoal BBQ, you would cover half of your charcoal grate with coals then place your food on the cooking grate above the area without coals. With the lid on, the ambient temperature will rise and cook your food in a similar way to your oven, but much tastier!

This would also be your method of choice for cooking indirect on a 2 burner gas BBQ. You would light the left hand burner and place your food on the right hand side of the cooking grate.The only disadvantage to this setup is that the heat source is only coming from one side of the meat. If you are roasting a chicken for example, you would need to turn it halfway through to help it cook evenly.

This is a two zone cooking setup so you have an area of direct and indirect heat making it great for searing a large piece of meat then moving it to the indirect side to finish cooking.

50/50 Split Method

Indirect Cooking using the 50/50 Split Method

Similar to the first method, you will have half your charcoal grate with no charcoal but this time, instead of placing all your coals to one side of the charcoal grate, you split them to the left and right leaving an area of indirect heat in the centre of the cooking grate where you place your food.

On a 3 burner gas BBQ you would light the left and right burners, leaving the middle one off, and place your food directly over the middle burner.

You will not have to rotate your food using this method as the heat source is coming from either side of the meat, helping it cook more evenly.

Whilst it is not essential, using charcoal baskets or charcoal rails to hold the coals in place will stop them from falling into the indirect area.

Once again, you will have an area of direct heat for searing.

Ring of Fire Method

Indirect Cooking using the Ring of Fire Method

This method is solely for charcoal BBQ’s, unless you fancy bending your burners into shape, and it involves placing your coals around the entire outside edge of the charcoal grate leaving the middle empty.

Your food would then be placed in the centre of the cooking grate giving you an even heat distribution around the entire BBQ. This method is great for roasting large, single cuts of meat such as a whole Chicken or Beef roast.

It isn’t an effective two zone cooking method as your area of direct heat around the outside of the BBQ is quite small so if you are planning to sear your meat before or after roasting, one of the other methods might work best.

The Bullseye Method

The bullseye method is the mirror opposite to the ring of fire, with your charcoal placed in the centre of the charcoal grate leaving the outer ring empty. This means your area of indirect heat is around the outer edges of the cooking grate.

This cooking method is better suited to lots of smaller cuts of meat and is traditionally used for things like Chicken wings. With the coals all in the middle of the grill, you have an area where you can sear over direct heat then move your food to the outside to cook indirect.

Using something like charcoal baskets or charcoal rails to hold your fuel in place makers it easier to avoid the charcoal falling to the outer edges and you can keep the charcoal concentrated in the centre of the grill.

There is no single best cooking setup on your BBQ. Each one of these methods has it’s advantages for different cooks so try them all and learn what works best for each recipe you cook.

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Knowing when your food is cooked

Thermapen 4

Internal meat temperatures can help absolute beginners know when their food is ready to come off the BBQ and is safe to eat. It can mean the difference between dry, overcooked food and succulent, moist food.

By learning the recommended safe internal temperatures and removing your food when it reaches that point, you know that all bacteria has been destroyed but the meat is still tender and moist.

By using temperature probes, you no longer have to guess when your food is ready therefore allowing you to take it off the BBQ at the optimum time.

Food Safety

Food safety is a somewhat boring but highly important subject and is especially important when it comes to meat. There are many factors that can affect food safety such as the quality of your meat and how it is stored.

In this article we are going to cover the cooking of meat and safe internal temperatures.

Meat is considered safe to eat when the internal temperature has risen to the point where harmful bacteria has been destroyed. These safe internal temperatures vary for different types of meat but a great general rule of thumb is to cook your food to an internal temperature of 75C. Cooking fresh, quality meat that has been stored properly to this internal temperatures will, in most cases, avoid the risk of food poisoning.

For a more detailed list of internal meat temperatures, there is an amazing article over on Amazing ribs which discusses the different temperatures at which meat is pasteurised and other factors to consider.

I would just like to debunk the myth that you are more at risk of food poisoning whilst cooking on a BBQ as opposed to in your kitchen. Providing that basic food hygiene rules are followed and you are checking your internal temperatures, there is no reason for food poisoning to be a bigger issue whilst cooking on your BBQ than in your kitchen.

People will often overcook their food on a BBQ for fear of it being raw in the middle. By reading the internal temperatures of your meat, you will know when it is safe to eat and this doesn’t change when you step into the backyard.

Knowing when your food is ready to eat

Another important reason to read the internal temperatures of your food is to know when it is ready to eat.

For a lot of meat this is simply when it has reached a safe internal temperature.

For tougher cuts of meat, such as brisket and pork shoulder, you will need to take the internal temperature higher to break down the fats and connective tissues. On the other hand, leaner cuts of beef can be served rare meaning the internal temperature will be lower than the recommended 75C.

Experience will help you decide when something is cooked by look and feel but while you are learning different cooking techniques, internal temperatures are the perfect way to make sure your food turns out  great every time.

You need to pay attention to how your meat looks and feels at different internal temperatures and you will soon be able to tell what stage your food is at. You can then use internal temperatures as a final check before lifting your food off the BBQ.

Monitoring your food temperatures using a probe

So now that we’ve covered the reasons behind monitoring the internal temperature of your meat, let’s look at the different ways to take a reading using temperature probes.

There are 2 main types of temperature probes commonly used by the BBQ community. The first of these are instant read thermometers. They give you a quick reading of the internal temperature and will help you decide when your food is ready to come off the BBQ.

Wired Thermometer

If you want to monitor the temperature of your meat for the duration of the cook, you would need to use a wired thermometer.

Using a wired thermometer allows you to leave the probe in the meat as it cooks. It will continuously monitor the temperature and give you a reading on an external unit. A thermometer like this is great for monitoring how fast your food is cooking, when it might be time for the next stage of a cook e.g. wrapping, braising etc and also how long it may be before the cook is finished.

When using this style of thermometer, it is important to place the probe in the thickest part of the meat as this will tell you when the centre of the meat has reached an internal temperature. It’s always a good idea to check a few other parts of the meat with an instant read thermometer to make sure it is cooked evenly all the way through.

Instant Read Thermometer

Taking a reading with an instant read thermometer is simple. Insert the probe into the thickest part of the meat until the tip reaches the centre. Within a few seconds you should have an accurate reading of the internal temperature at the centre of the meat.

Cooked or Not Cooked

When checking meat that is being cooked on the bone, make sure the probe isn’t hitting the bone and it is situated within the meat. For something like a whole chicken, you would probe both breasts and both legs to ensure the chicken is cooked evenly all the way through.

Internal temperatures may seem a little like ‘Cooking by numbers’, and I suppose it is, however it takes all the guesswork out of BBQ and will help you understand what happens to different cuts of meat at different temperatures.

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Chimney Starter: An Essential Accessory

Lit Chimney Starter with Charcoal

An Essential

For anyone with a ‘natural’ BBQ where you need to light either charcoal or briquettes a Chimney Starter is an essential item to own.

What is a Chimney Starter and How to they work?

A chimney starter is by far one of the easiest ways to light the charcoal for your BBQ.

The old method of placing a few fire lighters under a stack of charcoal then dousing it with lighter fuel not only adds a bad flavour to your food, but it can take a long time before your coals are ready to cook on. Add to that the fact that not all the charcoal will light at the same rate and it can easily stress you out before the first piece of meat hits the grill!

A chimney starter takes away all that annoyance as it will light all your charcoal evenly and quickly. It becomes especially useful when lighting briquettes as they are notoriously harder to light that standard lumpwood charcoal.

So how do they work?

You simply fill your desired amount of charcoal into the chimney starter. Then place some form of lighter on the charcoal grate of your BBQ and set the chimney starter on top of it.

The starter is designed to draw air through the bottom, up through your charcoal and out the top (like a chimney). The rush of air flowing through the coals lights them up quickly and as they are all held together in the cylinder, they are evenly lit all the way through.

You will know your coals are ready when the top layer of charcoal has turned white and the flames are dancing at the top.

Using a BBQ Glove, simply pour the lit coals into the BBQ and add your cooking grate. After a few minutes with the lid on to pre-heat your cooking grate, you are ready to cook.

A full chimney starter of lumpwood charcoal should light in around 10-15 minutes. Briquettes can take up to 20-25 minutes to get a full chimney going.

A lot of people moved away from charcoal BBQ’s as they were such a pain to light but this simply isn’t an issue any more. It is recommended that you pre-heat your Gas BBQ for around 15 minutes before cooking so the time difference between the two is negligible.

Adding the right amount of fuel

Another great benefit of a chimney starter is that they allow you to measure the amount of charcoal you are adding to your BBQ so you will quickly learn how much fuel is needed to achieve a desired temperature.

By keeping track of the level the chimney was filled to and the resulting grill temperature, it can make it easier to hit your target temperature i.e. ½ chimney starter of briquettes = 160-180C….. Ideal for roasting when setup for indirect cooking.

I’ve never talked to someone who has purchased a chimney starter and didn’t think it was one of the best investments they had ever made. They make getting a fire going really easy and hassle free allowing you to concentrate on the things that matter, cooking your food!

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How to setup your BBQ for Direct Cooking

Direct cooking is often known as grilling and it involves placing your food directly over the heat source. You can achieve different temperatures by controlling your heat source but generally, direct cooking is used to cook thinner cuts of meat such as steaks, burgers, sausages and chicken.

With larger cuts of meat, there is a risk that the outside of the meat will be overcooked before the middle of the meat reaches a safe internal temperature and so it is easier to use the indirect method for these cuts.

The Full Grill Setup

The most traditional set up for direct cooking is simply to have the entire BBQ setup for direct heat. If you are using a gas BBQ you will have all your burners on or on a charcoal BBQ, your charcoal will be spread evenly across the entire charcoal grate.

Setting your BBQ up this way means that anywhere you place food on the cooking grate it will receive direct heat from underneath.

This isn’t to say that the heat will be even across your entire cooking grate. Even with a gas BBQ, when the heat source is a little easier to control, you will still get hot and cold spots on the cooking grate. Typically the outer edges of the cooking grate will be a little cooler than the centre.

The same can be said for charcoal BBQ’s. Even if you spend time spreading the charcoal evenly, there will still be some spots that are hotter. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but as long as you are aware of it, you can move your food around to account for this.

The Safe Zone

Gas BBQ Setup with Safe Zone
Gas BBQ setup with safe zone
When cooking direct I rarely use the full grill setup. Instead I like to set up my BBQ so that 60% of the cooking grate has direct heat and the remaining 40% is left with no heat source under it. This part of the cooking grate the safe zone.

On my 3 burner gas BBQ, I cook with the left and middle burner on and the right burner off. On my Weber Kettle I will spread the charcoal over 60% of the charcoal grate.

You might be asking why you would only use a portion of your cooking grate rather than the entire area?

The closer your food is to the heat source, the faster it will cook. Having an area with no coals gives you complete control over how quickly your food cooks. Food that is cooking too quickly can be moved into the safe zone. The food will still continue to cook but at a slower rate. 

This is a great setup for beginners to master direct cooking on their BBQ’s.

Tips for cooking over Direct Heat

Keep the lid closed

Keeping the lid of your BBQ closed will not only help your food cook faster but it reduces flare ups. All Good BBQ’s are designed with vents to allow the optimal amount of air to flow through them with the lid closed. Fat dripping from your meat onto the coals or burners will result in a flame. If you have the lid open, you are feeding those flames with an abundance of oxygen and that never ends well!

Don’t turn your food too often

I sometimes think this is a manly thing. We love nothing more than to stand around the BBQ, tongs in hand just waiting to turn something or move it around the grill. It gives us a sense of purpose but we’re really doing more harm than good.

For one, if we’re constantly turning the food it means the lid is open (see the tip above). The main reason that most people feel they need to keep turning their food is due to flare ups from the fat dripping onto the coals which can sometimes get out of control. A momentary flare up will not burn your food however persistent flame will cause your food to burn. Keeping the lid on your BBQ will keep the flare ups under control.

The second benefit to not turning your food too often is to help retain the natural juices in your meat. Constantly flipping your food can squeeze the natural juices out. When cooking over a direct heat, try to turn your food no more than once or twice.

Keep your temperature under control

When cooking at a very high temperature using the direct method, things can become a little frantic if you have a full grate of meat to deal with. I’ve found that dialling the temperature back a little makes everything easier to manage.

If you put the first two tips into practice then a lower temperature will not affect your cook time. It simply allows your food to cook in a more controlled way.

My tendency, when I was learning to BBQ, was to turn all the burners on my gas BBQ to 11 or to fill my chimney starter as high as I could. The temperature would be sitting around 230-240°C. Add into the equation that I didn’t know anything about safe zones at the beginning and you can imagine a grill full of burgers and sausages got a little hard to handle!

Now I prefer to grill at around 200°C which is still a high temperature but more manageable. Cooking ‘hot and fast’ doesn’t always have to mean as hot and as fast as possible.

Hopefully these simple tips will help you get to grips will cooking over a direct heat. With time you will gain the confidence leave your lid on and walk away, leaving your BBQ to do the work for you.

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