Everything you need for the perfect barbecue.
Story by Jeremy Grace
Barbecues are a great way to prepare food (for both meat-eaters and vegetarians), but they represent more than just a method of cooking. Having friends and family over for a barbecue is a real event, with all the preparation that goes into it and the extra challenge of getting your food cooked just right. Like any skill, practice makes perfect when it comes to barbecuing, but here are a few tips to ensure you don’t end up with food that’s burnt on the outside and frozen in the middle.
THE RIGHT KIT
There are so many different barbecue grills available today that it can be difficult to know which one is right for you, and that’s before you’ve considered all the other bits of kit you might need. There are disposal barbecues, barbecues on wheels, brick barbecues, ones that use gas and others that use charcoal.
You’ll also need to ensure that you’ve got enough fuel, something to start the fire with and kitchen equipment like spatulas and tongs. Oh, and make sure you’ve got enough chairs for your guests!
THE RIGHT FOOD
Perhaps most important of all, your barbecue’s success or failure depends on the quality of your food. Although you’ll probably want to cover at least some of the classics, including burgers, sausages and kebabs, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. There are loads of veggies that benefit from that chargrilled flavor, from corn on the cob to aubergine.
THE RIGHT DRINK
When you’re putting together your barbecue menu, have you considered coming up with drink ideas that complement your food? This area of gastronomy has extended beyond wine, so why not buy a few beers or make some cocktails to pair with your delicious BBQ meals?
THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF TIME
Make sure you’ve put enough time aside for your barbecue, because it is certainly one of those methods of cooking that can take longer than expected. Try to get your equipment set up before your guests arrive, if possible, and if you’re cooking meat that needs to be well done, consider starting it in the oven before moving to the barbecue. Also, remember that some dishes will need marinating overnight, so the prep for your barbecue needs to be planned ahead of time.
THE FALL-BACK OPTIONS
When barbecuing, you need to be ready for the weather to strike at any moment. What are you going to do if it starts raining or the sun begins setting earlier than expected?
A BBQ shelter can keep the show on the road when things get wet, and some solar-powered decking lights will allow the barbecue party to carry on as long as you want it to. Don’t let the temperamental nature of the weather undermine your barbecue; with the right equipment you can be barbecuing all year round, at any time of day.
If you love cooking outdoors, then maybe it’s time you turned your barbecue hobby into a way of life. The aforementioned tips can help you on your way.
8 Tips from a BBQ Pro
NAME: Bob Sutton
TITLE: Owner of Bullies BBQ; Certified Executive Chef, American Culinary Association
BACKGROUND: Sutton’s career as a chef began in 1973. After a long career cooking upscale contemporary cuisine, he changed his focus to barbecue in 2008, opening his first Bullies BBQ in Medina, Ohio. Sutton moved to Hilton Head Island in 2012 and opened his second Bullies BBQ in a building next to the Kangaroo Express gas station. With counter service and writing covering the walls, his smoky hole-in-the-wall joint has become a local favorite, rising near the top of restaurant rankings on both Yelp and Trip Advisor. LOCAL Life reached out to the popular pitmaster for the following tips and advice:
Barbecue is a trial-and-error cooking method with as many opinions on it as there are stars in the sky. Everyone has a thought on what it should be or taste like. Good luck and Happy ‘queing…
 Do not get discouraged if it isn’t perfect your first few times. Keep trying.
 Keep it at low temperatures for long periods of time. I do different meats at different temperatures.
 Every tool (smoker or grill) works a little differently. Just because your neighbor’s $3,000 Traeger cooks pork in eight hours doesn’t mean your $60 Weber can do the same, but don’t think you can’t make just as good or better barbecue. We were using the latter long before the high-tech stuff.
 Experiment and take notes so you know what did or did not work the last time.
 Even temperature control is important for good results. This is probably the hardest thing to achieve. It requires a lot of tending and watching. Set timers for checking your ‘que.
 Animals can be different. Some are tender and others are just tough and mean. It may take 12 hours to do one pork butt and 16 for another. Check your meat for tenderness as you go. I am an old-school chef who judges with a fork, not a thermometer. As I stated earlier, everyone has an opinion. Do what is best for you.
 Keep your ‘que moist as it cooks. This can be done with water pans in the smoker and basting with a thin sauce.
 Keep trying different techniques until you find one that works.
Sutton’s thin basting sauce
2 cups apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup water
1/2 stick butter
Directions Warm in a sauce pan, whipping to emulsify the butter into the mix. Do not overheat. Just enough for the butter to melt. Baste meat during cooking process once an hour.