How to Grill – UK BBQ Week

UKBBQWeek2018It is the middle of a heat wave in the UK right now and everyone will have fired up their BBQ’s or more precisely grills and if you are using charcoal or a gas grill, you need to know the best temperature for cooking your food. Now you can guesstimate by holding your hand over the grill, but I would not recommend it. I suggest getting yourself a decent thermometer and attaching the probe to your grill close to where you cook your meat or fish. Your BBQ, if it has a lid, will often have a built-in thermometer but that will measure the air temperature which can be 50 degrees cooler than the cooking surface where the action takes place.

BBQ charcole

Adjusting the temperature is easy with a gas fired BBQ you can simply adjust the flames on a charcoal fire, once the coals are glowing and turning white your best method is to move the distance between the grill and the coals. The higher the grill the lower the direct heat.

Low Heat Around 325 F / 160 C is perfect for sausages which need to be thoroughly cooked with burning or bursting the skins. You will be able to hold your hand over the heat source for up to ten seconds.

Medium Heat  Around 350 F / 180 C is best for cooking chicken thighs and drumsticks where it is important that the meat is cooked through without the exterior burning to a crisp. It is about six or seven seconds before you will need to move your hand.

BBQ 3
Grilling Fish

Medium-High Heat Between 400 and 450 F / 200 to 230 C. When you want to get a nice browning or crust on your food, but the interior is moist and tender, such as a thick piece of fish, grilled vegetables or a tasty medium-rare burger. You will only be able to hold your hand over the grill for about five seconds.

BBQ 2

High Heat

A temperature of 450 F / 230 C and above is perfect for flash cooking seafood, chicken or steak kebabs, and onglet or hanger steaks. The high heat adds some charring, with regular turning to prevent burning, and is sufficient to cook the food. If you hold your hand over the heat you can only bare it for one or two seconds.

Texas-style BBQ Sauce and the Most Important BBQ That Never

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It is another of those food days / weeks, I have written recipes when it has been National Toast Day ( yes really ), National Fish and Chips Day, Bramley Apple Week and National Yorkshire Pudding Day, this time I won’t complain too much as it one of my favourites National BBQ Week. I adore smoky, sticky BBQ food and love to cook it but do you know the most important BBQ in history?

Well by nineteen sixty-three Lyndon B. Johnson had risen above the hurly-burly politics of his native Texas to become vice president of the United States in the administration of the meteoric John F Kennedy. In a government of outstanding personalities including the president’s charismatic brother the attorney general, secretary of defense Robert McNamara and secretary of state Dean Rusk, many saw Johnson’s role as mere window dressing. Yet this homely former school teacher established himself with quiet determination and pioneered what became known as barbecue diplomacy. As people relaxed due to the informal atmosphere of a barbecue around a pit or grill it was often easier for LBJ to talk business than in the rigid formal settings of a state banquette.

LBJ Photo.jpg

At his home on the banks of the Perdernale river, LBJ hosted an array of important barbecues for VIP dignitaries and most of these were catered for by Walter Jettson. He ran a local, well for Texas, catering company in Fort Worth and prepared the food at the LBJ ranch. On November 23, 1963, the staff of the ranch and Jettson were preparing for the biggest event of their lives the president was to visit and eat smoked ribs and brisket. As we all know he was never to make it. LBJ was sworn in as the thirty-sixth president of the United States on board airforce one carrying the body of President Kennedy back to Washington. Jettson was to become the President’s Pitmaster * and LBJ even flew him around the country to cater at political rallies. On the back of his celebrity, Jetton published a barbecue cookbook, which is unfortunately out of print but available on Amazon and other retailers.

Jetton catered for the first barbecue at the White House and continued to do so during LBJ’s term in office. When he decided not to stand for re-election LBJ hosted one last farewell barbecue on the White House lawns for over two hundred friends and supporters. The Texas-style ribs must have been quite special as the Swiss-born, formally trained, White House head chef Henry Haller, wrote in his The White House Family Cookbook, ” He did a terrific job and I was most impressed with the results. His barbecue sauce avoided all of the common flaws (oversweetening, overcooking, excessive thinning) and by serving the sauce separately, he also avoided drying out the meat. ”

*Pit Master : An experienced barbecue cook, a skilled craftsman, who watches over the pit and can tell by sight, sound, smell, and touch, if it is running too hot or too cold, when it needs fuel, when to add wood, when to add sauce, and when the meat is ready.

Barbecue Sauce

Here is my only slightly amended version of Walter Jetton’s recipe as always as the full recipe is of authentic American origin it is measured in cups. A cup is between 200 and 250ml, providing one standard cup is used the proportions will work.

Walter Jettons’s Texas – style BBQ Sauce

1 1/2 cups Water

1 cup Ketchup

1/2 cup Cider Vinegar

3 Stalks Celery, washed and chopped

1/4 cup Butter

1/4 cup Worcestershire Sauce

1/2 cup Onion, peeled and finely chopped

3 Bay Leaves

1 Large Clove Garlic, peeled and minced

½ tablespoon Sugar

1 teaspoon Chilli Powder

1 teaspoon Smoked Paprika

1/8 teaspoon Sea Salt

pinch of freshly ground Black Pepper

Mix all ingredients together. Place in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil and simmer for ½ an hour. Remove from heat and strain.

Walter Jetton’s LBJ Barbecue Cookbook– By the Caterer to the LBJ Ranch, Written with Arthur Whitman, 1965, Pocket Books.

Weekend Top Tip

Rosemary Skewers

Bank holiday barbecuing for a truly  tantalizing taste bud treat use 12 – 15 cm pieces of woody rosemary stem to skewer meat or fish and vegetables for grilling and barbecuing. The skewers look great and add a fantastic flavour to your dish. Cut off the rosemary stems and pull off most of the lower leaves leaving around 2 cm at the top. Then soak the prepared stems in cold water for a couple hours, this will help prevent any skewer not covered with food from burning on the grill. Thread on your ingredients and cook.

Use marinated shoulder of lamb and peppers,  Monk fish and cherry tomatoes or king prawns and scallops wrapped in bacon.

Weekend Top Tip

Burger

As we are about to hit peak season for barbecues in the UK and everyone loves a char-grilled burger this is just a simple tip to help your delicious homemade burger keep its shape when cooking. All meat contracts slightly as it cooks and as the proteins in your burger heat up it will pull together. To keep a nice round shape simply press your thumb gently into the center of the burger as you put it on the grill leaving a slight imprint. As the meat contracts, the burger will not end up the shape of an orange but retain its perfect burger patty pattern.

 

Super Bowl 50 & The Best Buffalo Wings Ever

Sunday is a milestone in American sport the fiftieth Super Bowl. Now I am no expert on the game but I know that the Super Bowl is always celebrated in some style. I imagine that for the fiftieth the celebrations will be spectacular and as millions gather in bars or at home to watch, food plays a massive role. So what are the top snacks piled on the table tops across the USA? Heaps of Nachos with spicy dips, bacon stuffed crispy potato skins, beer broiled Hot dogs smothered in onions, cheese, mustard and ketchup, buttered corn-on-the-cob and sticky BBQ ribs all washed down with ice-cold beer will all be popular but THE Super Bowl snack is the Buffalo Wing.

As a professional chef a long time ago potato skins were what your potato came in and they were as likely as not peeled off. The only time you saw a chicken wing in a hotel or restaurant kitchen was in a stock pot. At home the chicken carcass, neck and wings made a base for hearty soups, and nothing was wasted. With the advent of commercialization of poultry farming and of mass refrigeration throughout the food supply chain from a producer, supplier, distributor and in the home, customers became ever more able to pick and choose their favourite part of the bird. People wanted the thigh, breast and leg consequently butcher’s almost paid the chef to take away the wings which no one wanted.

And then……

On October 30, 1964, in Buffalo, New York, at the now legendary Anchor Bar*, the owner Teressa Bellissimo created a late-night snack for her son and his friends. At hand, a surfeit of chicken wings, which she deep fried, dressed in a sticky, sweet chilli flavoured butter sauce and served them with celery sticks and a creamy, blue cheese dip. The buffalo wings, they are from Buffalo, I knew you were going to ask me about that, became popular and for a while they were free on the bar for regulars. Is it me but do all fridges seem to have celery and blue cheese lurking within ready for late night culinary inspiration, and anchovies and olives and Parmesan, actually that is more like a small deli and perhaps for another article.

Since that day chicken or ‘ Buffalo ’ wings have become a little more popular and on Sunday night, it is estimated a mammoth 1.25 billion wings will be eaten during the 50th Super bowl. Chicken wings are now universally popular and come in numerous sauce varieties from sweet, oriental to smoked or hickory style.

* The city of Buffalo has designated July 29 as “Chicken Wing Day,” and today, the Anchor Bar serves up more than 70 thousand pounds of chicken per month. The Anchor Bar original recipe for hot sauce is now sold commercially.

 

Buffalo Wings.jpg

Oven baked Buffalo Wings

 makes approx. 24 pieces

Buffalo Wings are a personal favourite I love the mix of spicy chicken, cool full of flavour blue cheese dip and crisp celery. This easy convenient recipe bakes the wings instead of frying. It is a little more healthy –  just and so much easier.

For the Wings

1 kg Chicken Wings (about 12 wings)

3 tablespoons Butter

4 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and very finely crushed

6 tablespoons good Tomato Ketchup

1 tablespoon bottled Hot Pepper Sauce

1 tablespoon Honey

2 tablespoon Dry Sherry

1 tablespoon Smoked Paprika

½ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

 

For the Blue Cheese Dip

125 ml Sour Cream

125 ml Mayonnaise

100 gr crumbled, mild Blue Cheese ( I use Danish Blue )

1 tablespoon quality Cider Vinegar

1 Clove Garlic, peeled and very finely crushed

A generous pinch or two of Celery Salt

Freshly ground Black Pepper

Celery sticks

The parts of the wing used will also vary from person to person and restaurant to restaurant. Some will cut off the wing tip and separate the remaining wing pieces. Some cook all three parts together. I know some people who will eat the wing tip bone and all if it is fried up nice and crunchy. A good butcher will prepare the wings as you like.

For consistent, even cooking in the oven I cut up the wings by first removing the wing tips, they can go into the freezer ready for the stockpot. Then cut wings into two pieces, at the joint. Put chicken wing pieces in a large glass bowl, season generously, cover with cling film and set to one side. ( Make sure you thoroughly wash the board you cut the raw chicken on ).

In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan melt the butter and sauté the garlic over a low heat, without burning for two minutes. Add the ketchup, hot pepper sauce, dry sherry, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper and cook for five more minutes stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and allow to thoroughly cool down. When cold pour all but a couple of tablespoons of the marinade over the chicken pieces in the bowl. Cover with fresh cling film and place in the refrigerator and marinate for at least two hours.

Preheat your oven to 375F / 190C / Gas mark 5. Drain the chicken pieces and place on a wire rack over a metal roasting pan. Bake for thirty to thirty-five minutes, until the chicken is tender and no longer pink. The sticky marinade may char, don’t worry this all adds to the flavour. Remove from oven and baste with reserved marinade.

Serve with celery sticks and blue cheese dip

For the Blue cheese dip, combine dip ingredients – sour cream, mayonnaise, blue cheese, vinegar, and garlic – in a blender or food processor. Blend or pulse until smooth. Cover and chill. The dip can be made ahead and will keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator.

Wine

What to Drink? Medium spiced Buffalo wings are best paired  German-style Riesling wines or hoppy Continental-style Pilsner lagers and IPA beers.

 

 

Allergens in this recipe are;

  Flour   Milk    Celery

Grilled Burger

National Burger Day – How to Cook the Perfect Burger

A quick look at the weather forecast confirms pretty much what I learnt as I got drenched walking into work this morning, and I live two minutes away from the office. As the Bank holiday approaches the end of this British summer is certainly a washout, and not perhaps then the best time to think about barbecuing, but as tomorrow is National Burger Day I thought I would post how to cook the perfect burger. So if you miss the chance tomorrow there might be a sunny spell over the weekend and chance to give it a go.

Grilling Burgers
Burgers on the BBQ

At the heart of every burger is the meat to fat ratio, when selecting your cuts of meat to mince, you ideally want to achieve around 85% lean meat. The fat is very important to your finished burger, much of the flavour comes from the fat during cooking and is responsible for the correct mouthfeel of the finished product. The fat moistens the burger as it cooks, but much of fat will drain off onto the barbecue. If you cook too close to the coals, this is when you get flaring as the fat ignites. Less than 15% fat and your burger will be dry, much more and your burger will shrink drastically during cooking. The finished burger will only be, a not unhealthy 5% fat. You can ask your butcher for advice on which cuts to use, but a fifty/ fifty split of ground chuck and ground sirloin will achieve outstanding results.

If you do ask you butcher for advice he can help you with the next stage and mince your beef for you. You want to get a coarse grind. Too fine and the mixture is sloppy and the end result can be like rubber. You want to avoid working the meat as much as possible, your butcher will grind the beef in an industrial mincer which will process the beef quicker than a small handheld mincer. Many commercial burgers included numerous other ingredients, but I like to keep it simple with just sea salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. If you do want to add other ingredients, an onion is just about acceptable, dice them very, very finely. Anything over the finest dice and the added ingredients will not cook and the minced beef will not hold together leaving you with burger pieces on the grill.

If your butcher prepares your mince for you chill it for a couple of hours before you prepare the actual burgers. Keeping your seasoned burger mince cold by placing it in a bowl in another bowl packed with ice will result in a much better burger and help ensure a safe hygienic production. You could purchase a burger press if you are going to barbecue every weekend, but it is just as easy to shape a medium sized handful into a ball then lightly pat it flat. Run some cold water over your hands to keep them cool before you shape your burgers and try to work them as gently and as little as possible. Over handling bruises the meat and will result in a tough, dry burger. Cover a tray with cling film and place the completed burgers onto the film. Cover with more cling film and store in the refrigerator until cooking time

Fire up your clean barbecue and get the coals nice and hot so the grill heats up. Give the grill a good going over with a wire brush then very carefully give a quick wipe of oil. The safest method is to sprinkle some vegetable oil on a thick fold of kitchen paper. Using barbecue tongues wipe the oiled paper over the grill to wipe off any remaining burnt fragments and charcoal dust. Once the barbecue is ready we can cook.

Brush the chilled burgers with a little olive oil to help prevent sticking and place on the grill. Quickly press down with your thumb in the centre of each burger to leave a slight indentation, as the meat cooks and the proteins contract and pull together this will stop the burger looking like a rugby ball. Aim to leave a third of your grill empty. You might think this is an underemployment of your glowing coals but if you do get flare-ups you will have space to move your burgers and prevent them from burning. After three minutes give the burgers a ninety-degree turn ( that’s one quarter-turn ). If you think your burger is cooking too fast and it will burn just raise the grill one notch from the coals. Turning the burger will give the criss-cross appearance of char marks on your burger that will demonstrate your professional cooking skills. Do not be tempted to squash the burger with your spatula as this squeezes out the tasty melted fat leaving a dry burger.

Grilled Burger
Cooked Burger

After another two minutes, your burger is should be ready to flip, the edges will be browning and you might see pinkish pearls of moisture on the burger surface. As you develop your barbecue grilling skills you will learn the cooking times of different meats and cuts. You really only ever have to turn the burger over once let it cook for three more minutes and you can then check if it is ready. The cooking time is directly proportional to the thickness of your burger when it is ready any escaping juices will be clear and the internal temperature, if you check it with a thermometer should be over 180 F / 80C.

Place the cooked burgers on a warm plate, cover with foil and place to the side of the barbecue to keep warm and let them rest for a few minutes. Brush the cut sides of your burger rolls with a little melted butter and toast them over the coals. The rest is up to you, personally, I favour sliced pickles, crisp lettuce, and really ripe tomatoes and maybe a slice of Monterey Jack Cheese. Enjoy.