If you’re not up on the slang, a Kiwi is someone from New Zealand. Over at reddit, user /u/whetu lays down some sincere guidelines for how to host the perfect one. The comments have been only slightly bowdlerized for my audience.
Sometimes a circle of friends has that friend who rises above the rest and gets decreed the master of the grill. Unfortunately for me, in my circle of friends, I am that guy. I’m not that hard core about BBQ’s either, but I’ll offer the following:
- Start by getting your act together. Make sure you have cooking oil/spray, any herbs/spices/sauces, tools, FOIL, enough of whichever flammable you’re using, rubbish bins, ice buckets etc
- Ambiance. Line up some tunes that set the mood. Last BBQ I ran, I queued up all sorts of summery music: Black Seeds, Breaks Co-Op, UB40, Katchafire, Herbs, right on down to Groove Armada… You also need to be selective about the mix. You can’t just chuck together albums from a few select artists and hope for the best. You don’t have to like it either. It’s background music for a BBQ, not a rave.
- If you know in advance that the BBQ’s going to happen, marinade something. Ribs? Oh yes. Does it matter how? Not really. Find a recipe online that has decent feedback and try it. If the BBQ’s at your place, take it up a notch and slow-cook those bad boys.
- If you’re going to a BBQ on short notice, NEVER get sausages. EVERYBODY gets sausages. Get fresh mussels and a bottle of white wine instead. Mussels are cheap and stupidly easy to do on the BBQ.
- If you do buy sausages, get decent ones from a proper butcher. Not the bag of “contains 30% meat” sausages. I worked in a butcher shop for a decade, don’t get me started.
- On that note: If you’re going to a BBQ, don’t arrive with sausages and eat all the steak. That’s ignorant behaviour deserving of an uppercut. Likewise, don’t bring a box of Tui and then help yourself to the range of microbrewed/craft/imported beer that others have brought along. Don’t be a jerkwad.
- Start with a clean BBQ. If it’s messy, run it for 20-30 minutes, then clean it, oil it, let it come back up to temperature and then start using it. Chastise the moron who left it in a mess.
- Learn/know your grill. They almost all have hot spots. Learn to use the hot spots for cooking and the colder spots for keeping cooked food warm. If it has a warming rack, use that to your advantage.
- If you’re the master of the grill, make sure you’ve got a deputy. Someone to hang around, talk to, hand you beers and to take over as needed. You’ve gotta leave the grill at some point to visit the facilities or something. Don’t let the responsibility of your tongs fall to your mate Johnny “It’s not burnt: it’s Cajun Style” McDoughhead.
- It’s not all about you. Rotate with your deputy. When you come back, hand them the beers, let them run the grill until they need to go themselves. Cheekily blame them for anything that’s overcooked.
- Hygiene, dipweed! Did you just use the bathroom and not wash your hands? Or cross-contaminate from raw to cooked food? That’s twenty vigorous whacks with the tongs.
- I like to have a special needs corner of the BBQ for the pain in the butt participants: the friend who likes his lamb chops cooked to ash, the mum whose kid apparently gets hyper unless their sausages are preservative free, the born-again whatever whose halal sherka derka goat chops need to be cooked with blessed oils, the friend’s preachy level-8 vegan girlfriend and her soysages… that kind of thing. Yes, I have experienced all of those things.
- Cheap meat, grazing foods (e.g. mussels) and pain the butt participants are dealt to first.
- Experiment with the cheap meat to see what flavour combinations work. I have a lemon tree right next to my BBQ so I’m always chucking lemon juice or lemon zest onto things. Lemon and cayenne pepper steaks is a favourite combo of mine. I also wipe the grills with a sliced lemon as part of cleaning.
- Don’t cook all of the sausages. You’ve been to BBQ’s before: you know they’re not all going to be eaten. Last BBQ I ran (40 odd people), 6kg’s of sausages arrived. I cooked maybe half a kilo. It wasn’t all eaten. The rest went into the freezer.
- Don’t prick or pierce the sausages. Fat is not evil. Leave it in the casing to help cook whatever meat is in there.
- Patience is a virtue. One friend in our circle is banned from grilling because he thinks there has to be a theatre about it; throwing good booze on there to get flames spewing forth and constantly messing with meat. That’s not how you get your steaks perfectly cross-hatched. That’s how you overcook things. Put the meat on and leave it the hqiz alone until it needs to be touched again.
- Seriously. One of the most important things you can do to improve all aspects of your cooking is to learn patience.
- The exception is if you need to constantly flip your meat, say you’re doing a steak Heston Blumenthal style. If that’s the case, you likely know what’s up and don’t need this stupid list.
- Further to that, put your meat in a roasting dish, loosely cover with foil and let it rest. This is doubly important with steak. It’s the difference between dry, chewy steak, and perfect juicy goodness. Any hands attempting to get at those steaks before, say, five minutes of resting? Whack them with your tongs. This, more than anything else, is the reason I was promoted to master of the grill. There’s something to be said about a steak that bites clean and juicy.
- Yes. Even a cheap-ish cut of steak like rump can yield amazing results if you handle it properly. It’s also a great cut for practising with.
- You’ve got foil. Use it wisely. You can use it to protect wood skewers.
- One of the boys shows up with some fish he caught that morning? Poisson en papillote au barbecue, baby! Gut and scale, stuff with whatever herbs are handy, salt and pepper, squeeze out half a lemon’s worth of juice all over, the other half cut into slices or halved again and packed in there. A decent knob of unsalted butter. Wrap it in parchment paper, then a newspaper and tie it up with butcher’s twine. Soak the paper briefly in water and biff it on the warming rack of the BBQ (failing that, turn the BBQ down and try the plate rather than the grill). Look around for recipes for this great cooking method.
- Veggies. This might make it easier on the people entrusted to that task: Get them to boil the potatoes until they just start to soften, then transfer to squares of foil. Throw in whatever else: sliced carrot, asparagus, capsicums, mushrooms, baby onions… season to taste (e.g. lemon and cayenne pepper again) and add a knob of unsalted butter. Fold them up nice and tight into parcels. They take 10-15 minutes on the BBQ, if that. This tends to be better suited to a BBQ with lower attendance, say, some friends come over for dinner kind of thing.
- You can do courgettes in a veggie parcel, but I prefer to do them straight on the grill. Cut in half, season, cook cut-side down on an angle for a few minutes. Flip once. Few more minutes.
- Have some respect: Thank whoever sorted out the
- Have some respect: It’s not all about the grill. You should help with setup and cleanup, and if you’re any good, you’ll be cleaning as you cook.
- Importantly: Have some respect: So you’ve been invited to a BBQ and the grill isn’t your preferred type? You prefer a Weber charcoal BBQ manned by scantily-clad Swedish models. How dare these people who invited you here use a gas BBQ?! Why, you should just give them a piece of your mind! On the other hand, you know where your house is.
- The master of the grill generally gets kudos but misses out on the good stuff. If you want awesome steak, you need to set aside a stash for yourself (e.g. warming rack), or eat as you go.
- When it’s all done, let the BBQ just cook off for 10 minutes, then give it a clean by whichever way you find appropriate. Then switch it off, and lightly oil the grill and plate to protect them, leaving it good and clean for next time. Find the moron who left it messy last time and chastise them again.
I thought I’d just reinforce a point. I touched on it earlier. In a word: experiment! The absolute best BBQ’s I’ve been to have had people arriving with foods with all sorts of marinades, spices etc. I had a Greek boss once and he’d host staff xmas parties at his place. The coal cooked kebabs were to die for. I had a friend bring a South African mate from his rugby team around to one of my BBQ’s, and he brought some kickass spicy Boerewors and some Braai skills. It goes on…
So experiment with marinades, herbs, spices, flavours. You will fail sometimes, there will be recipes online that have great feedback but just aren’t to your taste, but the times where a combination works are the times that you really remember.
/u/That_One_Australian has pointed out that I didn’t go into detail about correct steak procedure. This was intentional because I didn’t want to go on forever about aging, temperature, correct seasoning etc. Perfect steak method videos are frontpage news all the time. Educate yourself, integrate tips from all of the below into a method that you like (experiment!), they apply to BBQing:
- Heston method 1
- Heston method 2
- Alton Brown’s Good Eats
- MORE ALTON BROWN
- Gordon Ramsay
- If you need cross hatching explained
Note: American friends please note: Kiwis use the term BBQ to describe the event (you may call it a cook/grill out), and the grill – both charcoal and gas. Keep in mind: You’re not the target audience. Accept the cultural/regional difference.
I’m by no means a champion grillmaster, but I’m learning – and this was an amazing tutorial. I’ll definitely be taking pages from this individual’s book.
The Old Wolf has spoken.