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How to spice up the barbecue season - guys behind Grillstock reveal top tips for cooking in the garden

By Ella Walker

Published 09/05/2016

Hot stuff: but don’t squash those burgers, as it will cause flare-ups
Hot stuff: but don’t squash those burgers, as it will cause flare-ups

It's official. Summer is well and truly on its way, so it's time to dust off the barbecue and prepare to hot-foot it to the supermarket meat aisle.

Summers in the UK may be a bit of a running joke in terms of the weather, but we certainly know how to make the most of whatever sunny days we are blessed with, and our love of a good barbecue is a prime example. (And let's face it, a bit of drizzle isn't going to get in the way of those hot-dogs).

Keen to up your barbecue game this summer? Jon Finch and Ben Merrington, founders of Grillstock Smokehouses and Festivals, inspired by their love for American BBQ culture, have a tip or two up their sleeves.

They dreamt up their business idea in 2009, when they - "two ordinary blokes with the simple need to have a good time and smoke some meat" - started chatting about how great it would be to bring "competition BBQ" to the UK. Seven years on, they're about to open their seventh Grillstock restaurant, and the flagship Grillstock Festival will take place in Bristol (July 2-3) promising "meat, music and mayhem".

Here, Finch and Merrington share their tips on grilling to perfection.


Before and after every session, you should clean and oil your grill. Get it nice and hot to burn off any crud, then, using tongs, rub over with a kitchen towel dipped in a light cooking oil. This keeps your grill hygienic, as well as helping prevent food from sticking to the bars.


Set up your BBQ so you have two cooking zones, one directly over the flames for searing, the other cooler to allow the meat to cook through indirectly. You can cook anything from sausages and burgers through to whole joints of meat this way. With a charcoal grill, just pile your coals to one side. With a gas grill, keep the burners medium-high on one side and low-off on the other.


True BBQ takes time and patience. The meat is done when it's done - don't try and rush things. When grilling, learn to control your fire and keep the heat consistent. Keep a spritz bottle full of water handy and douse flames that start getting out of hand.


And definitely don't squeeze. Once you've put the meat on the grill, just leave it. You should only turn once or twice through cooking. Squashing burgers and steaks down on the grill just squeezes out all the lovely juice and causes flare-ups.


BBQ sauces and glazes have a high sugar content that will burn very quickly and go bitter. Cook your meat through and then glaze/sauce towards the end and allow to go sticky over indirect heat.


Overcooking is as sinful as undercooking. Invest in a good instant read thermometer - so you know the exact temperature of the meat - and take away the guesswork. You'll always know the chicken is cooked through and you'll be able to serve up the perfect medium-rare steak.


Smoke is a seasoning, so learn to add subtle smoke flavour to your food. Wrap woodchips in a couple of layers of thick foil and pierce a few times before throwing on to the grill over the gas burners. With a charcoal BBQ, just throw the chips straight onto the coals and close the lid. Our favourite woods to smoke with are cherry, pecan and hickory.


Meat benefits from a generous seasoning prior to cooking. This base rub will work well, particularly on pork and chicken. Use this is a starting point to develop your own, according to the flavours you enjoy.

4tbsp paprika

2tbsp salt

1tbsp celery salt or garlic powder

2tbsp white sugar

2tbsp brown sugar

2tbsp cumin

2tbsp chilli powder

2tbsp black pepper

1tbsp cayenne pepper or chipotle

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and store in an air tight container.

For more tips and info, visit and

Belfast Telegraph

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