1 Get yourself good charcoal and a starter
If you’re using charcoal, you can find a chimney starter for less than a tenner in many supermarkets. Buy natural firelighters, light from below and wait until the majority of coals are red and there’s some white on top. Then fire your coals into your grill. Also, invest in decent charcoal. Just because it all looks the same, doesn’t mean it is. Lumpwood is great for high heat but may not last as long and is more unpredictable than briquettes, which are the best of both worlds.
2 Elevate the cheaper and more humble
While a big piece of expensive bone-in ribeye will work a treat when cooked on a hot grill, other cheaper cuts and meats will benefit even more from the smoke and also indirect cooking. Get a whole chicken, brine it for a day, season and then place offset and away from the hot coals. Spatchcocking will speed up cooking but do it low and slow until ready and it’ll be the moistest chicken you’ve ever had.
3 Make (or buy) a decent rub
You may want the simple smoky flavour to shine through, but a decent dry rub is good to have by your side to coat ribs, chicken, cheaper steak cuts, pork chops or belly, or, if you’re feeling more ambitious, a brisket. Magic Dust is a very versatile option. However, you can make your own easily and there are lots of recipes online as a guide. If you’re cooking a lot buy a couple of key ingredients, such as smoked paprika and black pepper in bulk to save a fortune.
4 Watch your coals (heat)
If cooking on gas, you’ll have more control over the heat but it’s not really designed for slower cooks. If you’re on charcoal and cooking a few things, set up one area of the grill for direct heat. You can use it to sear while the other side can be used for slower, indirect cooking with the lid down. Use your vents to adjust the temperature if needed.
5 Don’t forget your vegetables
You can elevate vegetables when cooking on the barbecue, especially when using charcoal (this applies to meat and everything in between). Try cutting whole celeriac into thick steaks, season, sear then cook on indirect side. Stick some halved shallots into foil with butter and herbs and put to the side of the grill for the duration of the cook. Peppers, onions, chillies and corn are also firm favourites.
6 Make sure you have the tools for the job
You’ll likely be able to use something like a metal fish slice for burgers or the like, but invest in heavy steel barbecue tongs so you can get a good grip on things and can easily and quickly move things towards, or away, from the hotter parts of the grill.
7 Throw on some smoking wood
While there are ways of adding flavouring woods to a gas barbecue, it’s more straightforward on a charcoal one. You can buy chunks of apple, hickory and cherry wood online, which you can place on your coals, or chips, which you can throw on for a quicker cook and flavour profile.
8 Get a temperature probe
You get what you pay for here, but something is better than nothing. Cooking on a barbecue is not an exact science and a digital temperature probe will ensure everything reaches the internal point it needs to.
9 Do it all on the grill
If your grill is large enough and you aren’t cooking for too many, you can do pretty much everything on the barbecue. Potatoes will cook wrapped in foil with some oil or butter, you can grill bread over the direct coals and heat items in metal pans. It also helps keep the kitchen (relatively) clean.
10 A barbecue isn’t just for summer
We’re unlikely to get much use out of it if we only stick to the warm days so, in general, use your grill as much as possible, weather dependent, even if you aren’t eating outside.