Salt and Pepper

Salt and pepper are your basic ingredients everytime you decide to barbecue. My preference on pepper is i mixture of black and pink because they are mild and not as spicy as red pepper. I usually use a lot of pepper because I love it (I even use it in cocktail drinks and ice-cream with mastic).

There are many variations of salt flavors you can buy almost anywhere. If you haven’t tried it yet i strongly recommend getting a smoked salt package. It accompanies almost any type of meat you decide to grill.

Best spices for lamb

  1. Cummin. Although raw it doesn’t impress, when cooked it excretes a very naturish flavor and in my opinion is the best spice to use for seasoning.
  2. Garlic. Lamb has a very intense flavor and garlic helps t regulate that.
  3. Rosemary. I don’t prefer it in large quantities. Even a small bunch can rise your lamb to barbecue heaven.
  4. Sumac. A middle-eastern spice that provides a fruity sourness to neatly blend the other spices together.

Best spices for grilled chicken

  1. Aleppo Chilly. Sweet and spicy and adds great to the savory tastes of barbecue.
  2. Mustard seeds. Great to use for seasoning. They give the taste of mustard but can be used in moderation to just pitch up a notch to your grilled chicken.
  3. Ethiopian berbere. Again sweet, spicy, discrete, delicate. It gives your meat that earthly flavor that actually makes a difference.
  4. Paprika. Nice strong aroma, kind of gives a middle-eastern touch to your poultry.
  5. Garlic. My all time favorite, use it to season the chicken with moderation and turn the flavor meter to its highest point.

Barbecue session!

Barbecues are all about the good times. For me and my friends it is what we have in common.  For others it is all about tradition and culture. Others view it as just another cooking method.

This is my take on how a barbecue should look like.

First of all you need your mates. Everyone gets a task and everyone is involved in the cooking of the meat. During the preparation process you chill, talk about what is new, prepare any side dishes if there are any.  You put beers in the fridge to cool down and (as we tend to say with my friends) “mount” the meat. After you have started your fire and you decide your grill is ready through on your meat. And have a nice cold beer.

Here in Greece we have a lot of local brands and just for the fun of it you can check them out HERE.

7 Common barbecue mistakes

  1. Lack of proper tools. If you lack the proper tool then chances are you are not going to achieve a good result. Choosing the proper utensils is the first step towards avoiding barbecue threatening errors. (Avoid using cheap metal or plastic utensils).
  2. Mistreating your barbecue arsenal. Leaving your grill and tools exposed to the weather you are essentially asking for them to ware down. Rain, sun, snow, it doesn’t matter. You need to store them in dry places after you have cleaned them and dried them out. Again, remember you handle your food with them so be careful so your barbecue session doesn’t lead you to the hospital.
  3. Dirty grill! For a fact many people tend to clean their grill 1-2 times a year. You don’t have to be extremely methodical when doing so. just clean the burnt parts (meat, fats) and get rid of excess ash so it doesn’t become a colony of bacteria and germs. All it takes is 10 minutes.
  4. Lack of preparation! Don’t leave everything up to the last minute. Just don’t. Before you start your barbecue make sure your meat and vegetables are prepared and ready to grill. It could cause trouble to run at the last minute to chop down your tomatoes or to defrost your meat. Again it is quite important to clean your tools and grill once more.
  5. Don’t be hasty. You do have to let your grill acquire the right temperature. Gas operated or with charcoal the grill has to reach a certain level of degrees to be ready to use. (90 degrees Celsius for example is pretty much perfect if you want to slow cook your meat). if you use the barbecue before the appropriate temperature you risk losing time and actually achieving the best result in your food.
  6. Applying your sauce. i love using barbecue sauce with my meat, but as i have found the hard there is a proper way of doing that as well. If you put too much at the beginning you will end up burning the sauce and ruining the flavor of your meat. you need to use a brush and frequently add small layers as the cooking progresses.
  7. Grill to mouth. Another tip is to let the meat rest for about 10 minutes after you have removed it from the barbecue. I know! For me it is the hardest part. But trust me when i tell you that if you cut it it will dry out and lose all of its juices. If you let it rest, what you get is a mouth watering meaty and tasty bite.

Preparation and Seasoning!

This is the part of barbecue that i love the most! Oh the flavors. From a very small age my mother would buy my spices as birthday gifts, because she saw i would get so excited. I am now at the point that i have my own cupboard with various spices and containers that have different kinds of mixes for different purposes: Grilled meat (pork, chicken. lamb, beef, fish), smoked meat, smoked or grilled vegetables.

The preparation process to me is a ritual. They way you handle your meat, your utensils and your grill is for me what distinguishes men from boys. Keeping a clean work space results in maximizing your flavor and ofcourse minimizing health hazards.

When it comes to preparing the meat, seasoning is very important. Through seasoning you achieve flavor and texture. There are different seasonings that result in making your meat softer or juicier, and there are others that form a protective coating around it for slow cooking purposes.

Depending on the seasoning you chose, you leave the meat to marinade in it for some hours. Some meats and seasoning require 1-4 hours and other a day or two in the fridge. After you have chosen the seasoning you prefer, leave your meat outside the fridge to let it set to room temperature and then you are ready to grill!

The seasoning and marinade should consist of three components:

FAT: olive oil, vegetable oil

OXIDANTS: vinegar, wine, lemon and orange juice, kiwi and even milk or yogurt

SPICES: any  fresh or dry herb you like, you can combine as you wish

ATTENTION: we avoid marinading the meat in metal containers because it has low Ph and you cannot use the marinade again unless it is used to cook some kind of sauce.

On the grill now, make sure you clean the grill very well and apply a small amount of oil on it so that the meat doesn’t stick on it. Again depending on your meat you arrange the positioning of the charcoal to achieve greater results. My recommendation is to grill directly over the charcoal when it comes to thin slices of meat such as lamb chops or thin steaks; and indirect cooking by grilling them next to your heat source when it comes to large pieces of meat (to avoid burning the outside before the inside is evenly cooked.

Proper way to GRILL

Hot or cold?

As you gain more experience when it comes to barbecue you will discover that sometimes being able to manage the temperature of the charcoal might suit what you have decided to grill, better. Some techniques are: moving the charcoal to the one side of the grill so that on the other side you have a drop in temperature. you can use this method only if you are flipping the meat constantly and changing sides so that you achieve the silver lining between burnt and under cooked. Again the shape and size of your barbecue are to be considered. The more traditional way is to gather up all the surrounding ashes and gently pour them over the charcoal. Be careful though. You might end up over covering them and suffocating the flame they have. You might fail at doing so in the beginning, but without failing the is no learning. And of course you can remove some of the charcoal from the grill so that they generate less heat. Place them in a metal bucket or in a container with dirt so that they burn out. Be careful not to throw them somewhere that can start a fire because if you do, you might end up grilling more than you wished for.

 

Avoid opening the barbecue lid more than you have to.

I fully understand that at some point you will want to check your progress. And i also understand that you will be drooling waiting to taste what is on the grill. IT’S A TRAP!! by lifting the lid you end up losing heat moisture and that smokey flavor I would wear if it came out as perfume. Your meat will become dry and hard to chew and all that preparation and waiting will lead you to eventually ordering a proper meal to satisfy your expectations. If you open your lid only once just to flip the meat, the heat, the smoke and ofcourse time will reward you. The way to know when your meat on the grill is ready is through trial and error (experience) or by using a food thermometer.

Getting started!

Light it up.

Let’s start from the basics. How to light your fire when you are ready to grill!! As every form of art, the artist is free to create in his own will. But there some things that you better avoid. Don’t use lighter fluids or other accelerates that contain petroleum or any other harmful substances. This can ruin your health but most importantly the meat that you grill. Prefer using newspaper as it will last a bit underneath the coal. I personally prefer soaking some olive oil in cotton because it has a very slow combustion and will stay lit long enough so the charcoal begin to burn on their own.

 

When is the fire ready?  

Before you decide to place your meat on the grill you have to make sure your fire is ready. Grilling meat on a fire that is not ready can result to your meat being under cooked, having a “funny” taste because of the fumes of the charcoal, and maybe sometimes lead you throwing away your meat which is a big no-no. The time required for the charcoal to be ready varies depending on a large number of factors. Some of them are the quality of the charcoal, the wind, your barbecue design, what you have used in order to ignite them. In general it takes from 15 to about 40 minutes for your grill to be placed on the fire.

The rule of thumb is that you are ready to barbecue when the charcoal turns white.

 

Increase your chance to succeed. Choose the right meat to grill.

Traditional bbq requires meat. So choose carefully the meat you grill to avoid turning your barbecue session into a disaster. Avoid getting thick pieces of meat so that you don’t end up leaving the inside raw. An example fork pork steaks is for them to be 2-4 cm thick at maximum. Request from the butcher you buy the meat that he removes the excess fat or if you know how to do it, gear up with your sharp knife and trim it. The reason is that the fat ignites and by removing it you avoid burning the meat you grill. You can grill any type of meat but just remember every piece or type takes its own time to cook properly.

From zero to hero! 3 useful tips to get started

It’s all about practice. Becoming a BBQ legend requires practice and the right equipment. No one is born with culinary expertise and know-how of how to prepare your setup for a successful barbecue session. Here are some small tips to get started.

 

Find a grill that suits you.

If you haven’t already gotten yourself a grill there are many choices that prove to serve different purposes. If you are considering on getting a grill that work on gas keep in mind that although it is convenient when it comes to cleanliness, you lose a lot from the traditional smokey flavor that comes with the good old fashioned charcoal operated grills. There are also some barbecue grills that operate as smokers but I am going to get into those in a separate blog post. Size counts! You can either start with a small grill to roast chops, sausages and other parts of meats that are cut down to small manageable pieces, or you can go for a rather big one where you can load up a whole pig or lamb and have a feast with a large number of friends and family.

 

A grill on its own can’t cook.

Besides the grill you need a number of utensils. A nice pair of tweezers to grab and flip your meat to keep it juicy and avoid burning it. A long fork and a sharp knife are more of use than you think. Knives help you cut your meat in the size of your choice without ruining the texture of the meat and the fork is used in order to handle some types of roast meat. A wire brush is a MUST when you decide to barbecue so that you can clean your grill so you don’t end up consuming rotten and burnt pieces of meat you grilled in previous sessions.

 

Charcoal as diamonds.

My nightmare!! If you finally decide to use a charcoal barbecue the quality of the charcoal is very and I repeat my self VERY important. You need to find charcoal that has an acceptable size and last for at least 2 hours. It might sound silly but trust me it might ruin your barbecue session. If you find a supplier of good quality charcoal give them a hug and keep buying from them.

BBQ Time!

I am a barbecue enthusiast if that can be considered a thing. I am 26 years old and i live in Greece. Many of our traditions demand family gatherings and consuming meat which i could say is my main source of nutrition. Many people consider my love for barbecue to be because of the food. WRONG! Well it is also about the food. But the reason I consider barbecue as my hobby is because i see it as a form of art. The possibilities and variations of what you can create is what drives me and what makes me be in a constant search for new things, such as ideas, experiences and of course flavors.This blog was conceived as an idea because I was looking for a way to express my passion and eventually exchange points of view.