The Different Cooking Methods on the Barbecue

Barbecuing is an easy way to cook up a feast, but it can be even simpler if you know the right cooking techniques.

Here at BBQ Tips, we’ve created this small, handy guide of the different barbecue cooking methods out there, and when is best to use them.

Direct Cooking

Direct cooking is when the food is placed directly on top of the heat source. This is essentially grilling the food rather than barbecuing in the traditional sense. This way of cooking should be used for food like sausages, kebabs, burgers, and vegetables.

Direct heat is good for fast cooking foods, especially as the temperature can get extremely high, even getting up to 300°c. The direct heat from the barbecue sears and caramelizes the outside of the food whilst cooking the food through to the centre. Once the barbecue has seared the outside of the food, we recommend turning down the heat of your barbecue slightly as you allow the rest of the meat to cook so you avoid burning the outside of your food.

Indirect Cooking

This method of cooking involves having two distinct areas on your barbecue, one area for the embers or heat source, and the other area where the food cooks. You can either have the lit heat source at one end of the barbecue and cook the food at the other end, or you could have the heat sources at both edges and cook the food in the middle.

This method of cooking is ideal for foods that take longer than 20 minutes to cook. For example, cooking a whole chicken, or large joints of meat. The indirect method ensures that the food is cooked all the way through without burning the outside. This is achieved because having the heat sources away from the food means that the temperature is lower, possibly only reaching 200°c.

Indirect heat is also a good way to keep food warm if some of your other foods are taking longer. The indirect method also gives you the ability to cook different foods on the bbq at the same time. Whilst your burgers are cooking over the heat, you could have a large steak sat at the side cooking slowly.

Smoke Cooking

Smoking can be used for flavouring your food as well as cooking it. Smoking is nearly always best done over indirect heat, with different types of wood offering different tastes to your food.

When using wood to smoke your food, it’s best to soak it in water before lighting, because this will lead to the wood-burning slower and for longer giving your food plenty of time to absorb the smokey flavours. For more smoke, you could try putting a tin foil tray half-filled with water in the bottom of your barbecue. This creates steam that will help encourage smokey flavours.

Smoking your food can take a long time; for large cuts of meat, it could take up to 16 hours. A piece of pork belly could take about 6 hours to cook when using the smoking method. However, despite the length of time it takes, it can certainly be worth the wait!

Lid open or closed on the barbecue?

Having the lid closed is best when using the indirect cooking method because it traps more of the heat inside allowing the centre of your food to be cooked properly. If you leave the lid of your barbecue closed when cooking the thin, fast cooking foods, the middles will cook before the outside of the food has had time to caramelize.

Leaving the lid of your barbecue open will lead to a more crispy and caramelized taste and texture to the outside of your food because the heat will only be rising from the bottom from one direction rather than being circulated around.

There are multiple ways to achieve the perfect barbecued food, and now you can select the right method for the food you want to cook.

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