The trick to good grilling isn’t digging up some crazy intricate recipe or trying to tackle a fancy cut of meat. All you really need for a summer of badass barbecuing is to master a few different types of meat with a handful of go-to techniques. Barbecue expert Chris Lilly, partner and pitmaster at Alabama’s legendary Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, shares five no-fail approaches to grilling everything from chicken to burgers to fish.
Burgers at backyard barbecues often don’t look or taste as good as you had imagined. That’s because people tend to overwork the burgers, which can make them tough, and under-season them, which makes them bland. These are easy mistakes to avoid.
What you’ll need: Minced meat like chuck, brisket point, or a combination of the two –ideally from a butcher or a good meat department at a supermarket. And you’ll need a seasoning with a high salt content.
Preparation: Shape the beef into medium-sized balls and lightly press on them until they form disks. Season generously to ensure there’s enough salt to carry flavour through the entire burger while grilling.
Cook: Leave them on the grill (preferably over charcoal) until you see juices pooling on the top of the burger, then flip them. The temperature should be around 200°C but just make sure the meat is placed directly over the heat if you’re unsure.
Are they done yet? Use every pitmaster’s go-to gadget, an internal meat thermometer, to check the temperature. Take them off the grill when you get a reading of about 65°C. Then leave them to cool for about three minutes.
Go for a rib-eye and look for one with a lot of marbling. “It’s got a higher fat content and you can get that beautiful char,” says Lilly.
What you’ll need: Rib-eye steaks (about an inch thick); salt and pepper or a bottled seasoning blend.
Preparation: Season the steaks and let them sit for at least 30 minutes.
Cook: Place the meat on a very hot grill directly over the heat for four and a half minutes on each side, then check the temperature. If your steaks are thicker than an inch, cook them longer.
Are they done yet? If you want rare meat, go for 48°C; 55°C for a medium rare; and 58°C for medium. Let them rest for five minutes.
Ever wonder why a rotisserie chicken is so juicy? “Chicken is unique in that the more you cut it the less protection you have,” says Lilly. “You’re never going to get a juicier chicken than when you leave it whole.”
What you’ll need: One whole chicken, a few cups of apple sauce, three tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce and a loaf pan.
Prep: Season the chicken with salt and pepper, place it in the loaf pan, mix together the applesauce and Worcestershire and then pour it on top of the chicken.
Cook: Place the pan over indirect heat on a 150°C grill for two hours.
Is it done yet? When the internal temperature of the dark meat reaches 80°C, take it off the grill. Let it rest for about 10 minutes.
For an easily scalable dish, pick up some chicken breasts and whip up one of Lilly’s all-time favorite (and very easy) dishes.
What You’ll Need: Skin-on boneless chicken breasts, salt, pepper, butter and ⅓ of a cup of chopped basil; a pan.
Prep: Sprinkle salt and pepper on the chicken, mash together basil and butter in a separate bowl.
Cook: Place the breasts, skin side down, on a 400-degree grill over direct heat for two to three minutes. As soon as the skin starts crisping, put the chicken in a pan with skin side up and move it to indirect heat. Baste the chicken with the butter mixture and let it stay on the grill for half an hour.
Are they done yet? When the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees, take them off the grill. Let rest for about three minutes.
Cooking a whole fish isn’t actually that difficult and yields a juicier finished product than a filet. “Using a whole fish is one of the absolute best ways to grill seafood,” Lilly says. “The skin on the bottom is like a boat for all the fluids and juices, so you’ll get a lot more moisture.”
What you’ll need: A meaty white fish, some mayonnaise, and a seafood seasoning with a high salt content.
Preparation: Remove the skin on one side of the fish – or ask a fishmonger to do it. Rub the exposed meat with the mayo (this will serve as a protection of sorts for the skinned side), then rub the whole thing with your seasoning.
Cook: Bring a grill to 120°C and cook fish over indirect heat for 35 minutes.
Is it done yet? When the internal temperature hits 65°C, it’s cooked. Cut it into filets like this.