Some people just love eating and some people just love cooking; but when it comes to cooking and eating outside most people say, hey, I love it.
So lets get to it. Summer will soon be upon us and the outdoor season beckons. Its now the ideal time to think about those barbecues you'll be having. Whether those meals will be on the patio or in the outback its now the time to ensure that you've got all your outdoor cooking equipment to hand and that you've got a good idea about how best to go about things.
There's many that will argue, including me, that nothing tastes better than food cooked outdoors! Don't you just love the aroma when cooking outdoors, the smells seems to just waft around as the food cooks and this makes everyone hungry. How is it that the food cooked outdoors always seems to smell so much nicer than when its cooked indoors?
Cooking outdoors comes in many guises. You and your family may prefer to use wood or charcoal because of those wonderful flavors that come from the charcoal and the smoke; or, you may prefer the cleanliness, control and convenience of cooking with propane gas. Whatever you prefer the market is now awash with great outdoor cooking equipment to make your cooking experience enjoyable and the results fabulous.
Now when it comes to choosing your outdoor cooking equipment a little thought is necessary as you can easily miss a trick or two and fall short when the time comes to perform! So, here are 20 great tips to help you make the right decisions when planning this season's outdoor cooking:
- Firstly you must decide will it be gas or charcoal; don't fudge this one as its important; if you want ease and convenience go for gas grills; if you don't mind a little extra trouble & time and your family loves the flavors that are picked up from the smoke then go for charcoal;
- If you go for charcoal always start the fire naturally, never use lighter fuels; let me say that again, never use lighter fuels! Why? Because no matter how long it is before you bring your food to the grill you'll pick up those chemical smells...Yuk!;
- Ask yourself, are you making an investment for the future of just for the coming summer season; because thats how long cheap 'stuff' is going to last! I recommend making an investment in the future, therefore go for quality; as you know in your heart, you pay for what you get! Don't go cheap if you can afford better; for example: stainless steel looks better and lasts longer than aluminum and cleans up much better and easier; although it has to be said heat distributes more evenly and quickly with aluminum so the arguments are not always so clear cut; portable pick up and go grills are going to be great for tailgating and impromtu stops but they'll be a disappointment on the patio when cooking for a group of friends & family;
- There are many styles & sizes of outdoor grills, picking the right one to meet your needs and of course your budget is important, but remember that quality counts; you don't want to be regretting your purchase half way through the summer! Go for the best you can.
- Think about where you're going to be doing your cooking and buy your kit appropriately. Ask yourself, will we be cooking on the patio, or will you be tailgating or then again will we be going outback; this makes a big difference to your choice of kit; indeed you may decide that you need quite separate cooking equipment for the patio as opposed to when you're getting out and about. Gas grills are heavier and bulkier than charcoal, on the patio that's a bonus in the outback its a chore; gas grills cook quicker than the charcoal grills; some people hate gas grills by comparison because they love the flavors that wood bestows; gas grills are more expensive than charcoal ones etc. etc.
- Decide what style of cooking best suits you because the kit you'll need will change with your preferred style of cooking. If you're into Jambalaya cooking then you should buy Jambalaya pots, if your going to be frying whole turkeys then a turkey fryer kit will be ideal; do you prefer cast iron stove ware for cooking, Dutch ovens are great for simple outdoor cooking or do you prefer open grills;? The questions go on and on and only you know what the family are going to prefer. Its not as hard to think things through as you might think, I suggest that you go to a store that sells the full range of equipment and ask yourself what's going to work best for us?
- When cooking with propane check the level of gas in the cylinder and whenever possible have a second one in reserve. There's nothing worse with friends and family hovering, the meal is half ready and the gas goes out!!! If you've a replacement, no problem, but if you've not, just how bad can things get?
- Don't forget basic safety advice when cooking outdoors; remember salmonella is just as happy and active outdoors as it is inside. So what to do? Keep those fresh meat plates and your cooking utensils away from any plates and cooking utensils that you'll be using for eating off. Yes i know its obvious but this is important and its easily forgotten especially by the kids if they take a hand;
- Will you betaking your cooking kit out in the outback or to the beach where there are safety regulations preventing the use of certain cooking methods; how annoying is it to arrive and then find your kit isn't appropriate. And don't think you'll be okay they'll never know. have you seen the recent damage that's been caused by fires that get out of control; think safety first. Its important to remember that usually you find restrictions at picnic areas and on beaches & camping zones;
- When you find a great recipe that cooks well outside share it with family; especially the simple tips that made it work out so well. Many people are apprehensive about cooking out doors and even when they do they make simple errors that you could help them avoid making. Simple tips need passing on;
- Never pierce food on a BBQ or the juices will run out and it will dry out very quickly: most people who say they don't like BBQs do so because they hate dried out tasteless food that so often arises from a smoldering BBQ
- Never cook meat too long as again it dries out
- Always make sure that meat is fully defrosted before starting cooking on your grill, not only is this dangerous to your health but the food will burn on the outside before you've cooked it in the inside!
- Try to cook slower rather than faster when cooking outdoors, except with you steaks of course, they need searing and a minimum of time is preferred for however well you like them cooked; [yes I know this goes against what conventional wisdom says and your desire to tuck ij but the rewards of slower cooked foods great exceed the extra time it takes; believe me
- Always let your meat rest after cooking without cutting it up. This allows the juices to settle and the full flavor to come out, it also means all the juices don't run away across the serving plate; 7-10 minutes is all you need to wait and whilst the time is short the difference in flavor can be huge; try it.
- Try marinating your meats before barbecuing, and remember, the longer the better, overnight if you can. If you do the flavors of your cooking will be greatly enhanced and your friends will marvel;
- If you use a grill with a lid, keep it closed as much as possible. This improves the consistency of cooking due to the retention of the heat which otherwise is lost each time you open the grill; stop worrying and go and have a chat;
- Try some of the many free recipes you'll find online; there are so many and some are really good. Don't get hooked on complication though; keeping things simple and experiment are the keys. But equally don't get into the ideas of those that say quick and easy is best go for things that cook quickly! NO. Marinades are simple and add tremendous flavor, cook slower than quickly and you'll retain more flavors;
- Try out Dutch cooking; its easy and straightforward and the flavors are great; look for Dutch cooking recipes on the web;
- Keep your outdoor cooking fun; share the joy of the cooking with friends & family. Try to get the kids involved; if you do you'll develop in them a lifetime passion for cooking, which is often hard to do in the kitchen. Better still you'll have a laugh and if you involve your friends you'll start appreciate them in totally different ways than before; its like a new way of bonding. You'll start to see them in a totally different light...... interesting! ... Oh, just one quick point, but take care the opposite can work out too.