Barbecuing is one of the world’s greatest culinary pursuits, and is arguably the best way to cook meat, not to mention fish and veggies. It’s also a great way to get together with friends and family and enjoy an evening of great food and fine company over the grill.
But first, you’ll need to learn your way around a grill!
Although anyone can learn how to BBQ, it is important to understand a few basic concepts. This can make all the difference between a perfectly tender piece of meat and a big disappointment.
But don’t worry, because we’ve got you covered. Below is your complete step-by-step guide that will help you to BBQ like a pro.
If you’re interested in developing your skills even further, take a look at our Cooking with Fire series for a 12-month journey to becoming the ultimate grill master.
Step-by-Step Guide: How to BBQ
Before we get started, it’s important to be relaxed and comfortable while you’re grilling. Don’t panic if something goes wrong. Barbecuing is loads of fun once you know what you’re doing.
So, without further ado, let’s dive into our complete guide to barbecuing.
Step 1: Get your tools ready
A BBQ involves a range of different elements, so it’s important to start by getting your tools organised. This will mean you won’t have to keep running back and forth, and can instead focus on your grilling. The tools or utensils you need will depend on the kind of meat you’re going to BBQ.
Generally speaking, you should always have a metal spatula, metal tongs, and meat thermometer handy. Other essential tools include a grill brush, aluminium foil, and cooking spray.
For safety, you should also keep heat-resistant gloves and a fire extinguisher ready at all times.
If you have a charcoal grill, you’ll also need to choose your wood and have this ready to go. A great BBQ requires quality wood that is perfect for smoking. There are different types of wood, each suited to distinct meats or BBQ styles.
Tip: If you are new to grilling, make sure to thoroughly read your grill’s manual. Grilling is a bit more different to cooking on a stove, and every grill is different.
Step 2: Marinade your meat
Once all the necessities are taken care of, let's jump to the fun part – the food!
However, before you’re ready to start cooking your meat, you’ll need to prepare the flavour with spices and marinades. There is literally a world of different spices out there, each of which will bring a unique taste to the dish.
Experiment with different marinades and make sure you give your meat time to absorb the flavours. It varies depending on the spices you’re using, but in most cases it’s best to marinade your meat overnight before cooking.
It’s also wise to prepare your meat in the kitchen before bringing it out to the grill. Use a large casserole dish to safely transport them and be sure to bring an extra pair of clean tongs for handling the cooked pieces. Using clean tools will keep the raw meat and cooked meat completely separate.
Step 3: Get your veggies ready
Barbecues are not just for meat. You can make some truly delicious grilled veggies on your BBQ, to create a healthy, balanced meal. The possibilities are almost limitless, but some examples of excellent grill-worthy veggies include red peppers, eggplant, mushrooms, onions, and sweet corn.
As you get ready to BBQ, chop and prepare your veggies so they’re ready to cook. You don’t want to be cutting vegetables while you’re also trying to watch the grill.
Step 4: Clean your grill
This is perhaps the most important step in the whole process: a clean grill is essential for a tasty end result. Not to mention that if you don’t properly clean your BBQ every time, your food could be contaminated with bacteria and other nasties.
Before you light the BBQ, clean the grills with a cloth and be sure to scrape off any debris. Next, apply a thin layer of cooking oil with a brush or using spray. This will help to ensure that the grill stays clean and non-stick.
How much oil you need will depend on the type of grill. Some grills have a non-stick coating that only needs a thin layer of oil.
Tip: Avoid brushing on too much oil as this may overcook the food.
Step 5: Light the BBQ
Finally, we’re ready to light the grill! This process will vary depending on whether you have a charcoal, gas, or electric BBQ.
Lighting a charcoal grill may seem intimidating at first, but you’ll get the hang of this in no time with a little practice. Start by arranging your coals (and wood if you like) in a pyramid shape: this is essential for air flow that allows the material to burn.
Pour lighter fluid over the coals, being careful to evenly coat them and not spill any of this highly-flammable substance. Wait 30 seconds for them to absorb the lighter fluid, then light them using a grill lighter or a long match. Light the coals in several places.
The coals will then catch fire and are ready to cook once they turn white.
If you own a gas grill, it should have a valve that maintains the gas flow. Make sure that the valve is open and then light the grill in the designated spot, usually a hole next to one burner. Typically, you can then turn on the adjacent burners to cross-light them.
Lighting an electric grill is quick and easy. Just find an electric outlet, plug it in and turn it on.
Step 6: Adjust the flames
Once you’ve got the grill to the right temperature, you’re ready to start cooking. It is important to maintain the correct temperature as your food cooks, and for this you’ll need to keep a close eye on the flames.
You’ll need to make sure that the barbeque is the right temperature for the food you are cooking. Meats, fish, and vegetables each have their own optimal cooking temperatures so it is important to do your research to know how hot your grill should be.
On a charcoal grill, you can adjust the temperature of the fire by using the vents on the bottom. The wider the vents are open, the hotter the fire will be. Monitor your BBQ and adjust the heat using these vents as needed.
Tip: It’s critically important that you clean your grill properly once you’ve finished your BBQ. This is important to ensure that no charcoal or food scraps are left behind.
Get ready to grill!
That’s it – you’re all set. Take the time to prepare your tools, marinate your meat, and clean your grill. Pay attention to the flame temperature and with a bit of practice, you’ll be delighting your friends and family with delicious barbecues in no time at all.
Want some extra guidance on your journey to becoming a grill master?
Take a look at our Cooking with Fire series, which contains all the BBQ tools you’ll need plus 12 original booklets with grill master tips and secrets. You’ll also get delicious spices and marinades and no less than 12 exotic types of salt to take your BBQ to the next level.