What are some of the most common mistakes people make when using a backyard barbecue?
Burgers sometimes crumble or fall apart because people don't generally wait long enough before flipping. Your food will start to crisp a little. Touch the edges, and if it still sticks, it's not ready to flip. Patience is the bottom line. You also don't have to flip that often, you can flip a steak just once. When you barbecue a steak, you should rotate it on the grill placing it first at the front of the grill, then the middle, back to the front, and again to middle. This maximizes the heat, giving the grill recovery time to recapture its temperature.
Approximately how much money should you look at spending when purchasing a mid-range backyard barbecue?
Anything between $700 and $1,000 will get you the features and quality that you're looking for.
What is the difference between direct and indirect grilling?
Direct grilling would involve placing the food directly over the heat at all times, for example, your basic steak or hamburger. But if you're grilling indirectly, you would be roasting your food at a lower temperature. The meat is placed in a void space where there isn't direct heat. The heat is usually on either end of the barbecue, away from the meat. With some backyard barbecues, there are burners in the front and rear instead of in the middle and your food can also be placed on a rotisserie attachment, which rotates in the middle of the backyard barbecue.
My salmon steaks either dry up completely on the grill or they crumble into the coals. What am I doing wrong?
You've probably got the heat up too high. To cook a perfect salmon steak, simply turn down the heat and try to be patient when flipping. Food naturally renders out its own fat and will tell you when its time to flip; you should not need to pry the salmon off the grill. There are also baskets you can buy to lay fish in or griddles.
What piece of grilling equipment would you say no BBQ-lover should live without?
A good cleaning brush. More often than not, people neglect cleaning their barbecues. It is also important to regularly replace your cleaning brushes. Cleaning brushes don't cost much, but somehow I often witness people using dirty brushes with broken bristles and clogged up with bits of food. The taste of your food will also improve with a clean grill.
Got any low-fat grilling tips?
Barbecuing is a great way to cook because most of the fat will naturally drip off while cooking. But the main thing is to choose the right types of meat. There are some really great meats available now that are naturally lower in fat, such as bison burgers, wild boar ribs, salmon and tuna burgers, and lamb burgers. Another neat product I have recently tried are these delicious new scallop burgers. They are made of 96 per cent scallops and 4 per cent bacon. Try and stay away from prime rib burgers as they are usually between 35 and 40 per cent pure fat. Just make sure that when you are grilling these leaner meats that you always cook on a medium heat. Because there isn't much fat on the meat to begin with, they tend to dry out if not cooked slower on a low-heat. Also try basting with sauce or a bit of flavoured oil to add moisture and enhance flavour.
Why doesn't my barbecue sauce ever stick to my food while I'm grilling?
This is a common mistake made by many people. They will take their chilled barbecue sauce out of the refrigerator and apply it directly to their already sizzling meat, to which it will then slide off. In order to prevent this, warm up your barbecue sauce on a side burner. Applying cold barbeque sauce to hot meat causes the meat to release its juices, which rise to the top and puddle. The barbeque sauce will then become thin and slide right off the meat. When the sauce is warmed up, it will become more toffee-like when brushed onto your meat and stick more easily, even when flipped. This will also make cleaning your backyard barbecue easier because it will reduce the amount of black carbon build up on the grill and black smoke on the lid.
What barbecue recipe would most impress a dinner date?
Here's a simple recipe that will impress any date. First, soak a cedar plank for a couple hours in water. Take two pieces of beef filet and sear one side of each filet on grill. Place the beef on top of your cedar plank with the seared side up (raw side down). Cover each steak with cold mashed potatoes. Place your plank on the barbecue for fifteen minutes. Remove the plank and coat potatoes with old cheddar cheese. Then place the plank back in barbecue for five minutes. Add a small layer of barbecue sauce and let cook for another two minutes. Remove from your grill and serve with a mixed greens balsamic salad and a glass of red wine. For another option, try Zinfandel rose. Rose wines are great when paired with roasted and grilled meats!
Are there any safety precautions one should take before attempting to barbecue?
Yes, before you turn the fuel on (natural gas or propane), ensure all knobs are in the off position. I would recommend that anyone who needs service can change a handle or a shelf on their own, but delivery and hook-up of your fuel should be done by a qualified technician because it can be very dangerous. Keep in mind that neighbours can be affected by your errors. Although very unlikely, there have been incidences where propane tanks may cause fires or explode. When proper safety measures are taken, you can prevent these errors and ensure a fun barbecuing experience for you and your guests!
David Burt is a spokesperson for Ontario Gas BBQ in Concord. Ontario Gas BBQ is a member of the Certified BBQ Expert group of retailers.