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You only get one barbecue season a year, so make the most of it: we’ve got advice from the region’s top chefs on how they get get themselves fired up

Paul Sample from three-time Battle of the Burger winners Lola Jeans

NAIL YOUR MEAT, NAIL YOUR BURGERS
‘You’ve got to mince your burgers yourself from whole-cut lean meat. Experiment with the cut, especially if you’re in the house and want to have a bit of fun with it, experiment with the best cuts you can find, and then add your hot fat content in. We brine a certain percent of the lean meat that goes into our mix so it’s got a depth of flavour to it – we’re experimenting with cured meats too. We mince different proportions of our meat at different consistencies, so you’ve got a bit of bite to the burger too. We blend together different coarsenesses of the mince, and  add either cod fat or suet fat so you get the juiciness without mincing the rubbish out of a cheap cut of meat through it. Favourite cuts? I think chuck is very good. We use knuckle which we really like – it’s a big, lean part of the cow. Just experiment with anything.’

PICKLED ONION MONSTER MUNCH IS A LEGITIMATE INGREDIENT
‘The whole point is that we have fun. We just get in the kitchen and mess about, have ideas and have a laugh. We won the previous two Battle of the Burger competitions with similar variations of flavours with different products, so we wanted to do something totally different this year. So, we added the sirloin steak in there and the steak sauce, and it needed a bit of a crunch and something sharp. One of the boys was eating a packet of pickled onion Monster Munch, and the rest is history.’

EMBRACE THE GHERKIN
‘I love a gherkin. We do a lot of tempura pickles and gherkins – you get the flavour, it takes a little bit of the sharpness away, and then you get the crispness from the batter as well.’ 

GET YOUR CONSTRUCTION RIGHT
‘We’ve got an ideal which we go for: we start off by toasting the bun, then we have some kind of jam or chutney – in the past we’ve done bacon and bourbon jam, for instance – because a bit sweetness always goes with a burger. Then we go double patty and cheese, put the patties on a really hot grill and steam them, and then go wild after that. We always try to go for some sort of meat, whether it’s Brown Ale candy bacon or whatever you fancy. We try to avoid salad because it’s just wasted calories as far as I’m concerned.’

James Close of two-Michelin Star The Raby Hunt

START WITH A DECENT BARBECUE
‘If you’ve got a Big Green Egg you’re away, it’ll be amazing, but if you’ve got a really rubbish barbecue, don’t bother trying anything. Obviously, the marinade and the ingredients are the main thing. It’s alright putting something on the barbecue, but if you’re starting with a really bad product, your end result’s not going to be good.

HOLD YOUR GLAZE 
‘For sauces, I’d do a spray made of a light soy sauce with rendered-down chicken or pork fat – whatever you’re doing – put it in a sprayer and spray it while it’s cooking so you get a glaze. You can finish it off with loads of chilli oils and things like that.’

APPRECIATE GLOBAL BARBECUE 
‘We’ve got a Japanese yakitori grill at the restaurant, so we can finish meat off on that. I think next year we’re going to do a quail yakitori – yakitori’s chicken, but we’re going to do a quail one. We’ll cook the whole quail with the innards and everything, and then we’ll spray it with a mixture of soy and chicken fat while it’s cooking so it gets a glaze.’

DON’T FIGHT THE FAT
‘The problem with barbecue is it adds all this charcoal-y flavour, but you can actually lose the essence of the meat – the true flavour of the lamb or the beef – so we always finish in the restaurant by barbecuing it and then rubbing in a little bit of its own fat to bring the flavour back up. Basically we’d render the beef fat down, separate from the barbecuing, barbecue the beef on the barbecue and then just as we’re about to serve it we’d cut the fillet of beef and rub it with beef fat. It lifts the whole flavour – you get the flavour of the meat and the charcoal.’

Gary Dall from Whitley Bay nose-to-tail hangout The Roxburgh

PREPPING IS NOT CHEATING
‘First things first: find a cooler or clean bin and fill with ice and water. This will keep the drinks cool and your fridge clear for salads and your meats. You’re going to need all available fridge space.

No one wants to be stuck manning the barbecue all afternoon, so a great cheat is to pre-cook certain food to save time and stop the worry about raw or undercooked meat.’

BRINE BE THE GLORY
‘Brine your chicken wings, then steam them before the barbecue – that means no worries about whether they’re done yet. Slap them on the grill and get some flame-grilled flavour on them. Brining them will add to their flavour and keep them moist.’

CRACK THE RIBS
‘The same goes for ribs – cook them beforehand, let them set in the fridge so you’re able to handle them without them falling apart, then just pop on the grill for the flame-grilled, charred taste.’

 

Simon Hicks, the The Lord Crewe Arms’ Australian grill-king

GET YOUR SALADS ON POINT
‘At so many barbecues I’ve been to, they put out the old Tesco coleslaw and potato salad. What a shame. We do one here in the restaurant which uses either fregola or Israeli cous cous. What I do at home is I grab all the herbs from my little herb garden – there’s no specific recipe, just a handful of everything. Then a little bit of oil, a little bit of salt and pepper, bit of lemon juice, blend it up and toss it through the fregola. All of a sudden you’ve got a lovely salad. 

POTATO SALAD NEEDN’T BE COMPLETELY TEDIOUS
‘The potato salad gets no love, and there’s a million things you can do with it: being Aussie, I put corn and bacon in mine. It’s just something my mum always did. The secret of potato salad is that people don’t make their own mayonnaise, which is a real shame. A good mayonnaise consists of British rapeseed oil, English mustard, French mustard, eggs and vinegar. A good homemade mayonnaise is crucial.’

BLOODY MARY-STYLE SAUCE IS THE WAY FORWARD
‘I love a good American cocktail sauce. We’re in summertime, everyone’s got a punnet or two of cherry tomatoes at home. Chuck them on a tray with a little bit of seasoning, roast them off, grate some fresh horseradish in there, little bit of honey, little bit of Worcestershire sauce, little bit of lemon, blitz it up and all of a sudden you’ve got a lively cocktail sauce that suits everything.’

ACTUALLY, ALL SAUCES ARE THE WAY FORWARD
‘One thing we do in Australia a lot is a Kilpatrick sauce – it’s commonly used for oysters but I think it works with a bit of everything. It’s equal portions of ketchup and barbecue sauce and then a splash of Worcestershire to taste. What we’d do at home is mix that up, put on the oyster with bacon and bake it.’

YOU CAN ALWAYS DO WITH MORE SAUCES IN YOUR ARSENAL
‘Chipotle always makes a great dressing – we just use brown sugar, honey, chillis, cooking apples and a tin of tomatoes, boil it up and blitz it and you’ve got one of the best barbecue sauces you’ll ever have.’

SAVE ROOM FOR DESSERT
‘People miss a trick with desserts. Again, pulling on my Aussie roots, there’s nothing wrong with getting a pineapple out, coating it in sugar and cinnamon and chucking it on the barbecue while you’re eating your main course, and by the time you’re finished you’ve got this beautiful caramelised pineapple.’

Published in: August 2017

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