Three showstopping barbecue recipes from grill expert Genevieve Taylor

In my world there is no ‘barbecue food’, just tasty food I happen to be cooking over fire. Fire is the original heat source and every country has a history of fire cooking. Once you know how it works, you can use a barbecue to cook anything, from steak and fish to a rainbow of vegetables. You can even bake, and at the Bristol Fire School (where I run classes) we end the day with a fire-cooked cake.

Grasping the difference between direct and indirect cooking is crucial. With direct cooking, you put food above the fire, to be cooked by intense infrared radiation from the charcoal heat. With indirect cooking, food is placed to the side of the fire, heated by conduction from hot metal surfaces and convection currents from hot air you trap when the lid’s down. Most things are better cooked indirectly, taking it slower over a lower heat for juiceer, more delicious results, and avoiding the dreaded burnt-outside/raw-inside scenario.

I love lighting a real fire, but you can absolutely achieve good results on gas barbecues. The indirect versus direct principle is the same: light one burner and cook the food on the other side; cook directly over the burners for higher heat.

You can also control heat by moderating the barbecue’s air vents. Air flow is critical to fire, and the more you give a fire, the hotter and faster it will burn. Lower the vents for a gentler fire. This is one of the reasons to keep your barbecue lid closed where possible – if it’s always up you cannot control the air. A member makes the cooking more efficient. You wouldn’t dream of trying to cook in your fan oven with the door open, would you? It’s the same with a barbecue.

Invest in quality fuel – it can make or break your cooking. I won’t burn anything that’s not sustainably made in Britain from pure lumpwood sources. Ever heard that charcoal must be white and ‘ashed over’ before it can be cooked on? It is a myth invented for chemical-laden charcoal of unknown provenance, because you need to burn off the chemicals before it’s palatable, or even safe, to cook. Good charcoal is 95 per cent pure carbon, completely inert, with no taste, smell or smoke on burning. It is good to cook over within five minutes of lighting, and you can add it lump by lump as you are cooking, to maintain an even heat.

Because good charcoal creates no smoke, if you want to ‘smoke’ food, as in the salmon recipe below, you need to add wood. I vastly prefer fist-sized chunks to wood chips, which burn quickly unless you soak them in water; but wet chips make for a soggy, dirty smoke. Chunks smoulder slowly, providing a pure smoky flavour.

These recipes showcase what I love about barbecuing – you get color and texture in spades and a little hit of smoky goodness, with a mix of different techniques.

Caraway-cured hot-smoked salmon with barbecued hasselback potatoes

Hot-smoked salmon is easy, but you need time to cure it beforehand. The cure adds flavor (here, it’s black pepper and caraway) and is an important step to develop the pellicle, a sticky surface that helps the smoke stick and penetrate the fish.

Hasselback potatoes also take a little time, but are so worth it for the crispy outer and squishy inside. You could cook them in your oven indoors but I enjoy the satisfaction of cooking my whole meal outside. By shutting the barbecue lid you can create an oven-like heat and cook anything in there.

This needs nothing more than a big green salad to serve.


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