How to make better barbecues

Top regional chefs share their pro tips on making better barbecue

Ditch the calorie-counting and fire up the grill, for barbecue season has arrived. Patrick Hulbert speaks to some of the region’s top chefs to provide you with expert tips and tricks to get you grilling to perfection.

We can finally sit in our gardens again for a leisurely barbecue with friends, soaking up those rays while tucking into some great grub. Everyone has a favourite barbecued dish and a preferred way of grilling, but it got us here at Time Out thinking – what’s the best way to do the perfect barbecue? We contacted some of the region’s most experienced chefs who regularly work with steaks, sides and sauces to find out their secrets to a super grilled feast.

Roy Soundranayagam, group executive chef, The Meat Co. (Middle East, South Africa and London)

• Buy the best quality meat you can afford. Good barbecuing meats are lamb cutlets or lamb grillers, rib-eye, sirloin and fillet steaks.

• Bring meat to room temperature before putting it on the barbecue. If you take it out of the fridge 20 minutes before grilling, it should be perfect.

• Don’t have the grill too hot. It will burn the outside of the meat, while the inside stays undercooked.

• Season steak before cooking it with a little olive oil and salt on both sides.

• Don’t put oil on the barbecue, as it will burn and give a burnt flavour to anything you cook on it.

• Cook steaks on the barbecue for four minutes on each side, turning only once. Before you eat, let them rest, off the barbecue covered with foil, for four minutes.

Christian Jean, executive chef, Marriott Marquis City Center Doha

• Marinades and flavour mixes are composed of three keys elements: acids, oils and flavouring, which perform the three distinct functions of tenderising, moistening and flavouring foods. Acids tenderise and add flavour. Citrus juices, vinegars and yoghurt will boost the intensity of a marinade.

• Oils provide moisture. Tender food such as fish and chicken require added moisture and protection provided by oil to combat the heat of the fire. On the other hand, when beef and lamb are marinated in acid mixes, they require oil to replace the moisture that the acid draws out of them. Try using olive oil or a nutty sesame oil.

• Sweet flavourings take the sharp taste out of an acid marinade, so adding a bit of sugar enhances the grilling process and will give a caramelised crust on food. There are different sweet flavourings that can be added. Fragrant honey, dark brown sugar or tangy pomegranate molasses can easily be found in the supermarket and are very useful.

David Bell, executive sous chef, InterContinental Regency Bahrain

• Do not buy cheap cuts. These are for stewing. My favourite cut of meat is rib eye. You can use striploin, rump or tenderloin, but cut it thick and buy quality with lots of fat marbling throughout
the meat.

• Do not poke your steak or turn it every 30 seconds. Place the meat on the grill and leave it alone. Cook on one side for five minutes (you can rotate it if you want a criss-cross), then turn over and repeat. To check if it’s done, feel with your fingers – it should feel slightly springy – or use a digital thermometer (they’re awesome). It should be about 57˚C for medium rare.

• Do not rush. Squeezing and squashing the steak to cook faster only pushes out all the juices and turns the steak tough and chewy.

• Do not stick a knife in to see if it’s done. This is a crime against food.

• Do not take it off the heat and serve it right away. Pull it off the fire, and let that residual heat carry over while the meat rests for about five to eight minutes. Your steak will relax and become more tender.’

Chef de Cuisine Chef Yann Bernard Lejard from Plums steakhouse in The Ritz-Carlton Bahrain, Hotel & Spa

• Always remove the ingredients from the fridge ten minutes before they pass onto the grill. Also, always try to marinate your meat, fish or vegetables before you grill them. Even five minutes will add more flavour to your ingredients.

• For a good marinade use olive oil, crushed garlic, spices, fresh herbs such as rosemary, sea salt and crushed black pepper. Alternatively, you can find ready-made spice mixes in the supermarket. When you’re preparing the barbecue, avoid flames. Sear meats very well on both sides and, most importantly, let your meat rest for a few minutes after it’s cooked before serving.

• The ingredients cooked will be the main focus of the dish, but don’t forget about sauces or salad on the side. You can find great American barbecue sauces or French sauces such as bearnaise, tartar or bourguignonne. They will really add value to the dish. For the garnish, wrap a potato in aluminium foil then put onto the charcoal for 30 minutes. Open it up, slice it down the middle and place a knob of fresh butter. Cut some fresh chives and sprinkle them over the top. Add sea salt.

• Finally, for a nice salad, slice a few tomatoes and cut a few slices of watermelon. Grill them, then mix the tomatoes and watermelon together, chop some coriander leaves and sprinkle on top, and add a few coriander seeds. Season with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a few small cubes of blue Stilton cheese, pepper and sea salt.

Chef Gabriel Stival, Asado, The Palace Downtown Dubai

• The key to a solid barbecue is to make sure you maintain an adequate amount of fanning and air circulation during the process

• Use charcoal and fire wood, building a mountain of charcoal with at least two kilograms. You need to warm up the grill gradually and have enough air in between the charcoals.

• Have two to three sheets of paper (newspapers or cartons) ready and slide them in between the charcoal to maintain air circulation. This will ensure you get a steady warm grill with no flames – you do not want extra heat and constant air filtering.

• When you start to cook, have extra charcoal next to your grill so that you can use more when needed to build up heat and to maintain a flameless grill for the duration of cooking.

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