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10 clever barbecue hacks

Learn top barbecue tips, tricks and hacks with our clever shortcuts and skills. Whether that's getting the grill spotlessly clean or cooking perfectly juicy burgers every time, we've got everything you need to know to enjoy this summer's barbecue season.

  1. Easy clean

    Starting with a clean grill will make cooking easier as food is less likely to stick and burn, but this doesn’t have to mean hours of scrubbing and expensive cleaning products.

    - A hot barbecue is easier to clean than a cold one, so fire it up before starting.
    - Light grease on the bars can be rubbed off with the cut side of an onion (skewer with a barbecue fork or hold with tongs) for a cheap, chemical-free cleaner.
    - If the dirt is a bit more stubborn and burnt on, try loosening it first with steam. Let the flames die down a little then cover the grill with newspaper soaked in cold water. Cover with a lid and leave for about 30 minutes. Remove the newspaper and the dirt should now easily rub off.
    - Scrumpled up tin foil makes a great scrubbing tool, no need for a fancy brush!

  2. Perfect temperature

    Lighting the barbecue and getting the right heat can be tricky, you need a decent fire to get going but too hot and all your delicious food will burn.

    - Start at least 30 minutes before you want to eat.
    - Add a small amount of charcoal to start with, a huge pile will swamp the flames and you really don’t need much for the fire to catch.
    - Place a few firelighters in and amongst the coals – if you haven’t got firelighters, crumpled up balls of newspaper work just as well.
    - Stay safe and use a long-handled match or lighter to set these on fire.
    - Once the flames have caught, add some more charcoal to build it up into a solid fire.
    - Leave for 30 minutes or until the flames have died down and the coals are white-grey in colour before you add any food, this will create an even heat for cooking.

  3. Oven prep

    Make the most of that half an hour while the barbecue heats up to get ahead with food indoors. Letting the oven do the hard work of pre-cooking chicken and sausages in particular will mean that there’s no stress when it comes to grilling. As soon as the barbecue is ready, you can pop the meat on to finish off and get that charred, smoky flavour without any worries that it might still be raw in the middle.

  4. No sticking

    There’s nothing worse than watching your bangers stick and rip as you try to take them off the grill, so make sure you avoid disasters with these easy tips.

    - Only use a little oil when cooking as too much will drip down and cause extra flames which burn the food and cause it to stick. The easiest way is to brush oil lightly over both the food and the grill.
    - Wrap delicate or small items in lightly oiled foil before placing on the grill so that they stay together as they cook. This is particularly good for fish and vegetables which can flake apart or fall between the bars.
    - Create a barrier between the grill and your food with a layer of fresh herbs or lemon slices, not only will the bottoms be kept free from sticking but the food will take on delicious herby or citrus flavours as it cooks.

  5. Quick cooks

    Make sure guests aren’t left waiting too long by starting with things that cook quickly. Skewers and kebabs are the perfect solution as the smaller pieces cook in minutes, just make sure that everything is chopped evenly so that it cooks at the same speed. Metal skewers in particular are a great time-saver as they conduct heat – meaning that they help cook food from the inside as well. Have a look at our top 10 summer kebab recipes for some inspiration. 

    Quick cooks
  6. Three ingredients only

    Mouthwatering barbecue dishes don’t have to mean hundreds of ingredients or hours of prep work as these easy three ingredient recipes show. Try spicy jerk salmon and pineapple kebabs, smoky chipotle corn on the cob or an easy dinner for two with harissa lamb and tzatziki. To serve on the side, these three ingredient salads are perfect for any barbecue occasion.

    Three ingredients only
  7. Mouthwatering burgers

    Burgers are a must for a barbecue so you want to be sure they stay tender and juicy whilst still being charred and smoky. These easy tips will help make sure your burgers are never dry.

    - Don't handle or move the burgers too much during cooking as this presses out all the juices. Just turn them once halfway through and don't be tempted to push down onto the grill.
    - Top each burger with a small piece of ice while on the grill, as it melts it adds extra moisture to the meat.
    - Trap steam in for even more moisture by closing the barbecue lid or covering the food with a large pan or metal bowl.
    - Let burgers rest before serving, just 3-5 minutes if you can wait that long! Like steak, this gives the juices time to reabsorb back into the meat after cooking.

  8. Smart sides

    Save yourself the hassle of running back and forth to the kitchen by cooking your sides on the barbecue as well. This easy foil-wrapped garlic bread can cook alongside your burgers and sausages on the grill or nestled into the coals below. For easy spuds, try these baked potato skewers which use the heat of the metal skewer to make sure they’re perfectly fluffy on the inside – it also makes it easy to cook several at a time as you can turn and handle them with ease. Another skewer option, these sticky onion steaks make a great side for burgers and sausages but are equally good as a veggie main, too.

    Smart sides
  9. Simple sauces

    A bottle of ketchup and jar of mayo may be all you need to serve up a barbecue spread, but you can easily impress guests with some homemade sauces that you can whip up in minutes. Take your bottle of ketchup – with some simple additions you can make everything from a zingy fresh salsa to a spicy chilli sauce, just try these easy ketchup sauce recipes.

    Simple sauces
  10. Alfresco puds

    Just because the burgers have been served, doesn’t mean you should pack away the barbecue as you can cook some quick and hassle-free puds on it, too. The natural sugars in fruit take on a caramel flavour when charred, making them even sweeter and more delicious. Try cooking a whole pineapple on the barbecue for an easy yet impressive pud, everyone can take a slice or chunk it up to serve with ice cream. For a real treat, a barbecued doughnut ice cream sandwich is bound to please (what’s not to like?) and they couldn’t be simpler to make – just char the doughnuts and squish together with your favourite ice cream, jam or sauce.

    Alfresco puds