Cooking Meat Outdoors

Here are some handy tips on Cooking Meat Outdoors. This is how I do it.

Once your fire is ready and the coals are spread under the grid you need the coals to settle down for a minute or two before checking the temperature. How hot you want the fire depends on what you are cooking and how you like your meat done.

For rare meat you want the meat on a very hot fire for a short while. Well done requires a long cooking time over a relatively cool fire. Thicker cuts require a longer time on the fire than thin cuts.

The degree of heat you require should be determined by the length of time your food needs to be on the grid before it's done.

Easier said than done if you're a bit new to all of this. So what you need is a way of easily and quickly adjusting the temperature if necessary. That will depend on your BBQ device but irrespective of whether in your case you need to adjust the height of the grid, the airflow, or simply just add or remove coals you need to be prepared in case your fire is too hot or too cold. Decide beforehand what action you plan on taking in the event of a crisis.

I have seen many a good meal either burnt to a cinder or set aside until another fire was built for extra coals.

I find this a good rule of thumb for cooking meat over a medium to hot fire. Hold your hand just above the grid. If you can keep it there for the count of eight to ten before you have to jerk it away you'll be fine for most meats cuts.

If you plan to baste the meat with a barbecue, steak or similar sauce that contains ketchup or sugar wait until the very end otherwise it will burn and blacken the meat.

It can be a bit of a bummer when cooking meat for people with varied tastes. One likes it rare while the other demands well done and maybe another is on diet and wants a piece of chicken. If everyone does not mind eating individually as soon as their meat is cooked to the way they like it there's no problem. If you prefer to have all the meat ready at the same time things become more complicated.

The traditional method is to cut or flatten the meat according to the preferences of the guests. Thick for rare, thin for well done and so on. Everything goes onto the fire and comes off the fire simultaneously.

The method I use when cooking meat outdoors is more user friendly and requires no prior planning and preparation. The theory behind this method is simplicity itself. Instead of spreading the coals under the grid as we usually do you form a pyramid in the centre with the top coals reaching to within a few inches of the grid. Now your fire is extremely hot in the centre, warm at the edges, and any temperature you desire in-between. Put on the meat that will take the longest first and move it to where the heat is medium. You add the meat that requires less time to cook after a few minutes and arrange them closer to the pyramid where the fire is hotter. When all is just about ready add the die-hard's (like your's truly) rare meat to the centre of the pyramid.

This method of cooking meat requires a bit more effort than usual because you regularly move the meat closer or further from the centre to maintain the correct temperature but it is well worth it. It's fun and you have complete control.

Something I really enjoy when cooking meat is flame-grilling. Flames impart a unique flavour that just can't be duplicated artificially. Two elements are necessary for meat to flame on a grill, high temperature and fat. Because very high temperatures are usually undesirable for general grilling and most people prefer leaner meat it is rare that flames occur naturally just at the right time and for the required duration only. Here's how to do it.

Now if you are using my 'pyramid stacked coals' method for cooking meat outdoors you have no problem. All you need is a little cooking oil (butter or margarine works well too) and a brush. High heat is always present in the centre of the grid directly over the top of the pyramid. When the meat is almost done brush one or two pieces lightly with oil, flip them over and put them right over the top of pyramid. They will flame up immediately. Leave them for a few seconds, brush with oil again, flip over, another few seconds in the flames and you're done. The meat only has to be in the flames for a short while to get that extra flavour. Move them to a cooler area to stay warm while you repeat the process with the rest of the meat.

If you intend to baste the meat with a barbecue or other sauce the best time to do this is while you are flame-grilling. Wait until you have charred and flipped the first side, brush on the sauce while the second side is in the flames. Baste the second side when it had been removed from the flames. Real char-grilled steak house flavour, can't beat it!

Not using the pyramid method? No problem either. What you need then are a few handfuls of dry twigs or thin slivers of wood. Put a handful onto the coals in a heap when the meat is almost done and follow the same procedure as laid out above.

Do you like a smokey flavour? You don't need artificial liquid smoke to achieve this. Just do it naturally. It's easy and it tastes a whole lot better.

One can buy hickory (stronger) or mesquite (milder) wood chips at most BBQ supply stores. If you're making a good old hardwood fire for cooking meat you can just cut a few chips or slivers yourself. You will need about a handful for an average sized fire. Soak the wood chips in water before you start with any fire preparations. When the coals are ready and stacked or spread shake off excess water and sprinkle the damp chips over the coals when you start cooking your meat. Easy as that. The smoking effect is stronger in a grill covered with a lid so you might want to use less chips than what you would on an open fire.

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