Today you can buy many cheap gas fired barbeques that run off propane and are easy to use and clean. However, these barbeques do not produce a “real” barbeque result.
In fact they are nothing more than a portable stove or gas hob that you can use outdoors and your food will miss out on that unique barbeque flavor.
How to barbeque properly
The key to barbequing properly is being able to use an outdoor burner, stove or open cooking oven that can accommodate different fuel types.
Real BBQ food gets much of its taste from the smoking effect that the burning fuel has on the meats, vegetables and fruits. So being able to burn different materials, and vary the materials being fired during the cooking process, dramatically affects the final taste.
The best barbeques are fire pits and chimeneas because these allow you to burn coal or wood and supplement the cooking by adding any number of herbs or spices to the “burn area”. This allows the food to be infused with these extra tastes and smells and it means that the food cooks as much by the smoking as it does by the heat. This is real barbequing.
The main techniques for good barbequing are pretty simple.
Ideally, you want two different materials to burn. The first generates the heat that cooks the food and the second will add additional flavorings.
The perfect cooking fuel is timber/wood, however coal (barbeque coal) is easy to ignite and burns consistently, so it is an acceptable alternative.
The second addition is the material that will infuse the foods that you are cooking with that unique barbeque flavour. If you burn wood (not coal), then you will automatically get that smoked taste, however you can enhance it dramatically by either, selecting specific woods or by adding herbs to the burning material.
Types of wood
Most DIY centers and outdoor stores will sell barbeque wood, however different woods produce different tastes, so here are some pointers that will give you an idea of the best woods to burn.
Firstly, the timber from fruit trees is always ideal, so select one these if you have the option.
Secondly, match the wood you use to burn with the food that you are cooking. For example, pork, ham and poultry always go well with apple wood (think apple sauce!), so try to burn apple wood if you are cooking these meats.
If you want a traditional BBQ taste, then hickory provides a really good smoked taste and it is great with ribs and chicken legs.
Oak is good with fish and white meats, but there are many more options like cherry, alder, maple, pear etc and the best way to find out what you like is to test them out.
If you want to save money, or if woods are hard to come by, you can generate the heat with coal and add the fruit woods for the smoked flavours. Make sure you add the woods “after” the coals are really hot.
The other way to flavour food is with fresh herbs and spices. So if you want a garlic flavour, add garlic bulbs to the fuel, or if you want a rosemary taste, lay sprigs of rosemary over the coals/wood during the later stages of cooking.
The BBQ hardware
You will not be able to cook in the way described above using a gas fired BBQ. You will need an open wood/coal burner, a fire pit, or better still a traditional chimenea.