Recipes, Stories

Mastering the Barbecue with Executive Chef Alan

2nd June 2024

Our executive chef, Alan shares his top tips to keep in mind when you fire up the barbecue to cook over flames this summer. From the perfect cuts of meat and fish to pop on the grill, to failsafe techniques you can use at home, and a few ideas to inspire you for marinades, salads and accompaniments to take your al fresco eating to the next level.

First things first, what should we be cooking on?

Use sustainably sourced charcoal which imparts an enhanced flavour and most importantly, is better for the environment. Our charcoal comes from Cornbury Park less than a mile away from us at The Bell in Charlbury and is distilled from Ash by Matt and his team at Whittle & Flame.

How do we master the barbecue?

Make use of indirect and direct cooking to control the degree of charring in your dishes.

One side will be hot, producing direct heat, use this to sear and char food quickly such as seafood, steaks or asparagus spears. The other side of the barbecue will be producing indirect heat, you might use this to cook a lamb shoulder low and slowly.

In the Barn we love to cook whole chicken from our Organic estate at Wootton on a rotisserie, part of our Argentinian style Oxgrill.

Don’t forget to use your barbecue’s lid which gives you the ability to control the heat, cook more evenly and work with larger joints of meat.

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What cut of meat works well on the grill?

Most meats work well on the grill, but always try and source the best you can afford, and ensure it is from an ethical and sustainable producer. I prefer cuts with a good seam of fat, as sometimes very lean meats can quickly dry out if not watched.

Good preparation is key: try some simple marinade recipes for meat, fish and vegetables. And explore rubs, brining and curing to improve the texture and flavour of ingredients. Try our Spatchcock harissa chicken recipe here.

If you get on well with that, try smoking foods. Recently we have smoked everything from beetroots and heritage carrots from our market garden at Daylesford farm to mussels from the Shetland Isles, Jersey Royals which we then finish in the embers of the grill, to beautiful shoulders of Daylesford Organic lamb, marinated in Moroccan spices.

If in doubt, a good quality burger, and my favourite chipolata sausages can’t be beaten.

Which fish cooks well on the grill and what is a failsafe utensil to cook with?

It has to be a whole Cornish turbot, beautiful gelatinous flesh, and smoky crisped up skin, we would serve this with a very simple beurre blanc sauce, and a huge bump of caviar if you fancy it!

I love to cook beautiful hand dived Orkney Scallops in their shells, top them with garlic and parsley butter, and a few breadcrumbs, a squeeze of lemon and that’s me done.

I use turbot clamps, made for me by an awesome chef, Nathan Davies in Wales

What is your must have tool?

Heat proof leather gauntlets, so we can reach in over hot coals and grab trays, racks and rotisserie skewers.

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How do we get the best out of our grill?

Getting it up to temperature in plenty of time and ensuring that you have more than one cooking zone.

Not being afraid to take things off the grill. It’s ok to do so, people seem terrified to take things off the grill, and end up with over seared or just burnt food! It can go back on again as many times as necessary, to achieve your desired effect.

The bigger the cut of meat, the longer it needs to rest, and remember it will continue to cook during this time. If needs be, use an electric probe or thermapen to gauge correctly the cooking of your meats. There are many time and temperature charts readily available online.

Make sure to use good quality sea salt such as Maldon, and do not be afraid to use a generous amount, from the beginning of cooking.

What’s your favourite side dish?

Ditch the coleslaw or cold potato salad and try something new! Chargrill seasonal vegetables and incorporate into a vibrant salad; roast whole red peppers and whizz into Romesco sauce; bake garlic in the coals and mix with butter to make garlic bread; char homemade flatbreads over the grill.

Green Egg or Asado?

At home, I cook on a large kettle barbecue similar to a Weber, and have a small wood fired pizza oven, but if I could afford it would have a Josper, charcoal oven and grill.

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