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It’s fair to say that our head chef at St Paul’s, Chris Shaill, has been around the barbecue block a few times. Here, he shares his top hints and tips for how to add a bit of Barbecoa to your barbecue at home
Let’s start with the foundations of any barbecue – the coal. As a minimum, choose lumps of coal over briquettes. Look for British charcoal that’s free from chemicals: that way, you’ll get more of that natural smoky flavour. Oxford Charcoal does the job beautifully, but it’s not the easiest to get, so you’ll have to pick it up in advance of the big day.
Once you’ve sparked the fire, you’ll need to hang tight. Allow the flame to work until it is gently burning over white embers. When you can hold your hand over the flames for around 5 seconds before having to pull it away, it’s time to start cooking.
I love using a herb brush. Gather a bunch of rosemary, sage and thyme, roll it into a tight bundle and tie it to the back of a wooden spoon with string. Dip the brush in butter, olive oil or animal fat, then use it to baste your meat while it’s cooking: great for caramelisation and flavour.
Another tool that everyone should have is a temperature probe. So many barbecues go wrong because the meat’s either underdone or overdone. With a meat thermometer, you remove all doubt. You can get one for just a couple of quid, so there’s no excuse.
I also like to keep a spray bottle of vinegar and apple juice close to hand. It’s another simple way of adding flavour to your cook while locking in the moisture. But it’s also a very effective piece of health-and-safety kit! If you get a flame leaping up from your grill, give it a quick spray to extinguish it.