by Ed Halmagyi


Over the last several weeks I have been inundated with emailed pleas for help. Many, understandably, have centred on how to cook the traditional Christmas fare – hams, turkeys and puddings. There’s a beautiful synergy there between the sacred message of the season and these eager cooks being born into Christmas. Hopefully it goes a bit better for them at Easter.

But close behind have been the barbecue virgins, some hoping for an almost divine intervention to help them survive the summer’s entertaining.

So here it is, my barbecue essentials.

Go for one with a lid, and an open grill. Those barbies that just have a flat griddle are actually an outdoor frying pan! You’ll be able to do so much more with the right kit: roasts, cakes, vegetables, and even desserts. While coal and wood-fired barbecues are fantastic to cook on (they give your food that classic smoky flavour, you won’t be able to fire them up on a total fire ban day, so go for gas.

Fit a Gasfuse to your bottle – it’s your guarantee against burns. But to be on the safe side, buy a small extinguisher and have it nearby. Also, line the drip tray with vermiculite fat absorber to control flare-ups.

For most things that you want to barbecue, a medium-low setting is just fine. With the lid don this will still yield an ambient temperature of about 200°C which is plenty hot enough. It’s only when you want to sear a steak or tuna that you might increase the flame intensity.

The resting rack above the grill is very important for the perfect barbecued meat. Sear the steak or chops over a medium-high heat, then place on the resting rack and turn the heat to low. The meat will both continue to cook gently, while relaxing and tenderising.

Don’t put up with broken ignition switches, stuck knobs or cracked grill plates. All these can be replaced easily at your local hardware store for much less than the cost of replacing the barbie. Remember to lubricate knobs at least a couple of times a year with machine oil.

For the light stuff a bit of a scrub should be fine, but for the baked-on grime you’ll be best off taking the barbecue apart and setting it on newspaper on the lawn. Spray with oven cleaner and leave for 2 hours. Scrub lightly, then hose off. Put the barbie back together, then fire it up briefly to ensure it is dry and won’t rust.
Spicy lamb cutlets with Waldorf Salad