My barbecue and pellet smoker have been working overtime this summer. Why heat up the house when you cook outside? Today on Food Matters, I presented a grab-bag of suggestions for your barbecue as well as a couple of cocktails you can easily make ‘pitcher-sized’ when you have friends coming over.
Regular listeners to my radio column will know that I own more than one barbecue, and they have both been getting a good workout this summer. I have a Traeger pellet smoker that has an electric fire chamber, auger and fan to keep the pellets and smoke moving smoothly, and I use it mostly to do slow barbecue items, like ribs and pork shoulder, it can run for hours on its own, but it also does an awesome beer can chicken when I crank it up to high.
The other main barbecue I use is an Ultra Chef propane barbecue made by Napoleon, but sometimes I steal some of the wood pellets from the Traeger and put them in a foil packet on one of the burners to add some smoky flavour. So actually my first tip today is just that. You can buy little metal chambers to put the wood chips or pellets of your choice onto a propane grill burner to give your food some more flavour, or just make a little packet out of tin foil, poke it a few times with a fork and put it on a burner on low heat to add some smoke.
Lots of people are now into grilling pizzas on their barbecues, which could get a little dangerous if they end up sticking to the grill, so that’s where pizza stones and bakers come in. I have a traditional clay stone, but I’ve also been experimenting with something that is a little more portable so you can even take it camping with you. I have two grilling stones from an Edmonton company called the Grilling and Chilling Soapstone Company (formerly known as Brazilian Fire and Ice). They are made completely out of soapstone, heat up very evenly, are beautifully non-stick, and are easy to clean. I discovered them when I was cooking my way through Ted Reader’s Gastro Grilling cookbook, which has just been shortlisted in the Single Subject cookbook category of the Taste Canada awards. Ted likes to use these stones especially for grilling onions…and so do I!
Here’s Ted’s recipe for Whiskey Grilled Onions on top of some grilled chicken thighs, along with some Indian-style naan flatbread which I also baked on the stones. I made the naan dough in my Thermomix.
Also for pizzas, a friend of mine has one of these things called the Bakerstone Pizza Oven Box. You put it right on top of your bbq grill. It’s a metal box with baking stones inside, a thermometer on top, and the idea is that you can get the inside of this thing up to 750 degrees Fahrenheit by using both radiant and convective heat. 750 degrees means you can bake a pizza in just a few minutes and get that great crispy crust like they do in commercial pizza ovens. I love the pizzas I tasted from it but please measure your grill before buying one (they’re about 120 bucks) because my grill is just a little too small for this contraption.
Some drinks to go along with all this food? Three words. Aperol, Campari and Pimm’s. The first two are flavoured alcohols from Italy. Campari is a little more bitter than the Aperol, which has more of an orange flavour to it. Just add some soda to a shot of Campari and a slice of lemon or orange and you have a very refreshing ‘aperitivo’, as it’s called in Italy. Aperol goes well with a little orange juice and soda water for an Aperol Spritz, you could make it with bubbly prosecco if you want more alcohol, but if you want to keep it light and you’re in a rush I just love to add it to an iced glass of blood orange soda.
Finally, a Pimm’s. Pimm’s Number One Cup is a gin-based herbal concoction invented in England back in 1823. The most common way to drink it is to mix it up with lemonade and/or ginger ale and throw in some sliced fruit and cucumbers. All of these liquors are herbal in nature and they make great before dinner cocktails to get your appetites in shape for the barbecue!