Nine tips and ideas to seriously up your barbecue game

From smoked pizzas and slow-cooked meats to offbeat condiments, here are some ways to elevate any barbecue this season

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Of-the-moment meats, new cooking techniques, delicious condiment treats and more: here’s how to ensure the next time you fire up the grill, there will be no denying who is king or queen of the smoke.

Experiment with on-trend ideas

Sure, you can throw a few sausages on the fire, stock up on hot dog buns, offer tomato ketchup on the side and be done with it, but if you’re out to impress with your finger-on-the-pulse barbecue prowess, here’s how to do so.

Go big with your cuts of meat

Step away from the sausages and go beyond the burger, and there’s a whole lot of fun to be had grilling larger cuts of meat. From meltingly soft, spice-rubbed brisket cooked low and slow for hours to a hunk of well-seasoned tomahawk, beef is the obvious choice here. That said, there’s plenty of room to impress with a rack of sticky-sweet lamb ribs or even a whole spit-roasted chicken (brine the bird first to impart extra flavour).

Make room for vegetables

No longer will a paltry pile of grilled peppers cut it. If you want your barbecue food to shine this season, vegetables should play a starring role.

In need of inspiration? Think ember-roasted, spice-dusted heads of cauliflower, Brussels sprouts on stalks, Ottolenghi-inspired platters groaning with smoky burnished aubergines and blistered Padron peppers served as appetisers.

The vegan cheesesteak sandwich is also going to be big in the grilling world this year, as are Caesar salads that have undergone a barbecue-forward makeover (grilling lettuce is a fantastic way to pep up sorry-looking leaves).

Ushered in by the TikTok craze for watermelon topped with American mustard, the wild-card entry to this arena is the grilled watermelon steak. Once brushed with olive oil, seasoned with salt and grilled, the fruit takes on a subtle meaty flavour and the natural sugars caramelise beautifully. Serve in a salad with tangles of peppery rocket leaves and a generous scattering of crumbled feta.

Give pizza a piece of the action

Grilling a pizza gives it a pleasing crunchiness. Photo: Markus Distelrath / Pixabay

Culinary revelation incoming: a pizza cooked on the barbecue will taste better than any that come out of your oven. Sure, the al fresco vibes play their part here, but it’s the high heat of the grill that will give the dough a smoky char and wonderful crunchiness that will have you wondering why you haven’t been barbecuing pizza all your life.

Make the dough from scratch or use shop-bought, it matters not, just get the method right. To ensure you don’t end up with a soggy crust, grill the lightly oiled base over direct heat on one side until golden brown and starting to bubble, then flip over, add your toppings and continue to heat until cooked through. Alternatively, invest in an all-the-rage portable outdoor pizza oven.

Up the ante with condiments

Sous Chefy’s Zaatar Sumac Mayonnaise is gluten-free, vegan-friendly, and goes well with grilled meats and vegetables.

To take your barbecue condiment game to the next level, there’s only one direction in which to look and that’s local. From hot sauces to marmalade, mayo and more, the UAE’s artisan producers deliver the goods and then some.

Here are some of our favourites.

Haute Sauce’s hot sauces

Add more fire to a barbecue feast with Haute Sauce’s bespoke range. Ambika Rajgopal, founder of the UAE-born company (and hot sauce connoisseur), says the super-hot Haunting Ghost Pepper Sauce is brilliant for bringing out the natural smokiness of barbecued meats.

On the milder side, a spoonful or two of Mellowing: Bird’s Eye Chilli Sauce will do wonders for enhancing the flavour of skewered meats, chicken in particular.

DS Mooneh’s Shatta sauces and organic Onion Marmalade

Keeping on the hot side of things, all three of the probiotic-packed, made-from-local ingredients Shatta sauces produced by chef Dima Sharif’s Dubai start-up Mooneh deserve a space on your condiment shelf. If we had to pick just one, it’s the DS Smoked Red Shatta with its sweet, tangy, South American-influenced flavour notes that really comes into its own in a barbecue situation. Sharif also says that the jam-like organic Onion Marmalade is brilliant for giving burgers and hot dogs a gourmet lift.

SousChefy’s Levantine Zaatar Sumac Mayonnaise

The zaatar sumac mayo produced by local sauce and spread experts SousChefy is no ordinary spread. Made from scratch in small batches with entirely natural ingredients, it’s herby, tangy, just a little bit lemony and wonderfully creamy. Not only that, unusually, this mayonnaise just so happens to be gluten-free and vegan-friendly. Delicious with grilled meats and vegetables alike, it also makes a superb base for a crunchy slaw or hearty green salad.

Three tips for sure-fire success

Seek out properly sourced meat

Buy the best meat you can afford and your barbecue will be all the better for it. CarniStore and Prime Gourmet are well-established favourites on the UAE butchery scene, and share an absolute commitment to quality. Both also sell a fantastic range of choice barbecue cuts: well marbled steaks, ready-prepared kebabs, premium burgers, sausages and much more (CarniStore’s Korean short rib and Prime Gourmet’s dry aged wagyu striploin are a great shout).

Invest in a few cool tools

Not only will a wireless digital meat thermometer allow you to check your meat is safe to eat, but it will also allow to you to cook said meat to absolute perfection. A burger press might sound like a bit of a gimmick, but for evenly seared burgers with an enviable golden crust and juicy centre, you can’t go wrong with this bit of kit. A non-stick grill mat will mean you no longer have to worry about food falling through the grates, and it can be used for frying eggs, searing veg, melting cheese and cooking pizza.

Go gourmet and outsource

If you want to make things easy for yourself, might we suggest you let one of the region’s most acclaimed chefs and his team do the hard work for you (while still securing a little grilling glory for yourself)? A Reif BBQ Box will serve four generously and comes packed with the same prime cuts, carefully curated meats and sides that chef Reif Othman serves up at his restaurants – we’re talking Kushi chicken wings and thighs, a Wagyu T-bone steak, Angus beef, selection of sauces (truffle mayo, yuzu miso and seaweed butter included), various seasonings, epic garnishes (hello, crispy lotus root) and even dessert. Each box costs Dh698 and can be ordered on Deliveroo or for pick-up by emailing info@reifkushiyaki.com.

Updated: January 08, 2022, 5:27 AM
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