Mark Doe’s Tips For A Great Barbecue

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As the weather heats up, Mark Doe of ‘Just Cooking’ cookery school in Firies shares his tips for barbecuing and some amazing recipes too…

Planning your barbecue 

Firing up the barbecue is often seen as an opportunity for a bit of a party with neighbours or friends, but few of us have a barbecue big enough to cook all the food at once.

It’s a good idea to pre-cook some of it in the oven, especially the likes of chicken wings or drum sticks and then just reheat it on the barbecue to impart that wonderful smoky flavour – but make sure it’s piping hot and thoroughly cooked through before you serve it.

Aim for two or three different main course choices then have lots of salads and bread on hand for  people to help themselves to.

Don’t keep food hanging around for ages getting warm while it’s waiting for its turn over the coals.

The exception is large pieces of meat: these should be taken out of the fridge about 30 minutes before cooking so they can come back to room temperature, helping them to cook all the way through more easily.

Continued below…


Top barbecue tips…

• Do not leave food out in the sun before cooking. Remove the food from the fridge 30 minutes before cooking to allow to come to room temperature.

• Always soak bamboo skewers in water for at least 30 minutes before using. This prevents them from catching alight and also splintering.

• Try not to pack food too tightly on the skewers. Leave some gaps around each piece so that the food will cook through thoroughly.

• Have a spray bottle of water ready to spray out any flames if they appear.

• Firm fish such as tuna or salmon can be cooked directly on the grill if handled carefully. A hinged wire fish basket can be useful when cooking more delicate fish or whole fish ,or try wrapping in tinfoil.

• Poking and stabbing the meat will cause the loss of juices that keep your meat moist and tender. Do not attempt to turn the meat with a carving fork. Instead use long handled tongs or spatulas to turn the meat.

• Only cook 2-3 items on the barbecue. Serve plenty of baked potatoes, bread and salad to compliment the barbecued food.

• Smaller portions of meat cook easier. Chicken wings, chicken escalope’s, minutes steaks etc… Avoid chicken legs


Cooking methods

Direct Method

Food is cooked directly over the heat source. For even cooking, food should be turned once halfway through the grilling time.

Use the Direct method for foods that take less than 25 minutes to cook: like steaks, chops, kabobs, sausages and vegetables. Direct cooking is also necessary to sear meats. Searing creates that wonderful crisp, caramelized texture where the food hits the grate.

It also adds nice grill marks and flavor to the entire food surface. Steaks, chops, chicken pieces, and larger cuts of meat all benefit from searing.

To grill by the Direct Method on a charcoal grill, spread prepared coals evenly across the charcoal grate. Set the cooking grate over the coals and place food on the cooking grate. Place the lid on the grill and lift it only to turn food or to test for doneness at the end of the recommended cooking time.

To grill by the Direct Method on a gas grill, preheat the grill with all burners on High. Place the food on the cooking grate, then adjust all burners to the temperature noted in the recipe. Close the lid of the grill and lift it only to turn food or to test for doneness at the end of the recommended cooking time.

Indirect Method

The Indirect Method is similar to roasting, but with the added benefits of that grilled texture, flavor, and appearance you can’t get from an oven.

Heat rises, reflects off the lid and inside surfaces of the grill, and slowly cooks the food evenly on all sides. The circulating heat works much like a convection oven, so there’s no need to turn the food.

Use the Indirect Method for foods that require 25 minutes or more of grilling time or for foods that are so delicate that direct exposure to the heat source would dry them out or scorch them. Examples include roasts, ribs, whole chickens, turkeys, and other large cuts of meat, as well as delicate fish fillets.

To grill by the Indirect Method on a charcoal grill, arrange hot coals evenly on either side of the charcoal grate. A drip pan placed in the center of the charcoal grate between the coals is useful to collect drippings that can be used for gravies and sauces.

It also helps prevent flare-ups when cooking fattier foods such as goose, duck, or fatty roasts. For longer cooking times, add water to the drip pan to keep drippings from burning.

Place the cooking grate over the coals and place the food on the cooking grate, centered over the drip pan or empty space. Place the lid on the grill and lift it only to baste or check for doneness at the end of the suggested cooking time.

To grill by the Indirect Method on a gas grill, preheat the grill with all burners on High. Then adjust the burners on each side of the food to the temperature noted in the recipe and turn off the burner(s) directly below the food.

For best results, place roasts, poultry, or large cuts of meat on a roasting rack set inside a disposable heavy-gauge foil pan. For longer cooking times, add water to the foil pan to keep drippings from burning.

Cooking with charcoal. 

Do not be tempted to fill the Barbecue full of charcoal in the hope of making a bigger, longer lasting fire. It is simply a waste of charcoal and it will become too hot to cook on.

Remove the lid if there is one and open all vents on the barbecue.

Spread the charcoal briquettes 2 layers deep over the base of the barbecue.

Scoop it back into a pyramid and tuck in the fire lighters.

Light the fire lighters and leave for 20-25 minutes  until the coals start to glow red.

Cleaning your BBQ

The best time to clean your BBQ is when it is hot. I know the last thing you want to do after eating (and a few glasses of wine!!!) is clean up, but it is easier whilst the BBQ is hot.

I use a wire brush to clean of any stuck debris on the grill and then wash with warm soapy water.

If you have a gas BBQ light it for a few minutes for the grill to dry through.

Gas Vs Charcoal

Gas is easier to use as it can be lit quickly. Charcoal is said to give the food better flavor.

The key to using gas and getting that charcoal flavour, is to cook the food with the lid down. This captures the smoke and gives you a great flavour.

Buying a Barbecue

When buying a barbecue you really do get what you pay for. Cheap gas barbecues are never really hot enough to plenty of food on as they may only have one burner.

Also cheaper barbecues tend to rust quickly. Keep the barbecue in a shed during the Winter months.  During the Summer whist it is outside keep it covered.


Teriyaki  salmon with cucumber and apple slaw

For the coleslaw

• 150ml mayonnaise

•2 tbsp roughly chopped parsley

• 1tablespoon whole-grain Dijon mustard

• 1tablespoon cider vinegar

• 1tablespoon granulated sugar

•  Salt and Freshly ground black pepper

• ½ cucumber, peeled, cut into matchsticks or grated on the large holes of a box grater

•  1Granny Smith apple, about 8 ounces, cored, unpeeled, and cut into matchsticks or grated on the large holes of a box grater

In a small bowl whisk the dressing ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a medium bowl combine the cucumber and apple. Add the dressing to the coleslaw ingredients. Season with salt and pepper.

For the salmon

• 4 x 200g salmon fillet portions cut into pieces each the thickness of your thumb

For the marinade

• 2 tablespoons of white wine 3 tablespoons of soy sauce

• 1 tablespoon of soft brown sugar ½ small onion, grated

• 1 small garlic clove, crushed Dash of Tabasco sauce

• Freshly ground black pepper 2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a bowl.

2. Pour over the salmon and place in the fridge for up to 2 hours.

3.  Cook the salmon over a high direct heat, basting with the marinade for approx 2-3 minutes on each side.

4. Serve with the coleslaw

Grilled Pineapple with Honey and lime yogurt

Serves 8

For the pineapple

• 8 slices fresh pineapple, each about 1/2 inch thick, peeled and cored

• 2 tablespoons soft brown sugar

• 1/4teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the yogurt

• 150g low fat natural yogurt

• 2 limes, finely zested

• 1 tbsp honey

1. Mix the yogurt, lime zest and honey together in a bowl.

2. Sprinkle the pineapple slices evenly on both sides with the brown sugar and cinnamon

3. Brush the cooking grates clean. Grill the pineapple slices over direct medium heat, with the lid open, 5 to 7 minutes, turning once.

4. Serve with the yogurt.

BBQ spare ribs

Serves 6


1.8 kg pork spare ribs

2 tbsp olive oil

2 onions, peeled and chopped

4 clove garlic, crushed

2 red chillies, finely chopped

100 g light brown sugar

100 ml dark soy sauce

500 ml tomato ketchup

black pepper

• Place the ribs in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 50-55 minutes until tender.

• While the ribs are cooking heat the olive oil in a saucepan.

• Add the onion and garlic and fry until fragrant. Add the chilli and sugar and cook, stirring often, until sugar melted.

• Add the soy sauce and tomato ketchup. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

• Bring to the boil and simmer for around 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

• Once the ribs have cooked through, remove them from the pan and brush with a little of the sauce.

• Place the ribs on the barbecue and heat through, brushing with the barbecue sauce to glaze.

Pork chops with Parma ham and sage

Serves 4


4 boneless pork loin chops, each about 6 ounces and 1 inch thick

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

4 paper-thin slices Parma ham

olive oil


3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


• Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat

• Using a sharp knife, butterfly each pork chop by making a slit halfway up the fat side of the chop and enlarging the slit to extend to within ½ inch of the opposite side. Do not cut all the way through. Open each chop like a book and season the inside with salt and pepper.

• Lay one slice of prosciutto inside each chop, folding the prosciutto to fit, if necessary. Close the chops and press tightly. Lightly coat the outside of the chops with oil and season evenly with salt and pepper.

• Brush the cooking grates clean. Grill the pork chops over direct medium heat, with the lid closed, until nicely browned on the outside with just a trace of pink on the inside, about 8 minutes, turning once or twice. Meanwhile, make the sauce.

• In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and cook until bubbly, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sage and cook for about 1 minute. Remove the skillet from the heat.

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