Terry Laybourne

BBQ Like A Pro With Terry Laybourne

Terry Laybourne needs no introduction. A widely regarded pioneer in the North East’s dining scene, Terry shares his tips on how to have a perfect BBQ feast.

Fuel it up

Good barbequing is all about thinking ahead. Light the barbeque a good half hour before you intend to start cooking. Wait until the coals are a dusty white with a reddish glow. You’ll need a high temperature to get that all important sear on the surface of steaks whilst keeping the centre juicy.

For live fire grilling, you have a choice of fuels. Charcoal briquettes are readily available and easy to use, and they burn evenly. Hardwood charcoal comes in chunky, less uniform pieces, so it’s a little harder to manage. Many grillers like hardwood charcoal because it burns especially hot and imparts more of a smoky flavour, but it can be challenging to control if you’re inexperienced.

Some people use a combination of briquettes and hardwood charcoal to get the benefits of both. You can also use chunks of hardwood like oak or ash, they take longer to burn down to ash-covered coals than charcoal does but there’s nothing like that whisper of real wood smoke on a steak.

Our favourite cuts for grilling

Beef: any steak from the rib or loin, rump steak, hanger steak, bavette, picanha

Pork: loin chops, baby back ribs

Lamb: chops, butterflied leg

Poultry: Chicken thighs or whole legs tend to produce a better result than the breast which can become a little dry

Quality matters

It’s extremely important to buy the best you can afford, 90% of good cooking is good shopping. Put trust in your butcher when it comes to cooking up high-quality meats.

Temper before cooking

Bring your meat to room temperature before cooking, you get a better result with dry-heat cooking. Doing this allows the meat to cook more evenly, instead of overcooking on the surface before the centre warms up.

That said, take care not to leave your meat in the danger zone for more than two hours. Removing steaks, chops or other thin cuts from the fridge an hour before cooking is sufficient. For thick roasts or other large cuts, give them two hours at cool room temperature but no more.

A little seasoning

Seasoning is important, but be careful! One of the properties of salt is to extract the juices from meat and in doing so prevents it from browning and forming a crust. It is therefore perhaps better to salt smaller pieces of red meat half-way through the cooking process.

When it comes to larger pieces, try seasoning with salt and freshly milled pepper where the meat is carved into slices after cooking for a second time. This is because the salt can never reach the heart of the meat during cooking.

Cooked to perfection

For novice cooks, determining doneness is the step most fraught with anxiety. An overcooked roasted prime rib is a costly failure and even an overcooked burger can be an embarrassment. Fortunately, you don’t have to rely on guesswork.

A good thermometer will guide you reliably on thick steaks and roasts, and you will learn to ‘read’ a pressure test for other cuts. Experience will give you confidence, just as it does professional chefs, who boast of the night when every single steak is cooked perfectly.

Mastering the touch test

Cooking steaks at home can intimidate people; the problems tend to revolve around not being able to figure out when it’s done. Different cuts cook at different rates and you need to assess each piece
of meat individually for thickness, internal temperature and fat content.

Then there’s the temperature of your grill or the type of pan you are using. Professional chefs rely on a touch test. A rare steak should feel like the fleshy triangle of skin between the thumb and index finger of a relaxed hand.

A medium steak will feel like the same spot on a clenched fist and if you want it well done, compare it to the tip of your nose. An alternative method would be to use a digital, instant-read thermometer. A rare steak would have a core temperature of around 45 °C; medium rare 50°C; medium 55-60°C and well-done 71°C.

A point worth noting is that thicker steaks will continue to cook for a while once removed from the pan.

Let it rest

Virtually any cut of meat that’s thicker than an escalope benefits from a rest between cooking and serving. The meat will reabsorb juices as it cools, minimising the fluids lost when you cut into the muscle.

Give a steak at least five minutes or a whole roast pork loin at least twenty minutes before carving to allow the juices to settle. As meat rests, its internal temperature typically rises 3 – 5°C from residual heat. This phenomenon is known as ‘heat gain’ and the hotter the oven or grill, the more heat gain you can expect.

Carve like a pro

So you’ve bought a great piece of meat and cooked it perfectly. Now’s the time to carve. For maximum eating pleasure, keep these pointers in mind: let the meat rest, start with a sharp knife, carve against the grain, maintain your knife angle, cut tougher meats thinly and tender meats more thickly and finally, buy good steak knives.

Tuck in and enjoy

Now you’ve grilled to perfection, it’s time to serve up and dig in.