Hot and cold: tips and tricks for winter barbecues

Hot and cold: tips and tricks for winter barbecues

by Great British Chefs 14 December 2015

Barbecuing is one of the most enjoyable ways to cook food. So why do most of us only bring it out of the shed during the few months (or weeks) of British summertime? Winter barbecues can be just as fun, and let us experiment with new flavours and seasonal ingredients.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Winter is here – and believe it or not, it’s a great time to get out the barbecue. While it makes sense to cook outside when the sun’s shining in summer, the resulting onslaught of chargrilled meat piled high in buns isn’t a particularly fitting meal for hot weather. When it’s cold, however, hearty, filling food is exactly what we crave; large joints of pork, flavourful venison steaks and mounds of roast root vegetables are the order of the day. All these can be cooked on the barbecue with delicious results.

Obviously, there’s a drawback to standing in your garden for hours in winter; it’s cold outside. But there are several ways around this. If you’re only cooking for a few people and have a big, powerful barbecue, then it’s actually quite nice to all huddle together and warm yourselves around the coals with a mulled wine or hot chocolate in hand – after all, it never seems to bother us on Bonfire Night. If you’ve got a gas barbecue you’ll be ready to cook in seconds, but if you’re using charcoal then it’s best to use a chimney starter, which can get coals glowing red in as little as ten minutes. Once the food’s ready, you can cosy up inside and tuck in, or hand out blankets and enjoy your dinner under the stars.

Cooking over fire is always an event that’s full of excitement, sounds and smells; everyone wants to crowd around the barbecue and see what’s happening, no matter what the weather’s like. The element of theatre means your family or guests want to see their food go from raw to cooked, with the flames, sparks and glowing red coals radiating heat into the cold air. Of course, if you own a barbecue that doubles up as a smoker, you can simply light it in the morning, place your meat inside and eight or ten hours later (after everyone has, throughout the day, lifted the lid to have a peek and smell the delicious wood smoke) your joint will be meltingly tender and full of flavour.

What to cook

The classic barbecue fare – burgers, hot dogs and chicken drumsticks – is all well and good if you’re cooking for a party, but there are much more impressive dishes you can rustle up. A roast haunch of venison with a flame-licked crust and pink centre, slow-cooked beef brisket, smoky pork and bean casserole – winter barbecues pave the way to more filling, hearty food that would feel out of place in the summer.

Marinades and spice rubs can be made much more seasonal, too; for example, replacing zingy citrus flavours with warming spices like clove and cinnamon will completely transform a dish. For some inspiration, check out Josh Eggleton’s sticky ribs, Marcus Wareing’s pork chops with apple and endive and Adam Gray’s warming jerk-marinated turkey steaks.

Don’t neglect the sides, either – replace the shredded vegetables in your coleslaw with fennel, beetroot and celeriac (Anna Hansen has an amazing winter coleslaw made with apple and dill), wrap whole butternut squash in foil and cook it directly on the coals before mashing or serve paprika-dusted potato wedges with dollops of barbecue sauce (which complement smoky, chargrilled meat perfectly) and chilli ketchup (which will keep you warm inside and out).

There are so many options, so don’t relegate your barbecue to the shed this winter to collect spiderwebs and dust; bring it out of hibernation and fire up the coals for a seasonal feast worth celebrating.