Tips for the perfect summer BBQ

Steak on flaming barbecue

Blanche Clark

Posted January 26, 2022

Take your barbecue to the next level with spice rubs, woodchips and the secret to tender juicy meat. 

The summer backyard barbecue is a timeless ritual that’s part of our national identity. It doesn’t need to be a special day - any excuse will do - and we’re outside standing over a hot grill, with friends and family around. Blowflies, mosquitos, pets and the odd argument about sport or politics are all part of the fun. 

But the truth is some of us are winging it, serving our guests charred sausages and overcooked meat with a refreshing beverage to wash it down. 

Fortunately, all it takes is a few tweaks in technique for you to nail your summer barbecue. Before you know it, you’ll be experimenting with smoking and woodchips, and impressing everyone with your perfectly cooked steak, fall-apart brisket, ultimate sausages and spicy chicken kebabs.

RACV Chef Srinath Bandara says the key element to a perfect barbecue is how long you rest the meat, chicken or fish after cooking. He’s also a big fan of woodchips to add smokiness and flavour. Follow his tips and tricks below to make your next barbecue a sizzling sensation. 

Family backyard barbecue

All it takes is a few tweaks to nail your summer barbecue. Photo: Getty

Top BBQ cooking tips 

Spice rub rather than marinade 

Bandara recommends a spice rub for a good burst of flavour as saucy marinades only flavour the surface of the meat. 

“Slow-cooking beef with salt pepper and woodchips is my favourite method, but it needs a lot of care,” he says. “The other way is a dry rub a mix of, garlic pepper, oregano, paprika, cumin and sugar. Rub this into the meat and marinate for at least 20 minutes, or even better still, overnight.”

When you’re following a slow-cooked beef recipe, smoke the meat for an hour, then wrap it in butcher’s paper soaked in oil and foil. “That keeps in all the moisture,” Bandara says. 

Depending on the size of the cut, he recommends cooking the roast for 6-8 hours at 135°C, or pork shoulder or loin at 140°C for about 2-3 hours. 

Bandara says fish only needs olive oil, pepper and lemon juice. “Keep it simple, maybe add some bay leaves and peppercorns as well. If you want a glaze, use honey or oyster sauce.”

Smoking with wood chips

Just like spices, different types of wood chips add flavour and enhance your grilled fare.

Bandara says it’s easy to do. After soaking the wood chips for about two hours, they are placed in a smoker box attachment on gas grills or directly on the coals for charcoal barbecues. But there’s also another way. 

“You can use an aluminium barbecue tray instead. Put your wood chips in that, and heat them up on the grill. Then cover the tray with foil and make holes in it. The wood chips will smoke and perfume the meat,” he says.

“If the wood chips are small and burn too fast, a trick is to add a bit of sugar and that connects the wood chips together.”

Bandara recommends fruit-tree woodchips for cooking fish or pork to get a sweet flavour, and olive wood or hickory for steak or a hearty red meat.


Barbecue food

Resting the meat is vital to keep it tender and moist. Photo: Getty

Let it rest

The quality of the dish does not necessarily come from the cooking, it’s the resting. 

“The resting is really important,” Bandara says. “If you cut into a steak straight away, all the juices and moisture will leak out and it will dry out in a couple of minutes. Resting lets the texture relax and the juices absorb back in.”

The larger the cut of meat, the more resting time it needs. Chicken breasts only need about 5-10 minutes, while a whole chicken should rest for at least 15-20 minutes.

“We cook a beef brisket for 12 hours and then rest it for one hour before we carve it.”

The finishing touches

Fine dining restaurants often serve steak with a jus, but it can take days to make a good one.  For something quick and easy, Bandara suggests pan firing beef offcuts, adding red wine and sugar, and reducing it to a glaze. Add beef or chicken stock and thicken with cornflour.

“It’s not the same as jus, but it’s pretty good,” he says. 


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