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Barbecue Techniques

This page will cover as much as I know about barbecue techniques. I always have the penchant for barbecued meats and vegetables. Most people do. Barbecue is always done when you have a group of people socializing. Seafood, meat and vegetables are prepared ahead of time, marinated and ready to cook over smoldering charcoal.

BBQ Chicken Wing
Smoldering chicken wings on the grill.
The fuel used is ordinary charcoal blocks.

Different cultures have their own unique recipes and also barbecue techniques, usually depending on local ingredients available. It must be the oldest method of cooking since the dawn of time when early homo sapien sapien discovered that after a forest fire, trapped animals which were killed and burned in the fire tasted so much nicer than raw meat.

For the freshest meat and seafood, a simple seasoning with salt is enough to prepare juicy succulent barbecue. Coupled with herbs and spices, the result is often very very tasty. A perfect barbecue marinade always has these four major components:

  • Meat (poultry, meat, seafood) or vegetables
  • Seasoning (pepper, salt, herbs and spices)
  • Fat(vegetable oil, butter, animal fat)
  • Acid (like lime juice, lemon juice or yogurt)

It is said the type of wood used as the charcoal also affects the taste of your barbecue. I am sure this is true because different types of wood emits different smells and sizes of smoke particles.

In Malaysia, charcoal is mostly made of mangrove. I have seen how the charcoal sticks were made in a village in Terengganu state. The wood is burned slowly in a large igloo-like structure made of bricks for one whole month before they are ready to be used as charcoal. Charcoal is one of the cheapest fuel available too.

I also visited a large scale factory in Kuala Sepetang where charcoal is made. If you are interested to know how, click here.

Barbecue techniques in lighting and manning the charcoal needs a lot of practice and patient too. You do not want to fire to be big, you need burning charcoal which can be controlled by fanning the ashes.

Chicken wings on display
After grilling the chickenwings, they are coated with honey. The resulting display is such a treat to the senses!

Some BBQ pits have removeable multi-level rack, you lower the rack to make the food cook faster or raise the rack to cook it slower.

Another way to control the heat is to use a pair of metal tongs and rearrange the charcoal pieces. Gather them in a heap for higher heat level and separate them all over the pit for lower heat.

You can also take away some of the smoldering pieces of the charcoal from the pit to lower the cooking temperature.

Of course now there are also barbecue pits fueled by electricity. This barbecue technique is much more cleaner and convenient but comes with a hefty price tag.

Some fancy designer barbecue pit can cost up to more than RM1000.00 (US$265.00). The word "grill" is sometimes used interchangeably with barbecue.

You can easily make your own barbecue pit or simply buy one. The size depends on the group of people you are cooking for. It is usually a fun affair for the guests to cook their own food or watch the food being prepared while chatting and catching up with each other. Much better if the setting is at the beach or at a poolside where children can run around freely, get tired, dirty and hungry!

In Malay cuisine, satay is a barbecued meat dish which has reached international standard. Satay is served with spicy peanut sauce, compressed plain rice cake and also raw cucumber and onion. Everybody loves satay.

Ayam Percik.
This is a special BBQ recipe from the east coast state of Kelantan in Malaysia.

Another one which is worth mentioning is "ayam percik", barbecued chicken in a rich spicy coconut sauce, which comes from the state of Kelantan. Malaysians also love barbecued fish or "ikan bakar". Usually, ikan bakar comes with its own dipping sauce, always a different combination of tamarind juice, onion, chilies and lime juice.

BBQ Ayam Percik

The method of preparing the meat on the fire is also different. Some are wrapped in banana leaf, some wrapped in aluminum foil, some are barbecued bare and basted with lemongrass stalk dipped in oil.

Satay meat pieces, for example, are skewered on sharp bamboo sticks, very much like kebab.

The trick to avoid the meat from sticking to the metal rack is to baste often, but care must be taken.

 Dripping oil from the baste can cause flare ups. Another option is to turn over the meat frequently before it has time to stick to the grill.

Of course the western-style barbecue uses different herbs and spices for the marinades than the oriental ones! Here is a great site for you to explore if you are thinking of experimenting with other types of barbecue marinades and recipes.

I have many fond memories associated with a barbecue event. You do not have to spend a lot of money to get your guests involved in this activity. It is an informal do and you can use the concept of potluck for more variety of food. So, what are you waiting for? Clear out your backyard (or any yard for that matter) and start making a list to entertain your family and friends and get ready for an adventure cooking.

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