We’re sad that summer’s officially over, but Daylight Savings is still with us until the end of March, and autumn is an excellent season in which to barbecue. Lots of produce is at its best (think eggplant, capsicum and zucchini, all of which work beautifully cooked over flames) and the slightly cooler nights without stultifying humidity are just right for enjoying slow-cooked meats.
While there’ll always be a place for sausages on the barbie, the days of charred exteriors and raw interiors are thankfully behind us. Because we’ve become as choosy with our cooking equipment as we have with our produce, it’s much easier to regulate the temperature on modern day barbecues. You can opt to cook your snarlers relatively slowly over medium heat, so you won’t burn the outsides before the insides are done.
And of course, sausages themselves have also come a long way: many butchers now make their own gourmet versions, while artisan sausage-makers produce numerous different varieties, using free-range meats and interesting flavourings. Choose the best sausages you can afford and you’ll definitely taste the difference.
Steak is also always a winner, and while the likes of eye fillet and scotch fillet are always delicious, you should also consider going for cheaper cuts on the barbecue. Skirt steak (also known as flank) is a great option — it can be slightly chewy, but marinating it overnight helps to tenderise the meat, and it’s packed with flavour.
Play around with your favourite herbs and spices to create marinades. For a simple starting point, rub your skirt steak with a mix of chopped garlic, smoked paprika, ground cumin, lemon zest, oil and salt and pepper. Refrigerate overnight to allow the flavour to permeate the meat, and then barbecue the steak quickly (just a few minutes each side for medium-rare — you don’t want to overcook skirt steak, as this will make it tough) before allowing it to rest. Good long-handled tongs are a barbecue must — we like the Oxo Good Grips tongs, $24.99.
Other cheaper large cuts, including short rib, brisket, pork shoulder and lamb shoulder, are also winners on the barbecue. Success here is all about flavour-packed marinades (for up to a few days ahead of cooking), low temperatures, and cooking the meat slowly. You can slow-cook on any hooded barbecue; just make sure you’ve set the temperature as low as possible (a meat thermometer like this one is a great investment at just $14.99— leave it in the barbecue while you’re waiting for it to come up to temperature, and then use it later to see if your meat is cooked).
As with all meat cookery, resting your barbecued protein is key to ensuring a tender result. Individual steaks should rest for around 5 minutes before you cut into them; for a bigger piece of meat, such as a whole lamb shoulder or whole eye fillet, rest for 10-15 minutes.
Vegetarian dishes are also becoming increasingly popular on the barbecue. Grilling vegetables such as zucchini, eggplant and capsicum really helps to bring out their sweetness. Toss sliced or cubed vegetables in oil then barbecue until tender. All you need to then add for a winning side dish is a handful of freshly chopped herbs, or if you want to up the ante, crumbled soft cheeses; ricotta, mozzarella, feta and goat’s cheese all work well with Mediterranean vegetables. For a simple vegetarian main course option, you can skewer cubes of haloumi with cherry tomatoes and zucchini slices, marinate in a little oil, lemon zest, salt and pepper, and then grill until tender.Opt for re-usable metal metal skewers like these Davis & Waddell ones ($24.99) and you’ll always be ready to skewer (also try marinating chicken thigh cubes in a mix of natural yoghurt and garam marsala; or firm-fleshed fish cubes in oil, citrus zest and ground cumin).