The Ultimate Guide To Cooking On The Barbecue

For a sizzling success, check out these barbecue cooking techniques including roasting, rotisserie and using the side burner

The Ultimate Guide To Cooking On The Barbecue

There’s more to barbecuing than just firing up the barbie and adding the food. Follow this guide so that your meals will be cooked to perfection every time.


Traditionally, this means cooking on the hotplate, the flat solid part of the barbecue. A quick and easy method, it’s suitable for most food types, including meat, seafood, poultry, vegetables and fruit, plus kebabs and skewers.

  • A hotplate is a feature of most types of barbecues, such as trolleys and built-ins, and newer kettle barbecues.
  • Hotplates are generally made of cast iron, which retains heat very well, but enamel-coated steel is also used and is easy to clean.
  • Before heating the hotplate, brush it with oil, if necessary, as brushing the hot surface with oil will result in lots of smoke. Or, brush the food with oil before placing it on the hotplate.

This method uses the grill rack, which is usually made of cast iron. Food is exposed to the heat source through the slots, creating that fabulous chargrilled flavour, as well the distinctive charred stripes. As the food cooks, any juices or fat drain out, making this cooking method a healthy choice.

  • Most trolley and built-in barbecues have a slotted grill rack and solid hotplate, while kettle and hibachi-style barbecues mainly use a grill rack.
  • When cooking foods with delicate flesh or texture, such as fish, tofu, soft vegetables and fruit, you can cover the rack with foil before heating. This stops the food slipping through the slots and also prevents it from overcooking.
  • Brush the grill rack with oil before heating, or brush the food with oil before placing it on the grill rack.

Once the domain of professional chefs, the rotisserie can now be enjoyed at home. 

It is ideal for slow cooking large cuts of beef or pork, as well as poultry roasted whole, such as chicken, duck, turkey and spatchcock. 

Only the largest and more expensive barbecues, usually trolleys, have rotisseries.

PREHEAT the barbecue without the rotisserie in position, so you are able to handle the rotisserie rod safely when securing the meat.

BALANCE the meat evenly on the rotisserie rod to avoid overworking the motor.

TURN off the burner directly under the meat and add a drip pan, as rotisseries use the indirect method of cooking.

CLEAN the rotisserie with hot, soapy water after you’ve finished cooking and when it has cooled down. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions.


A barbecue with a hood is like having an outdoor oven. Almost anything that you can roast in an oven can be cooked using this method. 

Hoods are usually made of thick stainless steel or enamel-coated steel, while some have windows that allow you to easily check the food. They may contain air vents, which you can open or close to control the heat.

  • Trolleys or built-ins can have hoods that detach from the unit, while others are hinged. Kettle barbecues have detachable hoods with air vents and sometimes a handle for easy lifting.
  • Preheat the barbecue with the hood closed when roasting food.
  • If using a roasting dish, preheat the barbecue with the dish on the hotplate or grill rack, as directed in recipes.
  • Make sure you always clean the hood after each use.
Side Burner
Side Burner

Anything you can cook on an electric or gas cooktop can be cooked on a barbie side burner. 

You can stir-fry, braise, casserole, boil or fry using a wok, steamer, saucepan or frying pan. Having a side burner means you can cook almost any recipe without going into the kitchen. 

It is ideal for recipes that require both barbecuing or grilling and indoor cooking methods, such as boiling a sauce or steaming vegetables and rice.

Many of the large trolley barbecues include a side burner.

TIP Clean it according to the manufacturer’s instructions and don’t use abrasive products.

Making Pizzas
Making Pizzas

An exciting addition to backyard cooking is the pizza oven. Specifically designed to cook pizzas, it can be either a traditional built-in wood-fired oven or portable model. 

But it’s also possible to make authentic pizzas by using a barbecue with a hood or a kettle barbecue.

Pizza stones are made from heat-resistant, porous earthenware that allows the pizza base to become evenly browned and crispy, just like a traditional wood-fired pizza oven.

  • If using a pizza stone, preheat the barbecue with the stone in place, and always use a large spatula to move the stone, as it gets very hot. 
  • Preheat a covered barbecue or kettle barbecue with the hood closed.
  • Don’t oil pizza stones, submerge them in water or use detergents.To clean, wipe with a damp cloth.
  • Pizzas are cooked using indirect heat, so turn off the burners directly under the pizza or push the coals to the sides.
  • Place the pizza on the pizza tray or stone, baking tray or roasting dish in the centre of the barbecue, which will allow maximum air circulation.
Direct Heat
Direct Heat

For foods that cook quickly, such as steaks, kebabs, hamburgers, boneless chicken fillets, seafood, vegetables and fruit, direct heat is used. 

The barbecue can be uncovered or covered, according to the recipe. Turn the food halfway through cooking. 

If using wood, charcoal, briquettes or coals, spread the fuel in a even layer. For a gas barbecue, turn on the burners under the hotplate or grill rack.

Indirect Heat
Indirect Heat

This is used for foods that take longer to cook, like big cuts of meat or whole fish. The hood is usually closed.

If using wood, charcoal, briquettes or coals, pile half the fuel on one side and half on the other side. Place a drip pan in the centre before adding food.

For every 45 minutes of cooking, you may need to add more fuel. 

Preheat a gas barbecue with the burners turned on. When heated, turn off the middle one, put a drip pan in the centre, then add the food. 

On a two-burner barbecue, turn off one and put the drip pan and food on that side. For a barbecue with four or more burners, turn off the burners below the food.

Barbecuing Basics
Barbecuing Basics

Always position the barbecue on a solid, level surface, away from fences, vegetation or overhanging structures such as eaves or pergola roofs. 

COOK in a well-ventilated area and don’t use a barbecue in high winds, or ensure that it’s protected, and check for fire bans, if applicable.

STORE charcoal in a dry place, as damp or wet charcoal may not ignite.

DON’T add lighter fluid to coals that have been lit, or use gasoline or kerosene to light briquettes.

WAIT until the coals are ash-grey and radiating heat, without flames, before you start cooking. This can take up to an hour, depending on your barbecue.

PREHEAT the hotplate or grill rack for 5-10 minutes for a gas-fuelled barbecue before adding food. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions.

ALLOW more cooking time on cold or windy days, or at higher altitudes. On extremely hot days, allow less time.

DON’T discard the ashes until they are completely cooled. For barbecues with hoods, close the hood and vents, then let them stand until cold. 

CLEAN the cooking surface with a stiff wire brush or scraper after cooking. Lightly oiling the hotplate or grill rack will prevent rust build-up and make cleaning easier.

Cooking Techniques
Cooking Techniques

Bring food, especially meat, poultry and seafood, to room temperature before adding it to the barbecue. If it is cold, it may burn on the outside before the inside is cooked.

PREVENT flare-ups during cooking by trimming excess fat from meats, use lean meats or place a drip pan directly underneath, stacking coals on either side. Also drain marinated meat so it is not dripping oil when added to the grill.

USE a nonmetallic bowl to marinate food if the marinade is acid-based, as metal can react with acidic ingredients such as citrus juice, wine or vinegar. You can also use heavy-duty plastic bags for marinating.

WRAP food to prevent moisture loss and enhance its flavour. As well as foil, you can use banana leaves, corn husks or paperbark.

AVOID overcrowding food on the hotplate or grill rack. Allow space around each piece for even cooking.

Using Skewers
Using Skewers

You can use either metal or wooden skewers for barbecuing.

SOAK all nonmetal skewers in cold water for 30 minutes before using.

SKEWER the food pieces directly through the centre so they stay in place.

USE the woody stems of edible plants, such as rosemary or bay, as skewers to impart a subtle flavour. Bamboo shoots, sugar cane and lemongrass can also be used.

ENSURE you don’t pack food too tightly or it won’t cook evenly. 

USE tongs or a spatula to turn or move skewers, as even soaked skewers can become hot and burn you.

Kettle Model
Kettle Model

Make sure you use the right fuel when using this type of barbecue.

Buy briquettes specially designed for use with kettle barbecues. If you use preferred brands, you will rarely need to add extra fuel during cooking.

Barbecue briquettes come bin two sizes. Small ones are the size of golf balls, while large  ones are twice this size. 

For your first barbecue, check the owner’s manual to see how many you’ll need and count them.

Once you’re familiar with the quantity needed, you’ll be able to judge it visually.

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