Written by Andrea Mead
Enjoy the barbecue season with an exciting makeover of your outdoor kitchen
Summer is the season for barbecues and most units get a workout over the Christmas and New Year holiday period. But can there be too much of a good thing? Even the most diehard outdoor cooking fan can get tired of the same old foods and setup, so in the interests of taking your barbecue repertoire from boring to brilliant, I’ll share my tips on how to reinvigorate your barbecuing this year.
1. Plan ahead
The fully functioning outdoor kitchen is a hot exterior design trend that shows no sign of disappearing. Adding an outdoor kitchen to your home will create extra living space and add value to your home — it will take your outdoor entertaining to a whole new level. However, it’s not a job to be taken lightly. Planning is key and you may require council approval. Consider layout and position, the sort of look you’re after and what appliances you need. Another important consideration is the type of benchtop you use — Heatlie’s Island Gourmet Elite is designed especially for outdoor kitchens and can be installed directly into any type of benchtop — even wood and MDF.
If a full outdoor kitchen isn’t an option, how about giving your outdoor entertaining area a mini-makeover? First, spruce up your outdoor dining setting with a pressure clean and add some brightly coloured cushions. Reposition your barbecue so it’s close to the entertaining area and handy to a table and fridge, if possible. Buy a few wooden boards and platters for serving food and a new centrepiece for your table. Consider creating a theme for our outdoor entertaining zone to create a sense of occasion.
3. Give it some TLC
How many times have you geared up for a barbecue and discovered at the last minute that your unit hasn’t been cleaned after the last time you used it? Get into the habit of cleaning your barbie after use — your unit will stay looking good longer and will transform an onerous task into a quick, five-minute job. Make sure you scrape the hotplate immediately after use. If it’s particularly messy, lift out the hotplate once cooled and give it a quick blast with a pressure cleaner. Remove and empty the fat container and you’re good to go again.
4. Rethink your menu
Though the traditional Aussie barbie is still a favourite, why not extend your barbecue repertoire to include pizzas, roasts and vegetable dishes? A barbecue with a solid steel hotplate, such as Heatlie’s Island Gourmet Elite, allows you to cook anything that you would normally prepare in a frying pan or wok — stir-fries, pancakes, flat-breads and even pizza. Simply roll your dough (either home-made or from your local Italian deli) to fit your pizza tray — I find a thinner base works better on the barbecue. Spread a good layer of tomato sugo on the base and top with prosciutto and bocconcini. Be sure not to overload your pizza with too many ingredients or the dough may become soggy, and cook for 15-30 minutes. Seafood is a natural on the barbecue; whole and filleted fish, prawns and squid are all ideal for cooking on a solid steel hotplate. If you’ve got a roasting hood, why not try cooking a leg of lamb, a chicken (see recipe) or beef roast — you can even use it to cook lasagne or to bake fresh fruit for dessert.
5. Upgrade to a new model
Did your barbecue just make it through Christmas? Were there flames coming out causing a dragon-like effect and charring your veggies to a crisp? If so you might want to consider investing in a new unit. It pays in the long run to choose a good-quality, Australian-made product with steel hotplates, a ribbon burner, an optional roasting hood and flame failure safety device. Consider also whether you need LPG or Natural Gas, particularly if the new barbecue is for installation in a new kitchen as Natural Gas connections need to be organised at the construction stage.
6. Keep it healthy
Long gone are the days when barbecuing meant dousing your hotplate in oil and charring food beyond recognition. A solid steel hotplate enables you to cook a range of food with minimal oil. Think roast vegies, haloumi burgers and grilled vegie kebabs. Likewise, using a hotplate (rather than an open grill) means food isn’t exposed to an open flame, reducing the build-up of harmful carcinogens on the food.
Andrea Mead owns and manages Heatlie, a producer of quality Australian-made barbecues. She is an avid barbecue cook and outdoor entertainer and fires up her Island Gourmet Elite most weekends for family and friends.
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