Brush Up Your BBQ Skills!

Namibian Hardwood UK LTD Brush Up Your BBQ Skills Tips & Tricks

Tongs at the ready! Summer’s here and it’s time to fire up the coals. Here are top tips to make your barbecue brilliant. 

You know summer is in full swing when delicious barbecue aromas waft through your neighbourhood. With beautiful skies and warm weather, many people are getting barbecue fires going and inviting friends and family to join in this quintessentially pastime.

But when you’re the one with the barbecue tongs in your hand, how confident do you really feel? Make a few ill-advised decisions and it could all go horribly wrong.

Your brother-in-law asked for his steak to be medium rare, but when he cuts into it he’s disappointed to discover there isn’t a hint of pink inside. Or the coals were too hot and you’ve burnt the outside of the chicken pieces while the inside is still raw.

These tips will help you become a barbecue expert:  


If you want to prevent  flare-ups, trim the fat off  chops, barbecue coach Jean Nel advises.

“Medium high heat works perfectly with lamb chops. Sear the chops then turn them   once or twice. Lamb should still be medium   once you take it off the barbecue.”

Banters (and even those not on the high-fat, low-carb diet) may be hesitant to trim the fat. YOU food editor Carmen Niehaus suggests threading three lamb chops on a kebab skewer and placing them fat side down on the grill. Cook until they’re nice and crispy, remove, and then barbecue each chop individually until cooked.


Don’t even think of par cooking sausage before the barbecue, Jean says. There’s no need for this.

“It’s simple. Start to barbecue the sausages on the cooler part of the fire to allow the inside to cook fully,” he explains. “Then use barbecue tongs to move them to the hotter side of the fire. This gives the finishing touch.”


People are picky about steak. Some retreat at the sight of pink juice flowing out of a rare steak, while others are turned off completely by anything above medium rare.

Cooking times depend on the size of your steak but here’s a rough  guide.

  • Rare: five to six minutes
  • Medium rare: seven to eight minutes
  • Medium: eight to 10 minutes
  • Medium well: 10 to 11 minutes
  • Well done: “Wouldn’t recommend it for steak,” Carmen says.

Make sure your coals are very hot. “Never put steak on a cool fire,” Jean says. “Leave it at room temperature for at least an hour before the braai. Salt early and often as this adds flavour and keeps the steak juicy. Sear the steak on hot coals then moves it to the cooler side.”

Carmen prefers thick steaks, at least 3 cm. And chef and Ultimate Barbecue Master Judge Bertus Basson points out that fillet have the least flavour. “Try rump or sirloin,” he suggests.


At a barbecue chicken often takes a backseat to traditional favourites  such as lamb chops and sausage, but if chicken is done right, your guests will happily give red meat a miss.

“Chicken breast off the bone is perfect for quick medium-to-high-heat barbecuing,” Jean says. Just make sure all the pieces are about the same size.

“Wings are for low-maintenance barbecuing. Barbecue over low to medium high heat.”

Breasts with skin and bone  work best in a kettle barbecue. “A simple dry rub is amazing with this,” he adds. Chicken has a neutral flavour, making it perfect for marinades, Carmen says.

“If you marinate chicken, dry it off with paper towels before cooking, otherwise the marinade may burn.” Brush the chicken with the marinade five minutes before it’s done, Jean says.

“Chicken is the best meat choice for kebabs. It won’t be tough and goes well with anything else you skewer on the kebab.”


“Meaty ribs are from the belly of a pig,” Jean says. “It’s a heavier meat cut than for instance baby back ribs. Preheat the oven to 180 °C, marinate the ribs with a rub or marinade, foil them and put them in the oven for up to two hours. Then grill them on the hot coals for 10 to 15 minutes.”

Put lamb ribs in a folding grid and put it on the side of the fire to cook slowly, Carmen says. “This is called a stand-up rib.”

Turn it every now and then. The whole rib is then cut into individual ribs and each is dipped into marinade and quickly barbecue the meat side down until nice and crispy.


Instead of serving salad as a side dish, change things up by cooking vegetables on the braai. Your vegetarian friends will thank you!

Carmen suggests cutting vegetables such as cauliflower, aubergine and baby marrows into slices and barbecuing them over the coals until browned on the outside. “Brush often with olive oil,” she adds.

When is the meat done?

Don’t have a thermometer at hand? No problem. You can use your index finger to check if meat is cooked to perfection.  “If it’s soft to the touch, the steak is rare. Feel it again two minutes later. Soft with some resistance? Medium rare,” explains  Jean Nel, author of BBQ the Beloved Country. “The muscle fibres become harder as the meat is barbecued through. The firmer it feels, the more well-barbecued it is.”

Get to know your butcher 

You need quality meat for a good barbecue. “I’d love to see more butcher shops around. We live in an era of vacuum-packed meats   where we simply don’t know the source,” says Jean Nel, a barbecue coach and author of BBQ The Beloved Country. “Get to know your butcher. Ask them to cut the meat you require for your next barbecue.”

Chef and Ultimate BBQ Master judge, Bertus Basson agrees. “Get to meet, support and form a relationship with your nearest butcher and follow their recommendations because they should know best.”

Common Barbecue Blunders

  • Don’t overcook the meat or it will be overdone and dry, YOU food editor Carmen Niehaus warns. If your guests end up munching dry lamb chops, next time they’ll confiscate the braai tongs and relegate you to making salads or pouring drinks.
  • If your coals aren’t the right heat, chances are your barbecue won’t be a success. Steaks and chops require extremely hot coals,  Carmen says. Larger pieces of meat, chicken and griddlecakes should be cooked over medium heat.
  • Never stick a fork in a piece of meat. This causes the juices to run out and the meat will be dry.
  • Don’t serve meat immediately after taking it off the barbecue. Although everyone is probably ravenous and eager to tuck in, you should allow large cuts of meat to rest for about 10 minutes. Your patience will be rewarded as the resting time allows the juices to be reabsorbed, making the meat juicier, Carmen explains.

Source: YOU Magazine