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How to upgrade to BBQ level expert

Words: Shamim De Brún

There are two sorts of BBQ people: those who believe there is a grilling season and those who think that it is always grilling season. Whichever you fall into, one thing is for certain: BBQs are an event in Ireland. So when your diary is filled up with grills making the one you’re throwing stand out is paramount.

Cooking meat over a fire is a prehistoric person’s most outstanding achievement. The fact we still do it today is equal parts brilliant and baffling. The way we BBQ now; meat cooked over a grill or pit, covered in spices and basting sauce, originated in the Caribbean.

The word “barbecue” is from a Caribbean Indian tribe’s language called the Taino. Their word for grilling on a raised wooden grate is barbacoa. According to Planet Barbecue, the word first appeared in print in a Spanish explorer’s account of the West Indies in 1526.

We’re all creatures of habit, so likely to do the same things we do every BBQ, but if you’re looking to shake it up and elevate your Saturday grill to an event, here are some suggestions—along with a quick tip or two—that’ll be sure to make you look like you only BBQ on expert level. 

05

The Drinks

Having the right tipple for every occasion becomes more and more important as the age of the connoisseur evolves. 

Nothing is better on a hot day than a fresh creamy pint of plain. Guinness is a medium-to-full-bodied, creamy stout with plenty of backbone. Arguably it works best with rich food, and BBQs are about rich food. Also, with it being the most popular beer in Ireland, it’s likely something all your guests drink. So if you’re going to provide beers for the occasion, it’s the ideal one.

If you want to lift your drinks game even higher, go for Guinness Nitrosurge. This little device delivers amazing quality pints with #domage and will get those guests talking! Especially if you let them test their own pouring skills with a little friendly competition.

Wine-wise, you wanna go all in on rosé or orange wine. Rosé is the safe choice. It’s got enough acidity to come up against BBQ flavours and hold its own with a zing without being overwhelming. Orange wine is for the more adventurous. It’s more like going toe to toe with unequal respect. If you’re feeling fancy, you can’t go wrong with a Pet Nat. Crucially all these wines err on the side of a lower abv, which is what ya want for a sunny day sipper.

You want some non-alcoholics too. When the sun’s out, we all gotta keep the hydration levels peak. This lemonade is an easy crowd pleaser you can make the night before and add sparkling water to the morning. There are some great non-alcoholic drinks out there now too, and not just lager. Guinness 0.0 is great and you can even get non-alcoholic Gordon’s for that classic G&T!

Top Tip: When hosting a BBQ, keeping all the drinks cold can be challenging. The fridge needs to keep the meat cold and fills up alarmingly quickly. We can only buy so many ice buckets, and then the ice melts in the sun’s heat. The best thing I’ve found to do is load the washing machine with ice and a bit of salt. Then, load the cans inside it. They’re easy to grab and stay cold and fresh much longer. 

04

Condiments are Crucial

All BBQs need condiments. The more options, the better. People have a wide range of tastes, and nothing is worse than when someone asks for a sauce you don’t have. The basics are mustard, preferably dijon, ketchup, mayo, blue cheese and a hot sauce. If you have all these, you’ve most bases covered. 

That said, you’re here because you wanna be a pro. So I suggest you make your own BBQ sauce, ideally with Guinness. It makes for perfect dipping but is also a handy glaze for literally all meat ever. This recipe takes legitimately three minutes to make and is a just-put-the-ingredients-together-and-stir job. Simple and foolproof. The perfect way to level up without much time. 

Top Tip: Have at least one South American sauce to dip in. They were designed for hot weather BBQ and always work with whatever meat you’re grilling.

03

Hear Me Out – Fish

It’s a capital offence that we don’t eat more fish when we BBQ. Sure we shrimp-on-the-barbie for the meme of it all but actually leaning into it and grilling a fillet of fish is fantastic. They also cook way faster than any other meat. 

Oysters make for excellent BBQ food because you get to shuck them yourself. Shucking an oyster, while not exactly easy, is actually fantastic craic. Oysters aren’t as expensive as they used to be and aren’t as bouji as they’re made out to be. What they are is an Irish classic. So getting your guests to give it a lash is a great way to kick off the day. 

You’ll need a thin and long dishcloth, a firm cutting board, and an oyster knife. Once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty straightforward, but the flailing at the start is part of the fun. Once they’ve been pried open, you can slurp away. They can then be eaten raw with a dash of lemon and tabasco. Or you can go that extra mile and have a dressing prepared. This Guinness oyster garnish is top-notch. 

If you’re feeling a little extra or are a competent griller, these fired Guinness oysters are something even the guests who don’t like oysters will be raving about. These Guinness Oysters Kilpatrick are grilled over the fire and then topped with Irish cheddar and a crispy rasher.

Guinness has been eaten with oysters since time immemorial, so this just makes perfect sense and anyone who doesn’t fancy it can get just raw dog it and sip. It’s a classic match made in gourmet heaven. The beer’s rich, creamy head and crisp taste compliment the brininess of the oysters and draw out their more complex flavours.

Top Tip: Go to an actual fish monger and tell them you’re expanding your BBQ horizons. They’ll sort you out and will give you some good cooking tips. 

02

Dessert

For a real summer treat, lean on the American tradition and grill some s’mores. You’ve already got the grill going, and they’re simple as all fudge. The sweet notes of the marshmallow, chocolate, and butter digestive make for a lip-smackingly good dessert. Who doesn’t love ooey gooey marshmallows?

You can’t go wrong with the classic ice cream sandwich. Hazelbrook Farm and wafers is a classic that never gets old. Elevate with this genius cutting technique with higher-end ice cream and cookies. Thank me later. 

If you and your mates are sweet enough, you’re leaning into cheese platter land. What’s excellent about cheese on a sunny day is it tastes even better when it’s warm and melty. It’s also fast to assemble; if you don’t well, there’s rarely much clean-up. 

In all likelihood, though, if you’re doing the grilling, you might be zonked when it comes to dessert-ing. So I recommend doing an art attack ‘here’s one I made earlier and whipping out this Guinness cake. It’s a rich, gooey good-god-I-know-I shouldn’t-but-I-must kind of tasty. Much easier to make than it looks. This bad boy is a dump of all the ingredients in a bowl, blitz, bake and boom, you’ve got cake. Lash some cream cheese icing on top, and it even looks like a creamy boi. Nom. 

Top Tip: Remember to let the cake cool before icing it!

01

Marinate your meat the night before.

If you can marinate your own meats, you actually won’t know yourself. Everything comes away juicier and more flavourful. For chicken, get buttermilk and peri peri seasoning. Mix them together and lash the chicken in it. It will only bring joy. 

For pork, you want something more Asian in origin. I’m partial to this Filipino BBQ Marinade. It’s s-awesome, if a little more work in the chopping department than anything else I’ve recommended here. 

I always skip burgers at a BBQ cause if they’re not smash burger quality, they just come out a little too dry for me. So instead, I go for chunks of beef or steak. Of course, you need a little fat for flavour, but if you want something a little spicier, you really just want a good rub. Higgins Butchers make a fantastic one if you’re not into putting one together yourself. 

If you want one for all this, Copycat Bennigan’s Guinness Glaze goes with everything. 

Top Tip: marinate meats in the plastic they come in. That way, they’re easier to store, stack, and minimise the washing up after. 

Whether your summer soirée needs a facelift or you are keen to introduce your friends to some daring pairings with their favourite stout, a pint of plain will elevate any barbeque.  

#LovelyDayForAGuinness

Please drink Guinness responsibly

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