If you’re planning a barbecue this weekend and tend to default to burgers, sausages and hot dogs, here are some things you can put on your grill to mix things up.
A beer can
Beer can chicken is a bit of a barbecue classic in the US, but it hasn’t really made its way to the UK. Yet.
Still, you can buy a beer can chicken roaster, which consists of a rack to help hold the beer can steady (£8.99, Amazon UK, beer not included) – or you can just use a beer can and very carefully prop up your chicken.
The steam from the beer helps to keep the chicken moist and the positioning of the chicken means its cooks evenly all over, leaving it with a crispy skin.
Here’s what you do:
Prepare your chicken, then coat it with a rub made of salt, brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, chilli powder and olive oil.
Open your can of beer and pour half of it into a glass. Drink that. (Okay, that’s not really part of it.)
Place the chicken onto the open, half-full beer can so that the can and the legs are holding it upright. Put the whole thing into the centre of a preheated barbecue grill.
Close the lid and cook it over a low heat for 60-70 minutes. Halfway through the process, brush more of the rub or a barbecue sauce over its skin. Once it’s cooked, let it sit for a few minutes before carving.
If you have vegetarians at your barbecue, grilled watermelon can add a bit of interest to your dinner options. Make sure you have a dedicated meat-free zone on your grill though.
Watermelon behaves a bit like jackfruit when it’s grilled, in that it takes on a meatier, chewier texture.
Cut the watermelon into thickly sliced triangles, with the rind attached to stop it falling apart when you turn it over. Sprinkle a mix of sugar, chilli flakes or sumac and a squeeze of lime over the watermelon slices and rub it in.
When the grill is hot, lay the watermelon slices on it. Cook until grill marks appear and then turn them over. It’ll only take a minute or two, so keep a close eye on them.
Remove them and serve. They’re really good with feta cheese.
If your burgers tend to dry out on the grill, press an ice cube into the centre of each one and fold the meat over it. Cook them as normal. As the ice cube melts, it’ll moisten the centre of the patty.
You can also use a pat of butter to do this.
A cast-iron skillet makes a surprisingly great barbecue accessory. If you want to make a potato dish but move away from jacket potatoes, try this one.
Slice up some small new potatoes.
Put some olive oil and a few cloves of crushed garlic into the skillet and put it on the grill. Cover the barbecue with a lid.
Give the oil a couple of minutes to heat up, then carefully add the potatoes. Stir them to coat them in oil.
Put the lid back on the barbecue and leave for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. When they’re done, take them out and season with salt, pepper and rosemary.
Pizza on a cupcake tray
If you make your own pizza or garlic flatbread and want to cook that on the grill, you don’t need a pizza stone.
Don’t put the pizza straight onto the grill though, as by the time the cheese has melted, the bottom will be charred. Instead, get a cupcake tray and place it on the grill. Stick the pizza or flatbread on top of that.
This is better than using a baking sheet as the pizza base only has partial contact with the cupcake tray and will also cook from the heated pockets of air in the tray.
Slices of white bread
If you use a gas grill, its heat distribution won’t be perfectly even. There will be hotter and cooler areas.
You can use these zones to your advantage when cooking. Start off by placing food in a very hot area to give it a great crust, then transfer it to a cooler spot to ensure it’s cooked through, without charring it.
But first, you need to find out where these spots are. Cover your grill with slices of white bread and run the burners on high for a couple of minutes. Then flip over the slices and you’ll see immediately where your hot and cool spots are.
This works even better to test the grill in your oven, as you don’t need to flip the bread. Take a picture on your phone so you remember the heat pattern.
If you cook fish straight on your barbecue grill, you may have had a problem with the fish sticking to the grill and flaking away when you try to remove it.
If you lay lemon slices onto the grill, you can cook your fillet on top of them. Not only does this protect the fish from falling apart, but adds citrus to the flavour.
If you’re making chicken skewers, try adding lemon slices between the chicken chunks as well.
And if you have problems cooking your kebabs evenly, add two skewers in parallel, instead of just one. This makes it easier to cook both sides perfectly.
For a quick dessert you can barbecue after everything else is done, try bananas. This is a popular one with kids.
Slice an unpeeled banana lengthways. Don’t cut right through – just into the centre of the fruit.
Stuff the slit with chocolate buttons.
Cover each one in foil and twist the ends together to make a sealed package.
Put the foil-covered bananas into the embers for 15 minutes.
A whole bulb of garlic
You can grill a bulb of garlic and make a delicious, creamy paste to serve with (toasted) French bread. Here’s what to do. (Make a few of these, by the way.)
Slice the top of the garlic bulb off, about a quarter of an inch in. This should expose the cloves.
Drizzle with a generous amount of olive oil.
Cover in foil and place on a hot grill, in indirect heat (not right over a flame) for half an hour or more. When they’re ready, the bulbs will be roasted through and the cloves will be soft.
Remove the cloves and spread on French bread. Accept the praise of your guests.
Want to read more? Get advice on which type of barbecue to buy, find out what to consider when you’re buying a coffee grinder or check out some cleaning hacks for home appliances.