Barbecuing is an American tradition. Mixing ideas from Germany, The Middle East, The Caribbean and the Mediterranean the American barbecue is something truly unique.
In the United States, the barbecue is a work of art that blends all these influences and produces unique flavors and styles across the country. Whilst some parts of the world are content with throwing meat on a grill and burning it, Americans are passionate about what meat to use and how to prepare it.
Avoid all the fights and go international instead.
Cooking tips and and safety
Regardless of what type of barbecue or grill you settle on there are some basic safety concerns that you need to consider. Make sure you follow normal food hygiene at all times and avoid cross contamination. Meats need to be cooked to the right internal temperature with chicken needing to reach 170F, and Pulled pork, ribs and brisket at least 180F. A good quality temperature probe is an excellent investment but make sure you learn how to use it properly.
Using a temperature probe properly
Too many people jab chicken to the bone and get a false reading. A rule of thumb is to probe the thickest part of the meat the longest way in. Some people rely on charts but these give widely varying readings since meat is rarely uniformly thick and varies dramatically in make up. Heat travels differently through different tissues and penetrates meat slowly. A good temperature probe needs to record how warm it is at the center.
Visit the Middle East to learn new flavors
All around Arabia and Persia shawarma is king. At its most basic shawarma is basically a chicken gyro with pickles, fries and garlic sauce in a flatbread however that is only scratching the surface. The shawarma spice mix is ubiquitous throughout the region and is used in marinades, stews and even salads. To taste shawarma or zata spice is to taste the desert. A quick and easy way to wow your friends and family is to prepare some grilled chicken that will knock their socks off.
Shawarma chicken works well with on the bone pieces or breast meat. If you are using on the bone chicken butterfly it and score it to the bone with deep cuts every half inch as you would for tandoori. There are two different methods to try with shawarma spice and you will need to see which you prefer. In the first marinade you mix two tablespoons of shawarma spice with equal amounts of olive oil and lemon juice.
In the second, you take two cups of natural yoghurt add two tablespoons of shawarma spice and a splash of lemon juice. In either method you need to marinade your chicken for two hours. You don’t want to leave it too much longer than that or the acidity of the marinade will start to cook the chicken and make it dry. Just before grilling coat your chicken in more shawarma spice and rub it in deeply. Grill your chicken slowly to begin with and then ramp up the heat to crisp up the fat at the end.
Marinade finely chopped onions with lemon juice and zatar spice. Let this sit for 15 minutes. Thinly slice or fork your chicken and serve in pitta bread with garlic mayonnaise, tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, hummus and the onions. As your guests argue over whether to smoke or grill… injection marinade or dry rub… or pork or beef you can show them what the correct answer is – shawarma.