Top Norfolk chef's tips for upping your barbecue skills this summer

Richard Bainbridge's Southern-style pork belly

Make Richard Bainbridge's Southern-style pork belly - Credit: Katja Bainbridge

Barbecue season is upon us, and National BBQ Week is just around the corner.

Richard Bainbridge, from Benedicts in Norwich, has talked us through his top tips for improving your grilling at home.

Last year he released a range of barbecue sauces, and has just launched a Dine at Home barbecue menu.

"I'm trying to break down the stigma of the English barbecue being burnt sausages and raw chicken," he said.

Richard Bainbridge, owner of Benedicts restaurant Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Richard Bainbridge, owner of Benedicts restaurant Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

Here are some of his tips.

  • For best results, plan ahead

"If friends are coming over at about 7pm, get the barbecue lit at about 5pm," he said. "Let it get nice and hot and control its temperature.

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"It will tick over nicely and it will be like cooking in an oven. You shouldn't really see any flames, until you see fat dripping on it."

If you're cooking a big piece of meat, he said, get that on first, and leave sausages and burgers, for example, for later.

  • Marinate, marinate, marinate

Mr Bainbridge said a marinade or spice rub on meat or vegetables really "enhances the smoky, barbecue flavour".

"Key [ingredients] are smoked paprika, cracked black peppercorns and sea salt," he said. "They are the three basics, you can add in your own flavours from there - juniper, thyme, parsley, anything."

To help a spice rub stick to food, Mr Bainbridge advised using a thin coating of mustard, which he said wouldn't flavour the food too much, but would help the rub stay in place.

  • Go low and slow

"Anyone can cook low and slow," he said, "it doesn't need to be a special barbecue.

"As long as you have a lid for it, get the heat started, put a piece of wood on it, keep it at around 120C and you can cook anything."

His southern-style pork belly is cooked between 3.5 and 4.5 hours.

  • Go local and sustainable  

Mr Bainbridge said he uses lumpwood charcoal over briquettes, which can be binded using glue or chemicals.

He said he uses Norfolk sustainable wood, and prefers silver birch, which he said gives a sweet aroma. Oak and ash, he said, are also good, and burn slowly.

  • Keep it moist

If you're cooking something low and slow, to stop it drying out Mr Bainbridge mixes double the amount of vinegar to barbecue sauce in a spray bottle.

It the meat starts to look dry, he gives it a spray to keep it moist and build flavour.

  • Make it an extension of your kitchen

"It shouldn't have to be a massive event to light a barbecue," he said. "By the time you've lit it and got everything ready, it's just like turning an oven on and waiting for it to heat up."

He said it should be an extension of your kitchen, and that he barbecues year-round, including at Christmas.

A hamper containing food including a coffee barbecue sauce, spicy barbecue sauce and session IPA beer.

Richard and Katja Bainbridge have launched a new range of products, R Bainbridge Provisions. - Credit: Katja Bainbridge

  • And what about a favourite barbecue dish?

He said a classic he often opts for is beer can chicken - an open beer can is put inside a chicken, which has been seasoned with smoked paprika, salt and pepper, and cooked standing up. The beer evaporates, steaming the chicken, as the outside roasts.

Mr Bainbridge's barbecue sauces include elderflower and coffee-flavoured options, while the Dine at Home menu includes a barbecue watermelon salad, spiced Norfolk pork belly and lightly-smoked panna cotta.

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