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Small BBQ from a novice - A write up... or was it F*cked right up!


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Hey guys, 

Well our BBQ went off ok.. to the lay-person, but if I'm honest I struggled a bit. So I thought I'd write it up, look for comments and maybe help other newbies to avoid my mistakes. I also wanted to know how others plan for a BBQ where a variety of meats and techniques may be needed. 

We had a small group of 15 planned to attend, so I started off early doors with a low 'n' slow for the 2 racks of ribs. To be honest, this was just an experiment rather than catering for our party so the pressure was off, or so I thought. They went on at about 8am on an indirect heat of >105C. This was fine for a few hours but the heat started wane just as it was time to wrap them. I panicked and added some pre-lit coals from a chimney starter. Now I was battling the temp being too high. Nothing I did helped the temp. I closed my top dampers but the vents in the bottom are permanently open and the BBQ lets in air either side.

For me, this is a classic example of the need for a 'proper' BBQ that is designed Direct/Indirect grilling. My Outback drum is a charlatan of the more serious indirect grilling BBQ techniques. The vents are permanently open on either end and there's just too much air getting in. A BBQing novice error to be heeded when buying or upgrading.

The ribs were actually much better than a previous attempt, but they were very salty and hammy. So when I looked into this I learned that either cooking too long or too high can do this, but also seasoning too early - I had applied the rub the night before, including salt, so I think I over cured them. I also later learned, via a great vid on YouTube, that the 3-2-1 method is more of an illustration than a method. I think I should've  monitored the internal meat temperature rather than arbitrarily use 3 hours followed by 2 and 1. I should've smoked to an internal temp of 74C. Then wrapped and and returned until an internal temp of 94C and then uncovered and started the glazing process. Loads learned from another 2 racks of ribs, but I'd appreciate any comments on some of my deductions.

An hour before the party started to arrive, the plan was to put some of the leaner meats (pork chops and chicken) on a higher indirect heat and then just reverse sear. I quickly learned that I was very cramped for space (again because my BBQ is not designed primarily for indirect grilling. I persevered but now I'm up against the clock. Tummies are rumbling and there's still a mountain of burgers, sausages and kebabs to get on! I ended up doing most of the cooking over a direct heat and transferring to the oven indoors to keep warm, just so that everything can be ready at the same time. Does everyone do this? I've been to plenty of BBQs where it's served up as it comes off the grill and by the time burgers are done you're full from everything else! How do you serve up yours?

Finally, I felt like mixing techniques of Direct/Indirect grilling is problematic and I got stressed. ie. You cannot indirectly cook food if you need the lid open to manage others while searing. Am I trying to do too much or is this all just down to my BBQ not being fit for purpose. Do people fire up 2 Qs for small parties to manage both techniques?

Despite it not being an indirect Q, I do really like the Outback Drum for its direct grilling space. The lid folds all the way down to double the grill space. Going forward, dependent on your guidance, I plan to get a Weber kettle so that for bigger parties, I can and use it for all the Indirect stuff, using snake coals etc., but keep the drum for the direct stuff.

Anyway, we got there. The food was lovely. The chops and chicken were the best I've done and everyone had a great time... Oh and Quins won the Premiership! #COYQ

I look forward to your comments.


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I have a similar situation when we have plenty of people around + different cooking temps for different foods + not enough grill space to do everything. This in itself can be a challenge to decide what first and how, but the more experience I get the better im able to cope...and the more efficient I become (still a long way to go).

Last time I decided to use the hotplate I have had in the loft for a few years so i could keep food warm outside, this worked extremely well as I was able to get quite a few veggies done before time to eat, and then focus else where. It also allowed me to take my time and not panic....which made me more organised and efficient.

I usually plan exactly what order i will cook in, plan on how I will change cooking configurations and plan to get food served 30-60 mins early. A  cool box allows your low and slow to finish quite abit earlier, allowing time to crank the heat up(since time seems to run away).

if im doing a low n slow cook (or a roast) indirectly then i like to choose sides that can be cooked at the same time and just added later into the cook. I try to get a nice choice of food served at the same time before changing to direct.

Your suggestion of having 2 grills is something that I am considering myself. 2 grills at different temps would certainly be a great team.

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I agree with the above post. Burgers can be cooked in six minutes depending on how thick they are, so I would them at the end of the cook (while the low n slow is resting). I put my coals over half of my Webber kettle, have the burgers over the coals and sausages and kebabs indirect with the lid on. It obviously depends on how much space you have in the grill as to how much you can cook. But I wouldn’t worry about it. Cooks never go to plan. That’s part of the fun

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