A symbol of convivialty, a reminder of the hours passed relaxing with friends, the barbecue now comes in different forms, materials and colours. Horizontal or vertical, charcoal or electrically-fired, fixed or portable, simple or very sophisticated, you now just have to choose from an ever-growing range available.
A little history
Cooking directly on flames is a very ancient, even primitive, technique. Used since man discovered that food could be cooked, by numerous ancient populations, it was however reintroduced to western civilization fairly recently. This reintroduction concided with the discovery of the New World. It is only in the 1700s that the term "barbecue" took on its current sense.
These are the most popular and most convivial. Meant for outdoor use, they are inexpensive and use charcoal to fire them. Purists will prefer vine or tree branches to get a better taste. A decent handyman can easily build a fixed version with bricks, breeze blocks or millstones. Those of you who are allergic to manual work can acquire a ready-made kit. The size should be chosen according to the intended use, allowing you space to store wood and the necessary utensiles for the various preparations.
Some models can even be converted into bread or pizza ovens ! Mobile models with wheels are available. These are very practical and generally light, and can be moved throughout the garden. The lesser-known Argentinian barbecue has a grill with little channels which allow the fat to pour into a gutter which recuperates it, thus avoiding the toxic fat-burning process.
The hearth, composed of a central grill or a collection of metal prongs which allow for good air circulation, is positionned vertically. Cooking is done on both sides on a spit or in grills. Often portable, these models propose a healthier cooking as the fat is never in contact with the embers. Easy to assemble, they give out little smoke and they are lit very quickly. They are fired with charcoal or coconut fibre disks which provide an ideal ember temperature in only two minutes.
Also for outdoor use, gas barbecues are more expensive (average price 200 euros). Their big advantage is that they are easy to light. They are quickly ready for use and the ideal temperature can be set immediately.
Often used indoors and placed on the table, cooking is done with little heat on a grill. They let off less odours and almost no smoke when cooking.
Cooking on a Barbecue
The inconvenience of barbecue cooking is that the fat runs from the meat and bursts into flame on contact with the embers - this carbonizes the food. But as barbacuing is seasonal, carbonization of food can be avoided. Use the highest notch for your grill, usually at least 10 cms. from the embers. Remove the fattest parts of your meat before cooking. Don't eat the blackened parts.