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I’m a Barbie Girl

I love meat. There, I said it. At the risk of being whacked across the face with a stick of tofu, I will stand up and take one for my meat-guzzling team and say it again: I. LOVE. MEAT. I have bungee jumped the highest jump in New Zealand, watched the sun rise over peaks dusted with snow in Doubtful Sound but nothing compares to the Thrill of the Grill.  And if I’m the Meat Messiah, Australia is Beef Heaven.

Don’t get me wrong; I feel awful for the countless cows, sheep, pigs, ducks, chickens, and once even a horse, that I have devoured in my time, I honestly do. It’s not their fault they’re so delicious. But I can’t help myself. If I could grow bacon in my garden, I would.

It’s summer in Australia. As I turn the gas on and light the barbie, I look down at the street below and see surfers towing their boards behind their bikes on the way to the beach. Rich smoke fills the air taking me back to my childhood in Mauritius where dad is standing over the braai, beer in one hand, tongs in the other. This is the smell I inhaled on Saturday mornings at boarding school, as I wandered the school grounds and smelled the lingering odor of meat cooking on the open fire as it crept over the walls of the surrounding houses. I would imagine families gathered around the grill, children splashing in swimming pools, listening to calls of “Marco! Polo!” and feel particularly homesick.

Oddly, a lot of women don’t know how to barbeque. Many believe their place to be in the kitchen, making potato salads and gossiping over glasses of wine. Not me. With an English boyfriend for whom al fresco cooking is still a novelty, I am the one who holds the tongs and drinks the beer. I sizzle the sausages. I bring home the bacon. And I give you my Girl’s Guide to the Grill. Readers, get ready for the meatpocolypse.

    1. Sirloin (aka Porterhouse or New York Steak) Rich in flavour, a good steak to default to.

    2. Scotch fillet (aka boneless rib eye or rib fillet): Juicy, tender and tasty. Costs a little more because it’s so delicious.

    3. Fillet steak (eye fillet or tenderloin): mild, subtle flavour. Very tender.

    4. T-Bone: The number 1 Aussie Barbie steak. Tender, rich and full of flavour. A little fillet on the smaller side of the bone and sirloin on the other, so you can have the best of both worlds. The only issue I have with these is the bone, which gives the deception of more meat than there actually is. Bummer.

    5. Rump: On the cheaper steak spectrum, these steaks are leaner but a little tougher.

Books could be written on the numerous tips to barbequing, encyclopedias even. I could go on for days dispatching advice, from the controversial debate of coal vs gas to the different flavours of wood chips to infuse your meat with a special smokyness. Unfortunately I have sausages on, so my time is limited. Here are my golden rules of the grill:

Rule #1: Don’t scrimp on meat.

My flatmate, a quintessential vest wearing moustachioed Aussie bloke called JP, wasted no time in directing us to the best sausage shop in Wollongong. JP considers himself a sausage connoisseur (actually, the word he used was “sausageasseur”) and directed us to the East Corrimal Butchery (aka sausage heaven) where we found a variety of blends, from mushroom and garlic, to bacon and tomato. We bought a kilo for about $8.00, which with their quality, was an absolute bargain.

Rule #2: Keep it tidy.

No one likes a piggy, unless it comes in rashers. Start out with a clean barbecue, and scrape it clean at the end of each cooking session. Turning up the heat is a good way to burn off any stubborn bits of charred flesh.

Rule #3: Forget the marinade.

Some of you might disagree with me on this one, and prefer to drench your meat in all kinds of concoctions but I am a barbecue purist. If you’ve obeyed rule #1 and bought a decent cut of meat, you shouldn’t need to rely on soy sauce or granny’s famous marinade to make it taste amazing. Frankly, marinading a good steak is like eating oysters with ketchup. Have a little respect for the animal sacrificed to fill your belly, a little sea salt and ground pepper should be more than enough to bring out that wonderful beefy flavour. The only thing that you can acceptably marinade is chicken, and even then, it’s not a necessity.

Rule #4: Make sure your meat is at room temperature when you throw it on the fire

If your meat goes onto the fire fresh from the fridge, it won’t cook evenly and then you’ll wish you’d drowned it in marinade.

Rule #5: Turn up the heat.

This one applies to steak, we’ll discuss sausages later on. Make sure the grill is super hot before you put the steak on it. By super hot, I mean that you shouldn’t be able to hold your hand over it for more than a couple of seconds. The steak should sizzle as it hits the barbie.

Rule #6: Give it a rest.

This is crucial. No matter how much your mouth is watering as you watch the steak sizzle, dripping bits of delicious fat into the fire below as your neighbours suddenly find reasons to pop over for a visit, DO NOT eat your meat straight off the grill. Exercise a little self-control and let it rest, it will give the meat time to relax and reabsorb it’s juices, giving you a tastier and more tender dinner.

Rule #7: The Sausage Fundamentals.

Sausages may seem simple, but in my experience are the most frequently botched of barbie delights. Cook sausages on a medium heat or they will burst. Some people like to mutilate them by poking them all over, but I find that this lets all the lovely juices escape. If you have the heat low enough, you should have no need for poking. Turn them regularly to make sure they cook evenly and save the poking for facebook.

Rule #8: Give your meat the finger.

Forget fancy thermometers, the best way to judge how well a steak is cooked is to prod it with your finger. If it’s soft, it’s rare. The firmer it is, the more well done it is. Although as an aside, eating a steak well done also falls into the oysters with ketchup category.

Rule #9: Experiment.

I have found that most things can be cooked on the barbie (even noodles). Have some fun, don’t limit yourself to meat. Pineapple slices, asparagus and corn are all fabulous cooked over a flame. I have had pizzas cooked on the barbecue, bread baked in the coals. Barbecued bananas are especially delicious and so is anything wrapped in bacon.

So you think you can grill and want to test your skill. Here are some of my favourite recipes, the ones that I have grown up with. Enjoy!

Beer up the Bum Chicken

Well that got your attention. This one is impressive, hilarious and delicious. And you have to drink half a can of beer to get it going:

Dad’s Big Fillet

Nothing impresses guests more that a huge whole filet dumped on the barbie, and this one has been my dad’s crowd-pleaser for decades.  It’s difficult to please everyone when cooking one piece of meat, so this is the solution:  Caremelise the entire fillet (and you can break to no-marinade rule and add a bit of soy to this rather bland tasting cut) until it is rare.  Rest it for five minutes so the meat draws the juices back in, then slice the meat about one centimeter or more in diameter.  Recook  on the sides to the guests desired wellness.

Bus Chicken

I grew up on small island full of buses and chickens. Often the two would meet. My sister and I called the following flattened chicken “bus chicken,” although, to my knowledge, none of the ones we ate were scraped off the road.

Remove the back bone by cutting down each side from the pope’s nose and spread the chook open flat, bone side down on a medium to low barbie.  The bones are a barrier to the fire, resulting in a juicy well cooked chicken.  For extra deliciousness, slide your finger between the skin and the flesh, starting on the thighs, and then insert some dry spices.  Put in whatever you want, it’s your chicken. Again, experimentation is half the fun. The skin will gets crispy and the spice flavour penetrates the flesh, knocking the socks off your guests and sending them into a chicken induced coma.

So there you have it readers, my sausage secrets, the key to kebabery. I hope you’ve found this useful, and waste no time getting your grill on. Are you a meat connoisseur? Have you got any recipes or tips you’d like to share? Go ahead and leave them in the comments. On the other hand, if you’re an angry vegan feel free to grill me too. There’s nothing better than a fired up vegetarian… In the meantime, my sausages are ready.

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