Barbecue basics: marinating, grilling and pre-preparing

By Ren Behan

We may have seen the last of the British Bank Holidays for this year, but with the weather staying warm for a while yet it’s not quite time to pack up the barbecue. It takes no time at all these days to fire up a gas-fired barbecue, making it easy to turn up the heat as you need it and cook a tasty outdoor meal. If you are more into traditional coals, just light them ahead of time and start cooking when the flames have died down a little.

A fair amount of barbecue food is pre-marinated these days, but it can be more expensive that way. Why not buy your own barbecue-friendly cuts and whisk up a quick marinade yourself? Marinating doesn’t just add flavour, it also tenderises your meat and makes it juicier when cooked. If your meat is marinating in the fridge, make sure you take it out and let it get to room temperature about twenty minutes before barbecuing.

When deciding on a marinade, think about the sort of flavours you’d like to create. Perhaps a very simple and sweet American-style BBQ sauce, or, try spicing things up a little (or quite a bit!) with a Caribbean-inspired marinade. Levi Roots-stylee Jerk chicken with jalepeno breads is a great recipe to try if you’ve never tried a jerk chicken marinade or rub before. You’ll be in for quite a treat with punchy flavours like allspice or pimiento, scotch bonnet chillies, honey and lively green herbs. For barbecued food with a difference, you could also try a Thai-inspired marinade. Use bashed up lemon grass, chilli, garlic and ginger, or even simpler, try coating your meat with a green Thai curry paste mixed with a little coconut milk or yoghurt.

Tasty salads and sides often make all the difference when it comes to feeding a crowd at a barbecue. Get prepared ahead of time and make as many of the accompaniments as possible in advance, so that as soon as the mains are cooked to perfection, you’re ready to serve and begin eating. Everybody will love a New potato salad with garlic mayonnaise and cress or a simple homemade coleslaw with white cabbage, carrots, onions and mayonnaise. Put out plenty of rolls and fresh bread, with pickles and a selection of sauces.

Finally, don’t forget the vegetables to add some extra colour to the table. You can grill lots of different vegetables on the barbecue once the heat had settled a little. Try peppers sliced in half and filled with couscous, wrapping them up in tinfoil and cooking until tender. Or, simply add slices of aubergine and courgette to the grill. Here’s a Masterclass on BBQ vegetables for a few extra tips – just ignore the rain in the video!

Ren Behan is a food writer and mum of two. Find our more at www.renbehan.com

Basic Barbecue Sauce / Marinade

A good barbecue sauce / marinade can be used for so many different occasions and it's especially perfect to marinate your meat in before you cook it on the grill. This recipe for barbecue sauce is very easy to make and it can be used for almost all kinds of meat.

There are so many different ways of making a barbecue sauce, however, we have tried to cut away all the fancy and special ingredients and stick to the most common and basic ingredients. This way the recipe only contains ingredients which most people already have in the homes or at least can find in every grocery store.

In the barbecue season, we always have a batch of this sauce ready in the fridge. When the weather allows it, we marinate some meat and throw it on our grill. One of the things we really love to cook on our grill are some barbecue marinated chicken drumsticks - they are simply just fantastic together with this BBQ marinate.

How to marinate meat: 7 tips for delicious marinades

1. The basic ingredients of any marinade

Salt and oil are the two basic ingredients of any marinade. You can also add soy sauce or sugar as additional taste boosters. Here’s the 4 basic ingredients in how to marinate meat properly.

  • Salt:
    Salt is the foundation of any marinade. It makes sure the meat can absorb the marinade, so use it abundantly. In combination with herbs and spices, it enhances the taste. Salt makes sure the moisture from the marinade gets absorbed even in dryer areas of the meat. The process behind this is called osmosis: the salt first pulls out the meat juices, which then get absorbed back into the meat with the marinade’s flavors in tow.
    Salty fact: salt breaks down the meat’s protein structures creating little gaps that can be filled by the marinade’s moisture making the meat more juicy. Otto goes into to detail how to salt your steak for the best flavor.
  • Oil:
    Oil is a must-have for your marinade. Most of the herbs and spices only reveal their aromatic flavors when combined with oil.
  • Soy sauce:
    Soy sauce is a favorable replacement or addition to salt when you are looking for a more exceptional marinade. Soy sauce contains glutamic acid which reinforces the meat’s flavor.
  • Sugar/Honey:
    Sweetness in the form of sugar or honey further intensifies the meat’s flavor and guarantees a beautiful crust on the grill. The best way how to marinate meat with honey is to melt it into your sauce or brush it directly on the meat.

2. Plenty of herbs and spices

The higher the concentration of salt in the marinade, the more herbs and spices you need for the meat to absorb their taste. One of Otto’s favorite herb mix marinade is with an abundance of garlic, herbs and spices: at least 3-4 cloves of garlic and at least one big tablespoon of chopped herbs. This is how you marinate meat: plenty of herbs and spices!

3. Fork the meat before marinating

Take a fork and prick some holes into the meat before marinating it so that the meat will absorb the sauce more easily. Using a knife can achieve the same goal, especially when you want to marinate bigger steak cuts.

4. Cover the meat in the marinade

The meat should be covered evenly with the marinade from all sides. For this purpose, we advise you to put the marinated meat into a zip-lock bag and flip the bag after marinating for half the time needed. Another way is to use a big bowl covered with cellophane, stirring the meat halfway through the marinating time.

5. Refridgerate

Microorganisms love to proliferate at temperatures between 5-40 ºC/ 40-100 ºF. This is why Otto recommends placing your marinating meat into the fridge. It is adviseable to place a plate or tray underneath it in case of any leaks – less mess to clean up afterwards.

6. Marinate for several hours

The whole purpose to marinate is so that the meat will be absorbed with a mouthful of flavors. The longer you leave the meat in the marinade, the more of the salty seasonings will emanate from your cooked steak. If you are wonderng how to marinate meat quickly, Otto recommends the vaccum-seal method. If you have the right equipment, you can vacuum seal your meat and marinade to shorten the time you need to wait before grilling. Some even swear it enhances the taste experience even more than the original way.

7. Never use the same marinade twice

The marinade mixes with raw meat juice so you shouldn’t use the same marinade more than one time. If you were hoping to use some of the marinade on your grilled meat as a sauce, make sure to make extra marinade and put some aside for topping.

8. Cook it right

And remember, no matter how delicious the marinade, you will want to cook your meat properly – find out how to cook a proper core temperature with this guide to the desired degree of doneness.

Do you all of a sudden have a craving for a marinated meat snack? Try our marinated lamb chops.

Best Odds Brisket Marinade

Marshall Astor / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Red wine vinegar takes over as the acid in this simple Best Odds Brisket Marinade. Building on that, it adds Worcestershire sauce for some extra beefy flavor and brown sugar for sweetness.

The rest of the recipe requires common ingredients, including garlic, olive oil, paprika, salt, and pepper. If you're looking for a marinade that's full of flavor and gives you the best odds for creating perfect barbecue brisket, this is the recipe you need.

Barbecue Basics

Learn how to use a regular outdoor grill to get barbecue's signature smoky flavor and melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Pop quiz: You're having a cookout for your friends and family. What are you cooking? If it's hamburgers, hot dogs and veggie kebabs, that's actually officially called grilling.

Grilling is cooking over direct heat, perfect for quick-cooking foods like hamburgers, hot dogs, fish and veggies. But if you tried to grill a large piece of meat like a pork shoulder, the outside would burn before the inside was done, and it'd end up tough and chewy. That's where barbecuing comes in.

When we say barbecue, we mean cooking large cuts like ribs, brisket, pork butt (which is actually the shoulder) or even whole pigs over low heat for a long time (also known as low and slow). Barbecue's signature smoky flavor and fall-apart, melt-in-your-mouth texture traditionally come from hours in an outdoor smoker. You'll see those at barbecue restaurants and competitions they're usually huge and built with a separate chamber for smoky fuel, perfect for slow-cooking a large amount of meat. But if you don't have a smoker, you can still get great barbecue flavor from your grill: Here's how to turn a regular outdoor grill into a barbecue machine!

How To Use Barbecue Smoker Recipes

  • If you have a specific barbecue question then use the search bar at the top of this (and every other) page. Your question may have been asked before and you'll find your answer in a matter of seconds. If you can't find what you are looking for then head for the BBQ forum.
  • For recipes use the left hand navigation bar (scroll down if on a mobile device). Each recipe is categorised by its main ingredient and from there each page is sectioned into BBQ smoker recipes and easy grilling recipes. You'll also find some kamado cooking recipes too because I cook on my Monolith kamado pretty much all the time.

Barbecue Chuck Roast Recipe

Marinade Time:- up to 24 hours

Cooking Time:- 3 - 4 hours

This recipe is based on using a chuck steak of between 1Kg - 1,5Kg (2.2 - 3lb).

Place your chuck steak in a zip lock bag and pour in the marinade. Keep the bag in the refrigerator and turn every so often for up to 24 hours. The marinade is only going to penetrate the surface of the steak so if you want to add more flavour then you'll need to inject.

Note: Read my barbecue marinades section to see why I don't often recommend marinating for more than 30 minutes because it has little additional effect and can turn the surface of the meat mushy. In this case however the meat is still going to be cooked for a long period of time so any "mushiness" will dry out and firm up.

When ready to cook, remove the chuck roast from the bag but don't discard the marinade.

Slow roast over indirect heat at approximately 120°C (250°F) for a couple of hours and throw as few wood chips of your choice on the coals.

When two hours is up, double wrap the chuck roast in strong foil and pour in the remainder of the marinade. You can also place the foil wrapped steak in a roasting tin to ensure that you don't lose the marinade jus. Now cook for a further two hours or until the core temperature reaches 90°C (195°F)

Allow the roast to rest for 20 minutes and then slice / shred as you wish and serve with mashed potato and the remaining jus that's in the bottom of the foil.

Tender cuts of pork, like the loin, ribs, or belly, may not need to be marinated for tenderness, but these parts absorb flavor well and can make a piece of meat come alive in your mouth. Since extremely lean cuts of pork like pork tenderloin can dry out quickly with a hot cooking method, it's best to give the meat as much flavor as possible ahead of time by marinating it in the refrigerator.

You will find that the least amount of time that tenderloin needs in a pan or oven is best. Have a thermometer handy. Once the meat reaches a safe temperature of 145 F (medium-rare), remove it from heat to reduce the chances of it drying out.


    • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
    • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
    • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
    • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea), or to taste
    • 4 strips of lemon zest
    • 3 cloves garlic, crushed with the side of a cleaver or minced
    • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
    • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil, cilantro, dill, oregano, or a mix of all four
    • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil


  • For the sweet herb
  • marinade:
  • 2 level tbsp dark brown soft sugar
  • Zested rind and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2-3 level tbsp chopped fresh oregano and/or thyme
  • 4tbsp olive oil
  • For the soy, honey and ginger
  • marinade:
  • 3tbsp soy sauce
  • 3tbsp clear honey
  • 1-2tbsp freshly grated root ginger
  • For the pesto
  • :
  • 3-4tbsp fresh green pesto
  • Finely zested rind and juice of ½ lemon
  • For the spiced marinade
  • 1-2tbsp curry paste, eg, tikka
  • 4tbsp natural yogurt

Marinades, Brines, And Rubs Make Grilled Foods Great

Sometimes food just needs a little extra love before it&aposs ready for the grill.


Marinades are flavor-infusing liquids. In addition to herbs, condiments, spices, and oils, marinades typically include an acid, like lemon juice, wine, vinegar, even dairy. Sweet ingredients (brown sugar, cola) can help form delicious caramelized, crispy coatings on grilled meats.

Always marinate in the refrigerator. And remember, if you&aposre basting with a liquid in which raw meat marinated, do not apply it during the last three minutes of grilling.

For much more on flavor-infusing marinades, check out How To Marinate Meat, Veggies, and Seafood.


Brines are salty solutions that help lean meats hold their moisture so they stay juicy and tender during grilling.

Brining is a popular method for preparing poultry, particularly turkey, and lean meats, like pork, that tend to dry out on the grill. Sugar, spices, and herbs are sometimes added to the liquid as well.

Soak meats in a container large enough to submerge the meat completely without allowing it to float in the solution. Store in the refrigerator.

Before grilling, rinse brined meat to remove excess salt and dry it with paper towels.

Rubs are seasoning mixtures rubbed on meats before grilling to add spicy or smoky flavors. The best rubs enhance the flavor of the meat without being overbearing and are often blends of strong and mild spices and herbs. When oil or another wet substance is included, it is called a wet rub. A little moisture helps the rub adhere to the meat.

Rubs are an easy way to infuse your grilled meats with exciting ethnic flavors--from Cajun to Korean.

Setting aside rubbed meats for anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight allows the spices to permeate the meat.