Christmas 2018: A guide to your perfect barbecue party

Updated: Dec 23, 2018, 12:54 IST | Nasrin Modak Siddiqi | Mumbai

Celebrate the nip in the air with an outdoor feast. Barbecue connoisseurs guide you to a perfect party

Growing up, Alefiya Jane's winters would mean watching her family enjoy barbeques in the garden outside their 200-year-old home in Bhayandar. Jane, a homechef recalls, says some of the grilling techniques comes from her mom and grandmother who cooked and roast on the traditional chulha.

Now, when friends are over, they throw a grill on the chulha and make a party out of it. "The fragrance of wood burning and the warmth in the air takes me back to my childhood. That's how I grill a whole fish for dinner," she adds.

Natasha Sharma at her Juhu residence. Pic/Ashish Raje
Natasha Sharma at her Juhu residence. Pic/Ashish Raje

"At the grill, everyone is a chef and it is fun to watch them get their hands dirty. Add to it a bonfire to roast marshmallows and meat while you sit in a circle and embrace the heat on a cold night is the best blessing ever," says the 32-year-old. Winter in Mumbai may be a shortlived dream, but it does make a case for barbecues. Moreover, with the holiday season and merry spirits in the air, this is perhaps the best time to get the grills and charcoal out.

Pick the right tools
Food stylist and actor Darshan Gokani has been barbecuing since 2006. While his housing society has restrictions, he often barbecues outside the city but when he does throw a party in town, he uses, "the griddle, oven, and at times to bathe the food in smoke, we light up a sigri to make our BBQ." He adds, "What excites me the most is the freshness of seasonal produce, coming up with an interesting marinade, the aroma whilst cooking and of course enjoying the charred vegetables."

Alefiya Jane
Alefiya Jane

Gokani picks up the appliances overseas or sometimes even online. He recommends brands like, Webber, Fabrilla and Prestige. Jane suggest making your own grill or even picking a customized one from a local dealer. Ensure you pick good quality charcoal: "The cheap ones can get very ashy and ruin the party environment and the food as well."

A balanced menu
Put together a menu that has carbs, vegetables and protein. "Design the colours and textures of your meal — there should be soft and succulent as well as charred and crispy. Make note of what needs to be marinated, pre-cooked or parboiled," says amateur home chef Natasha Sharma. Depending on the number of expected guests, have a generous array of food including different breads, salads, dips, and sauces. "Since the star will be the barbecued items, make sure there is enough room for it. Ensure cold food is part of the main course menu so that you can prepare this ahead and it will be in combination to the food off-the-grill."

Jane suggests being well stocked. Have three varieties of meat for grilling. A garden party is great with friends and family around with wine and other spirits to pair with the barbecue. "A pot luck barbecue is a great idea, so plan it by selecting a theme. Keep a dress code and plan a few games to make it interesting," she adds. Sharma, who believes you can "grill in your home, the balcony, outdoors, in your kitchen oven, on a barbecue pit or on a fancy grill" says it's best to marinate the meat overnight and vegetables, two hours ahead.

"For mutton and pork, when making a classic barbecue, chops are the best cut. For chicken, use drumsticks and thighs with skin. This keeps the meat moist and health conscious people can remove the skin before eating but the skin tastes great when grilled — crispy and the charred bits add an amazing flavour, which is the secret to a great barbecue. For prawns — large or extra-large sizes are the best. For burgers, a mix of meats is better than using just one type — a mix of buff and pork mince tastes great." adds Sharma.

Dos and Don'ts
The secret to great barbecue is to know your food well so that you don't over or undercook it. Never grill veggies and meat together as they have different cooking time. Meat needs 5-7 minutes till charred and vegetables are done in 2-5 minutes till charred. Sharma uses a food thermometer to ensure she doesn't under or overcook the meats. "It's crucial to stay vigilant and to never overcrowd the grill," she adds. Jane says to never use the marinade liquid for basting, "as you would contaminate the cooked meat on the grill with the raw juices."

Alefiya Jane's green masala for fish
Blend 2 cups fresh corriander, ½ cup fresh mint, 4 green chillies, 4 garlic flakes, 1 inch ginger, juice of ½ lemon, ½ tsp mustard seeds, ½ tsp cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp turmeric and salt

Warning
. Place the grill away from wooden railings, and don't place it under leaves or branches
. Keep a fire extinguisher handy
. Don't wear loose clothes

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