Barbecuing, the oldest form of cookery, traditionally refers to cooking food over an open fire, hot coals or hot embers, although in modern terms it can also refer to cooking food on a flat or ridged char-grill heated by electricity.
Types of Barbecues
Barbecues can be a flat metal plate, a solid ridged plate or an open grill with spaces between the metal grill bars. They can be heated by various energy sources:
- Wood, Charcoal or Heat Beads
Don’t place seafood over a flaming fire, for best results allow the fire to burn down to a bed of glowing embers. Even when cooking on a flat metal plate, flames coming into contact with the plate can create hot-spots (the centre of the plate is usually the hottest), and you’ll get a far more even heat distribution if you allow the fire to burn down before commencing cooking.
Possibly the most common form of barbecue today, the ease with which heat levels can be controlled makes it an ideal way to barbecue delicate food like seafood. A medium flame is best.
Temperature can be quickly and evenly controlled, although the heat tends to be less intense than that from gas or wood, so it’s best to use a high setting and wipe off excess marinade or the food may stew rather than grill.
Tips for Successful Barbecuing
- Ensure that the food is well oiled before placing it on the BBQ, to avoid sticking. Oiling the food rather than the BBQ helps to minimise excess smoke.
- Fish can be barbecued whole, in fillet, steak or cutlet form. Large whole fish should be slashed through the thickest part of the flesh to the bone 3-4 times on both sides, to allow for even heat penetration.
- Choose firm textured fish – such as swordfish, yellowtail kingfish and ling – as they hold together well on the BBQ.
- Shellfish are also great barbecued, but only use green (uncooked) shellfish, as reheating cooked shellfish will make them tough.
- Turn seafood as little as possible to minimise the risk of damaging the delicate flesh. Cook one side, then turn and cook the other side (or with kebabs or thick steaks, place each of the 4 sides in contact with the grill once only, cooking each side before moving on to the next).
- If cooking fillets with their skin on, cook skin-side down first.
- Consider wrapping fish to protect it from drying out, banana leaves or aluminium foil lined with baking paper are good for this.
- Marinating seafood before cooking adds flavour and helps to keep it moist. Most marinades include an acid (citrus juice, wine, vinegar or verjuice), oil (olive, peanut or vegetable) and flavouring agents (herbs, spices, honey, grated ginger, diced onion or garlic, chopped chilli, soy sauce, sesame oil). Because of the delicate nature of its flesh, most seafood requires only a short time in the marinade (maximum 30 minutes), otherwise it may start to break down.
- Cooking times will vary depending on thickness but also on the density of the seafood’s flesh. Remember seafood is cooked when it turns opaque, and sashimi-grade seafood can be served rare in the centre. As a rough guide:
- Whole fish 15-20 minutes per kg
- Fillets, steaks, cutlets 3-4 minutes per side
- Mussels, Pipis, Cockles 4-5 minutes, or until open
- Oysters (on half shell) 2 minutes, or until just warmed through
- Scallops 30 seconds per side
- Prawns, Yabbies 3-4 minutes
- Bugs, Marron (in half shell) 6-10 minutes, 3-4 minutes out of shell
- Rocklobsters (in half shell) 8-12 minutes, medallions 2-3 minutes per side
- Octopus, Squid, Cuttlefish 2-3 minutes, until just turns opaque