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Indoor Barbecues

Most people would agree on the definition of barbecuing as an outdoor activity that involves a specially constructed grill, fire or considerable heat, a plentiful supply of tasty meat, and, most importantly, a good crowd of like-minded people. When we hear the word BBQ, it’s back gardens and parks that immediately spring to mind, not the kitchen or dining room, no matter how roomy they might be. However, the vagaries and unreliability of the British weather mean that it’s not always possible to enjoy a good old-fashioned smoky barbecue in the back garden. And when the rain does come down you’re left with only two choices – plough valiantly on with the cooking, tongs in one hand, brolly in the other, or give it up and head inside to cook your food in the oven.

The other alternative is to cover all the angles and get yourself an indoor barbecue – that way if it does start to chuck it down, you can still do some grilling in the kitchen. For obvious reasons, using a charcoal barbecue indoors is not a good idea, nor should you drag your gas barbecue inside. Both types of grilling produce carbon monoxide, which isn’t so bad when you’re out in the open air, but indoors can be very dangerous as even small amounts can kill you. Having said all that, there are plenty of electric barbecues available nowadays that are ideal for grilling meat indoors. They are much more compact than your typical garden barbecue so most will fit nicely on your worktop and won’t clutter up the kitchen too much. There are two types of electric indoor grilling machines: open grills, which are similar to a barbecue in that you have to flip the meat to cook it, and contact grills which cook the food from both sides. The George Foreman grilling machine is an example of a contact grill.

One of the first things to bear in mind if you decide to barbecue inside is that you’re just not going to get the same flavour from an indoor barbecue as you would from charcoal or gas. This doesn’t mean your meat has to be bland, it just means you have to work a little bit harder to make sure it’s as tasty as possible. The other thing to remember is that indoor grills will rarely get as hot as flaming gas or charcoal barbecues so if you’re in a hurry and don’t want to wait hours for your meat to cook slowly, it’s best to go for thinner cuts of meat. Butterfly your chicken breasts and steak and go for chipolatas rather than jumbo sausages as they’ll cook in half the time.

In order to get as close as possible to the delicious taste of proper barbecue, try marinating your meat overnight in a homemade barbecue sauce, or even a good quality sauce from your local supermarket.  Pour a generous amount into a large bowl then pop your meat in to the bowl and put the whole lot in the fridge. The longer you leave it, the more flavour the meat will absorb from the sauce and the tastier it will be when you cook it. If you don’t have time to make a marinade or haven’t thought that far ahead then simply sprinkle some Cajun spices or smoked paprika over the meat just before you put it on the grill. You can also buy specially prepared barbecue rubs in the supermarket. These are made from a selection of different spices combined to give an authentic barbecue flavour and are a good alternative to a marinade.

As with outdoor barbecuing it’s important to keep an eye on your grill to make sure your meat isn’t singeing. While you can just about get away with over-cooking the burgers on a charcoal barbecue, you won’t have the benefit of the smoky flavour if you’re using an electric grill. So if you burn the meat it will just taste, well, burned! Though you won’t want to ignore your guests completely, try not to get too deep into conversation and remember to turn your meat regularly to ensure it’s evenly cooked. Most electric barbecues or grills will have a temperature gauge, so you can adjust it according to the type of meat you’re cooking. Remember, the quicker you cook steak, the tougher it will be, so try and allow longer cooking times to keep your steaks tender and juicy.

Although all barbeques need to be cleaned properly and looked after, this is even more important with an indoor grilling machine. If you opt for a contact grill with non-stick plates then be careful not to use anything too abrasive to clean them. Similarly with an open grill, use plastic tongs to avoid damaging the non-stick material, always coat the grill with a spray of oil, and don’t scrub the grill with a Brillo pad! The nature of non-stick means that a good rub with a damp cloth should be enough to remove fat and other juices that are left behind during cooking.

Remember, before choosing your indoor barbecue, you should think about the size of your kitchen and consider how often you’re going to use your grill. If you have a big family, opt for an open grill rather than a closed contact grill, as you’ll be able to fit lots more meat on it. And don’t forget the marinade!