Having a Christmas Barbecue
From our research it seems that having a barbecue at Christmas is a common thing in Australia, although it does seem to vary on where in Australia you are. The traditional Christmas dinner is still as applicable to Australia as it is to other places in the Western world. Some Australians said that they would have a BBQ on Boxing Day instead. In any case, it makes sense that a country where Christmas actually takes place at the height of summer. It’s hot out there, and wherever it’s hot there’s a barbecue (or least there should be in our opinion!). Here we don’t have that luxury, and while the UK may not always have a tonne of snow dumped on it we still have some chilly and wet days that aren’t exactly what you’d traditionally call barbecue weather.
So why am I advocating having a barbecue on Christmas Day instead of doing the traditional thing of buying a turkey that’s far too big for the oven? Well, for one you could cook that comically big turkey on the barbecue instead, relegating the kitchen to other less important Christmas foods (the turkey is king). Or you could dispense with the turkey altogether and cook up some alternative Christmas grub that, let’s face it, probably tastes a lot better than that dry turkey you ended up trying to eat last year.
Try Something Different
A Christmas barbecue is unique. It’s definitely an experience, and while it may end up being a wet unique experience it won’t hurt to give it a shot either.
We’ve talked about having a barbecue in the winter a number of times, and they have good lessons that can obviously be applied to Christmas Day too. These include wrapping up warm, giving your BBQ longer to warm up and making sure the hood stays closed whilst cooking But here are my ground rules specifically for Christmas:
- Wear a silly Santa hat
- Save the sherry until later
- Put some reindeer antlers on your dog
You can probably ignore the last one, given that it doesn’t exactly apply to barbecues. Although it is pretty funny, and provides a legendary photo opportunity that will no doubt garner many likes on Facebook! Not that you should be on Facebook on Christmas Day of course, until Auntie Maude starts to do her awful attempt at trying to show you that an answer to a TV show in Charades is Murder She Wrote.
“That wiggly arm motion you did was you pretending to write?”
Before long you’ll be wishing you were back outside attending to your barbie. That’s the thing that cooks food and not the little doll you got your daughter for a present. Will you go down the turkey route or will you plump for something a little off the beaten path?
Cooking Turkey on the Barbecue
Despite what you may be thinking it’s actually pretty easy to cook a turkey on the barbecue. You can just throw the whole turkey on there and leave it for about a day.
Ok, so it’s not that easy but, seriously, it’s easier than some other cooking methods out there. The whole process should take you about 2 hours 15 minutes for a 5kg turkey, and it leaves it with a crispy skin and juicy meat so delicious that you’ll wonder how you have stomached that dry turkey of the past.
This article on The Guardian recommends brining the turkey in 10 litres of water and 800g of salt on Christmas Eve. In the morning it should be desalinated for an hour in fresh water, changing every 15 minutes. You can add lemon, rosemary and thyme into the turkey’s cavity, further lemon juice on the skin and a smearing of butter (you can add this as basting every half-an-hour or so once you’ve started cooking). Sounds lovely!
When it comes to barbecuing the turkey you should do it with indirect heat, with the coals off the each side (make sure the coals have cooled down to the point where they’re covered with white ash). If you’re using a gas barbecue turn off any middle burners and keep the two end ones on instead. This allows the heat to circulate round the barbecue, bouncing off the hood and passing back down to the meat below. Try to avoid opening the hood unless absolutely necessary (such as to top up the coal or baste the turkey. On a gas barbecue you will have to turn the turkey every 30 minutes). Instead I use a probe that tests the meats temperature and beeps to let you know when the meat is cooked. If you have to do it the traditional way, quickly check the temperature before closing the hood again as keeping it open for too long will cause the temperature to drop, thus taking longer to cook.
The article also recommends putting a pan or container full of water underneath the turkey so you can catch the juices to later add to the gravy. It also maintains a bit of humidity within the barbecue. I also like to add apple wood chips to the charcoal for a smokier flavour.
A lot of other people – including myself on occasion – prefer to cook ham at Christmas instead. These can go on the barbecue just the same, although cooking time will be a lot quicker if you’re itching to get back in time for the Queen’s speech. I found this brilliant recipe for Sticky Orange Soy-Glazed Ham with a side of Roasted Garlic Potatoes (these always go down well).
Another substitute for the Christmas turkey is roast beef, which you can do on the barbecue too. Some even plump for duck, fowl, goose or quail. If you want to do something really out of the ordinary then what about fish? I had Sea Bass for Christmas dinner a few years ago and it’s probably the best Xmas dinner I’ve had in a long while.
It’s All about Those Winter Warmers
A barbecue in the summer will usually have lashings of salad and other cold side dishes. Given that we’re entering the cold months of winter it’s time for a different approach. We make side dishes that are going to warm you up – after all we all want to be warm and full up with a roast Christmas dinner!
Here are some ideas:
- Warm potato salad (Ant likes to add bacon)
- Roast potatoes
- Grilled garlic potatoes (I see a theme going on here)
- Grilled stuffed mushrooms (stuffed with sausage)
- Grill up some vegetables
What about drinks? Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a bit of mulled wine. There’s also Hot toddy (packed with sugar and spices and served hot) , spicy coffee, spiced cider, winter punch and more. Check out our list of top winter barbecue drinks that we published a couple of years back.
There you have it. You can enjoy a Christmas barbecue dinner just as much as one that comes out of your oven. You’ll find that it tastes a lot better too, so it’s definitely worth going through all the hassle. Now who’s up for washing the dishes?