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Food you didn't know you could cook on your BBQ

There's more to the great Aussie BBQ than sausages and burgers.

oysters with herbs on a bbq grill lead
Last updated: 30 October 2019

Aussies love to throw a snag on the barbie, and while that may sound like a generalisation, it's actually true!

Recent research reveals that in 2015 almost two-thirds of Australian homes owned a barbecue – that equates to a staggering 5.8 million households.

Traditionally, we've used our barbecues to fry meat – sausages, burgers, chops, steaks, kebabs – and sometimes vegies, too. But your barbecue is capable of cooking so much more than bangers and burgers.

Get fancy and put your barbie to work with these five delectable culinary ideas to impress at your next backyard soiree.

oysters with herbs on a bbq grill

When barbecuing oysters, keep an eye on them so they don't burn.

1. Oysters

If you're partial to oysters, just wait until you try them grilled on the barbie.

To prepare a delicious flavouring for your oysters, mix some soft butter with finely minced shallots, fresh chopped coriander and a pinch or two of sea salt. And, if you enjoy a bit of 'heat', add some chilli sauce to the mix, too. Combine this butter mixture well and then let it set in the fridge for a while until it's reasonably solid.

Set the grill at high heat so it's very hot. Add a dollop of your butter mixture to each oyster and then place them, still on their half-shells, on the grill with the barbecue hood down for 3-4 minutes. The grill heat will concentrate the brine of the oyster so you'll know they're ready when their tips begin to brown slightly. 

But keep your eyes on them so they don't burn and be careful when removing the shells from the grill as they'll be very hot. 

After cooking, add a squeeze of lemon or lime to each oyster and serve with a lovely glass of Sauvignon Blanc or a pint of stout.

watermelon on a bbq grill

Grilling watermelon enhances its natural sweetness.

2. Watermelon

How delicious is watermelon? We all know how refreshingly sweet it is when served cold, but grilling it on the barbecue changes the fruit's texture and brings out its natural sweetness.

It's versatile, too. You can eat your barbecued watermelon straight from the grill or include it with other fruit in a skewer, add it to enhance a traditional fruit salad or drizzle with a sauce made from honey and lemon and a dollop of yoghurt for a delicious dessert. Grilled watermelon also lends itself well to savoury dishes, pairing deliciously with cheeses and olives, vinaigrettes and salad.

Watermelon is easy to cook on your barbecue. Cut it into 3cm thick slices and leave the rind on so that it stays together better when turning.

Warm your grill to medium-high heat and brush your watermelon all over with olive oil. Cook each side for three minutes – you'll know it's ready when it starts to show grill marks. Once cooked, it'll be ready to enjoy immediately. Try seasoning with a squeeze of lime and some shredded mint leaves.

popcorn in a bowl on a table

Yes, you really can make popcorn on your BBQ.

3. Popcorn

Try cooking your popcorn on the barbecue and settling in for a movie night under the stars… 

Your barbecue is just as effective as a heat source as your oven or microwave to pop up this classic snack.

You'll need about 150g of popping corn kernels, 2 tbsp of vegetable oil and some salt. Cook in two batches (75g of popping corn and 1tbsp vegetable oil each batch), using a sheet of aluminium foil (60cm x 35cm).

Fold the corn and oil into a loose parcel in the foil, seal the edges and shake the parcel so the oil and corn are well combined. Place on the cooler part of a medium-heat barbecue grill and wait for them to start popping! Shake the parcel every 30 seconds or so with a pair of tongs to ensure the corn doesn't burn.

Once the popping stops, remove the parcel from the grill, open with tongs, tip into a bowl and season immediately.

You can keep it traditional and just add butter and salt. Or you might choose to add any number of different savoury or sweet flavourings.  

rice ball on a bbq grill

Japanese rice balls are a delicious addition to the great Aussie BBQ.

4. Japanese rice balls

Try your hand, and your barbie, at making some yaki onigiri – delicious Japanese grilled rice balls. 

Using Japanese short-grain rice, otherwise known as sushi rice (other rice varieties won't have enough starch for the balls to stick together when placed on the grill), cook your rice as directed on the packet, making about one cup of cooked rice per serving. 

When cooked, and while the rice is still warm, put it in the middle of a square piece of plastic wrap and shape into tight, dense 2.5cm thick triangles roughly the size of your palm. 

When you're ready to cook them, remove the balls from the plastic wrap, brush them with some soy sauce and melted butter, and grill them on both sides until deliciously crisp. 

When cooked, remove from the barbie and again brush each ball with soy sauce and butter and garnish with freshly chopped chives.

flatbread on a bbq grill

Is anything better than the smell of freshly barbecued bread?

5. Flatbread

You need to try barbecued bread to believe it! Simple to make and cook – and even easier to eat – flatbread grilled on the barbie is the ultimate accompaniment to any outdoor dining experience.

Make your dough by mixing 1½ cups of plain flour and ½ tsp salt. Make a well in the centre and add ½ cup plus 2 tbsp of warm water, then add ½ tsp of instant yeast and 1 tbsp of sugar. Mix until the ingredients just come together, then add 1 tbsp butter or olive oil, and mix again. 

Transfer to a benchtop and knead for around 3 minutes until soft and smooth, then roughly shape into a round ball. Brush over a little butter or olive oil, cover with a tea towel and leave for two hours until it's doubled in size.

At this point, you need to knead the air out of the dough. Show it who's boss by pushing it around for about one minute and then it'll be ready to be transformed into flatbreads. Pull apart the dough in chunks and, with your rolling pin, roll it out to around 0.5cm in thickness.

Heat the barbecue to medium and oil the grill. Lay out the flatbreads on the grill and cook for about 3 minutes on each side until they've browned. Ensure they're slightly charred to get that real barbecue flavour.

Once they're cooked, remove the flat breads from the grill and brush them with olive oil, sea salt and rosemary and enjoy!

The best BBQ for versatile cooking

Barbecues vary in style and features, from gas, electric or charcoal-fuelled, to hooded and unhooded varieties. 

If your barbecue is hooded and has a reliable thermostat it could prove to be a versatile and effective culinary tool, says CHOICE's home economist Fiona Mair.

"Most foods that are cooked in an oven can be cooked in a barbecue that has a hood," she says.

"But to do this, the barbecue must have an accurate thermostat and unfortunately not all of them do. It's not easy to keep a consistent temperature in a barbecue so continuous adjustment is necessary."

Barbecue dos and don'ts

With so many variables involved in not only the type of barbecue you're using, but also ingredients and preparations, Fiona says getting to know your barbie beforehand and having a few trial runs will help you achieve culinary success rather than abysmal failure. 

"Impress your friends when entertaining but make sure you do a few practice runs before you make these recipes," she says. "Get to know your BBQ first." 

Fiona says cleaning your barbie thoroughly before you try any of these recipes is essential to ensure the last meal you cooked on your barbecue doesn't spoil their flavour. 

"Keeping the barbecue clean is a must – you don't want old cooking smells to taint the food you're cooking!"

Depending on what you're cooking, Fiona says it's important you're aware of the grill's temperature. 

"A barbecue can reach temperatures of up to 350°C with all burners fired up," she says. "To keep the temperature lower, cook indirectly so only the outside burners are on and your food is placed in the centre, not over the flame." 

Fiona also suggests not opening the hood of the barbie too often (as with an oven door).

"Heat escapes very quickly," she says. "If you are that way inclined, then you may want a barbecue with a viewing window in the hood." 

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