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How to cook Christmas lunch on a BBQ

Throw a traditional Christmas lunch on the barbie.

Christmas lunch cooked on a bbq lead
Last updated: 12 December 2019

Are you planning to prepare a traditional Christmas lunch this year for friends and family, and a little concerned about how you're going to manage to cook everything with just the one oven and stove top?

Why not use your trusty barbecue? It may well prove to be your saviour on Christmas Day! 

Of course, barbecues vary in style and features – from gas, electric or charcoal-fuelled to hooded and unhooded – and will therefore vary in scope and capability. 

"But most foods that are cooked in an oven can be cooked in a barbecue that has a hood and an accurate thermostat," says Fiona Mair, CHOICE home economist. 

Here, Fiona offers some sound advice on getting the best out of your barbecue when cooking traditional Christmas fare. 

roast chicken cooked on a bbq

Cook your chook on the BBQ to save precious oven space.

Christmas meats

Turkey, ham, chicken and even a leg of lamb are all delicious centrepieces on the Christmas table in Australia. Cooking them outside on the barbecue may prove to be a real winner if you're struggling for oven space. 

Your cooking time will vary according to the type of meat, its size and the temperature you're cooking at. 

Preheat your barbecue and resist opening the hood too often – a meat thermometer with a probe and digital readout will help with that and keep your meat cooking at a consistent temperature. 

Make sure your roast has been sitting at room temperature for at least an hour before you put it on the barbecue. Then cover the outside of the meat with fat, such as oil or butter. For turkey or chicken, this is best placed under the skin. Roast pork will be delectable when oiled and salted. 

"Place the meat on a rack in a baking dish with water in the bottom for moisture," Fiona says. "You'll want to cook it using indirect heating. For example, on a four-burner barbecue, cook with the outside burners only and place the meat in the centre, away from flames.

"Cover meat with foil for at least the first half of the cooking time. Then remove the foil to allow the meat to brown. Baste well at this point."

When it's cooked, suggests Fiona, let the meat stand, covered, for at least 30 minutes before carving and serving. If you've cooked poultry, stand it upside down to allow its juices to run into the breast area.

prawns cooked on a bbq

Prawns are a cinch to cook on the barbie.

Seafood

Seafood is a great Christmas barbecue option for those who don't want any fishy smells permeating their homes. 

"Seafood only requires a short amount of time to cook and is a fun appetiser or entrée," Fiona says. 

"The quickest and easiest seafood to cook on the barbecue are shelled options such as prawns and Balmain or Moreton Bay bugs cut in half. Marinated baby octopus is another simple item that cooks quickly and easily on the grill." 

Fiona says you'll know when your seafood is cooked when it changes colour. 

"You don't want to overcook your seafood on the barbie because it will become inedible," she says. 

potatoes baked in foil on a bbq

"Wrapping foods in foil can save space on the barbecue," says Fiona.

Vegetables

Meat taking up all the room in your oven? Stovetop working overtime? Use your barbecue to bake your Christmas vegies! 

"Roast vegetables will cook in the barbecue just like they would in a conventional oven when placed in a preheated baking tray," Fiona says. 

"Use oil or duck fat to coat root vegetables and pre-boiled potatoes for a crispy finish, and season well. If your baking tray is placed over the flame, give it a shake or two during cooking."

You can also use your barbecue's side burner to make gravy, steam vegetables in a pot, and even fry Brussels sprouts. 

"Wrapping foods in foil can save space on the barbecue," Fiona says. "Carrots can also be kept whole, wrapped in foil with butter and herbs."

Christmas pudding

Who doesn't love a traditional Christmas pudding with a generous coating of warm custard? 

Pudding usually tastes much better when it's heated slowly, which means it will need some extra time to prepare. So, if your kitchen is in Christmas chaos and there's just no room for slow cooking, pop it in the barbecue on low heat and leave its sugar-fruity goodness to gradually warm.

"Wrap your pudding in double foil, place it on the warming rack in your barbecue and allow to heat slowly," Fiona suggests. 

"As barbecue cooking is a form of dry-heat cooking, put a small tray of water on the warming rack, as this produces steam, which keeps food from drying out."

Of course, no pudding is complete without custard. You can cook this in a pot on your barbecue's side burner, just as you'd cook it on your stovetop.

Tips and tricks for Christmas BBQ success

  • Give your barbecue a really good clean. You don't want the last meal you cooked to spoil the flavour of your Christmas lunch!  
  • Make sure your gas bottle is filled to the max. 
  • When using your barbecue, make sure it's not sitting in direct sun on a hot day.
  • The barbecue's exterior can get very hot when in use so be sure to supervise children around it. 
  • Have a practice run cooking a roast on the barbie before the big day to get an idea of how well it heats.