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11 BBQ Hacks for Your Best Ever Barbecue

11 BBQ Hacks for Your Best Ever Barbecue


    Ah…the smell of burning wood and roasting meat, wonderful primal pleasures and the sign that summer is here.

    Barbecue season is well underway, and there’s no time like the present to deliver some tips to make your barbecues the most successful in the neighborhood. Seven years ago I married my South African husband. I never realized that one of the many benefits of marrying him would be learning how to organize a barbecue like a pro.

    Here are 11 BBQ hacks to help you make this year’s barbecues the best ever.

    Planning

    Now you may say that planning takes the fun out of what should be a spontaneous event, but if you don’t have the basics ready to go you will have put out the fire long before it was even lit.

    1. Fuel

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    Make sure you have the fuel you are going to use ready in advance, this means you can be more spontaneous when the mood takes you. Wood is a great fuel for a BBQ as it adds a smokey flavor to your food as well as creating ambiance. Hardwood gives you better coals. If you can’t get your hands on good barbecue hardwood, charcoal can also make just as successful a fire. Whatever fuel you use, make sure you light a big enough fire. You can always light a second fire a little later and use the second fire to feed the first one.

    2. Marinating

    All meat tastes better when marinated. This is where the advance planning can come in handy. If you plan and marinate the night before the meat will be more tender and tastier, leaving less up to your cooking skills on the day.

    Equipment

    Every expert needs their tools of the trade and if you want to be a master BBQ chef, you need to have your tools at the ready.

    3. BBQ tongs

    I recommend that you invest in two sets of BBQ tongs, one good pair with a good grip to turn the meat. The other pair you can use for moving hot coals into position.

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    4. Hinged Grids

    All BBQs have a grid where you place the food but if you want to reduce the amount of work required to turn multiple pieces of meat at once, a good idea is to use a hinged grid. Not only does it save you time and avoid burning the meat, it is also very good for delicate foods such as fish.

    5. Sharp Knife

    Don’t forget the essential sharp knife as it may be necessary to trim excess fat from the meat.

    Lighting the Fire

    6. Timing

    The most important aspect of lighting a fire is to make sure you do it in plenty of time. It can take anything from 30 minutes to 1 hour before the fire is ready for cooking, this will depend on the type of coals you have used.

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    7. Ready for cooking

    This is one of the trickier aspects of the BBQ for me, knowing when the coals are ready to start cooking. The lesson I’ve been told is to do the following: if you have a wood fire, when the coals are red hot (with no smoke) you are ready to go. If you have a charcoal fire the coals should be grey and ashy.

    8. Controlling the Heat

    The easiest way to change the amount of heat reaching your meat or fish is to raise or lower the grid. Most BBQs will have adjustable grid heights. You can also add or remove coals if you need more (or less) heat.

    Vegetarian BBQs

    I once invited a friend to a barbecue but she was a little offended thinking I had forgotten she was a vegetarian. What she didn’t realize is that I have many vegetarians in my family — and a vegan too. Our house is accustomed to catering to many different diet requirements and preferences. Anything can be cooked on a BBQ.

    9. Vegetable Parcels

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    My favorite is wrapping mushroom and zucchini in foil with garlic, salt and pepper — yum! Anything can be put inside foil and cooked on the fire. Corn on the cob and sweet potatoes also work really well.

    10. Vegetable Pots

    Another way to cook vegetables is to put them in a cast iron pot directly on the fire. The vegetables can be cooking away while you dedicate all your time to the meat and entertaining your guests.

    11. Sandwiches

    Sandwiches on the fire? Yes! South Africans call them “Braai Broodjies” — cheese, tomato and onion — the standard edition. These can be put on the BBQ when all the food is cooked; they need to be cooked on low coals and cooked very slowly so that the cheese melts well inside. They can be eaten later on in the evening if the BBQ goes late or kept for lunch or a picnic the next day. Either way, the smokey taste on the bread is delicious.

    Final Tip

    Barbecues can be a really enjoyable way to eat — eating in the open air always seems to make the food taste better. If you live in a cold country like me, light another fire to stay warm. This will make the barbecue more enjoyable and prolong its duration before you have to run for the warmth of the indoors.

    And one BBQ hack for those of you attending a barbecue and the host happens to be a South African: do not interfere with the fire or the meat if you want to have a happy and relaxed host.

    (Photo credit: Steak on the Grill via Shutterstock)

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    Ciara Conlon

    Productivity coach, speaker, blogger and author of Chaos to Control, a Practical Guide to Getting Things Done

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    Last Updated on December 9, 2019

    5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

    5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

    Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

    Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

    Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

    1. Get Rationally Optimistic

    Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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    This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

    In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

    The result: no more mental stress.

    2. Unplug

    Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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    How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

    It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

    Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

    3. Easy on the Caffeine

    Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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    Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

    4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

    That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

    How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

    • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
    • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
    • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

    While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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    5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

    This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

    The result: mental stress will be gone!

    So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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    Featured photo credit: Radu Florin via unsplash.com

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