How to improvise a barbecue

If you do not have a ready-made, proprietary barbecue, improvising an effective outdoor fireplace is simple. Here's what you need to know to get started.

How to improvise a barbecue

3 simple techniques

All you need are four even stacks of bricks topped with an old oven rack. Do not use a refrigerator shelf as it could contain poisonous cadmium.

  1. To create a makeshift barbecue in the bush, set three empty cans (or rocks or logs) on the ground and place an inverted metal garbage can lid on them. Put wood or store-bought briquettes in the lid and then place an oven rack or concrete reinforcing wire on top. Do not place food on any metal that has been painted or galvanized.
  2. You can even turn an old metal wheelbarrow into a mobile barbecue. Punch a series of holes about one centimetre (1/2 inch) wide in the bottom and sides, line the wheelbarrow with a layer of stones and cover them with fuel.
  3. Another approach for a makeshift barbecue is to dig a shallow pit and line it with stones, then add the fuel and sit the grill on top so that the cooking surface rests on the edges of the pit. The stones will let air circulate and keep the fire in the pit glowing.

Tips for barbecue cooking

  • Wood is the traditional fuel for a barbecue. Several layers of small branches should be burned down until there is a thick bed of glowing coals. If you do not have access to wood, commercial coal briquettes can be used. To avoid getting your hands dirty, carry the briquettes in cardboard egg cartons; carton and contents can go straight onto the barbecue.
  • You can test when the coals are hot enough to barbecue steaks by holding your hand about three centimetres (1 1/2 inches) above the grill for a few seconds. If the heat is unbearable, the fire is ready.
  • Sprinkle 10 millilitres (two teaspoons) of salt on the fire to make the embers glow. To prevent any flare-ups during cooking, spread lettuce leaves on the hot coals before you cook fatty meat — the lettuce will blacken but it will not ignite. Keep a water-filled squeeze bottle on hand to damp down flames while barbecuing. Use celery tops as a basting brush.

Get cooking!

In addition to meat and fish, vegetables can be grilled on the barbecue or cooked in foil.

  • Wrap up onions, corn on the cob or sliced potatoes (all dotted with butter or brushed with barbecue sauce) in heavy-duty aluminium foil.
  • Grill onions and corn over medium coals for 30 minutes, turning often; put foil-wrapped potatoes directly onto the coals for 45 minutes, turning once; thread chunks of zucchini or eggplant on skewers, brush with oil and grill for 10 minutes over medium coals, turning often.

Some finishing touches

  • When barbecuing is finished, sprinkle a handful of salt on the barbecue plate or rack while it is still very hot and then leave it to cool. This will make it easier to clean.
  • Store your barbecue grill in a large plastic garbage bag whenever it is not being used.

Improvising a barbecue doesn't have to be an unbearable challenge. Keep these tips in mind and have a stress-free barbecue anytime!

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