Celebrate the summer solstice with a cookout inspired by the masterminds behind this leading culinary school.

By Betty Gold
Updated June 21, 2019
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It’s that time of year again: the sun is out, the rosé is out, and you bet the barbecue is out. Calendar filled with cookouts but feeling less-than-confident about your grill game? We've got you.

We asked the Master Chefs of Le Cordon Bleu London to share their favorite (and most surprising) tips they learned in culinary school, and they gave us some genius ideas for preparing and delivering a fabulous summer barbecue. Whether you're an expert already or are new to the glory that is grilling, these tips from the Master Chefs of Le Cordon Bleu London will give you something juicy to sink your teeth into.

Know When To Use Direct vs. Indirect Heat

Direct heat works better for small and tender pieces of food that cook quickly. You can cook things such as steaks, boneless chicken, shellfish, vegetables and fish fillets.

Indirect heat is when the fire is off to one side, or both sides but the food sits on the unlit part. This works better with tougher foods that require longer cooking times such as ribs and a whole chicken, as it will cook your food more slowly, allowing each part of the meat to be cooked properly.

Add A Little Something Extra to Your Coals

You can be experimental by adding vine cuttings to the coal, which can offer different flavors and create a new aroma to your grilling—just note that wood burns very quickly! Oak and hickory wood added to the coals bring a little more smokiness to the food. These woods compliment beef, lamb and pork well. Other vine cuttings you can use are bay leaves tree cuttings and rosemary branches.

Match Your Meat to Your Marinade

To start off, you will need a marinade to prepare whatever type of fish, poultry, or meat is being grilled. Typically, a marinade is made with acidic liquid, oil, and a combination of herbs and spices. Big or tough cuts of meat such as racks of ribs, pork shoulders and turkeys can benefit from 6 to 12 hours soaking in a marinade. Whereas small food like shellfish, fish fillets and tender vegetables only need 15 to 30 minutes. Vegetables need oil to prevent sticking and burning. Neutral oils are great but flavorsome oils such as olive oils will add a new layer of taste to the vegetable of choice. Brush a light coat on either side, then season with salt and pepper.

Be Mindful of Your Grill Marks

Ever notice the crisscross pattern on your burgers? This technique is called quadriller which means “to square.” This is one of the most common grilling techniques and if your grill is heated properly, it should mark squares or diamonds on the meat with a hot grill. This can be used for any meat, poultry, fish or vegetable and the principle of quadrillage is to turn the piece of meat or vegetable only four times, each time changing the direction in order to create the crisscross pattern.

Cut Veggies As Evenly As Possible

Plant-based options for a summer’s barbecue can be a great way for you to get creative with you grilling skills. The barbecue intensifies the sweetness of the vegetables and can quickly lead to burning, so cut the vegetables as evenly as you can, about 1/2-inch of thickness is usually right for most of them. If the vegetables are small, make sure you are careful not to allow them to fall through the bars of the cooking grate, so you won’t lose any.

Stop Searing Steaks So Long

As steaks grill over a high heat, they tend to lose moisture. So perhaps the most important tip is taking the steak off the heat before it has lost too much moisture. It is a small window of time, so this requires vigilance. Keep an eye on the steak and remember it is always better to take it off the heat when it is undercooked.

Only Flip Fish Once

To tackle grilling fish, try to get to grips with the firm fish first and ones that are especially oily! Salmon, swordfish and tuna are perfect examples of this. Turn the fish only once on the barbecue, otherwise there’s a risk of the fish sticking to the grill. With fish, grill the first side longer than the second, and you’ll get a nicely developed crust. Ensure you are cooking the fish with the barbecue lid closed, so that the second side will cook while the first side is on the grate.

Preheat Your Wings

For chicken wings, it is best to preheat them in indirect heat for 5 minutes on each side, which will make them perfectly crisp, but not dry! Then, you can char the wings over direct heat until they are completely cooked. Chicken breasts on the other hand, are often dryer, so you can cover the grill to ensure to keep in all its moisture.

Pair with the Proper Wine

So, what type of wine is best to purchase for a barbecue? There arefour elements to consider: The sweetness, saltiness, spiciness, and the acidityof your dishes and how they interact with the wines.

Wines with high acidity or tannins are great for salty sauces or marinades, such as red wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy and Tuscany and white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chablis and Muscadet. To preserve the sweetness of your sauce or marinade, opt for a wine that has a little bit of residual sugar, such as an off dry Riesling or a Prosecco Extra Dry (ideal for a barbecue). To enhance the perception of spices, select an oaky white wine such as an oaky Chardonnay, or red wines such as Merlot, Shiraz and Garnacha. If you want to tone the spiciness a notch, reach for a lighter red wine such as a Gamay or a cool climate Pinot Noir.

To learn more about barbecuing and many other cooking styles, you can visit Le Cordon Bleu. Le Cordon Bleu is the leading culinary arts, wine and management school, offering courses and programs that can be that first step into the right direction for you to have a career in the industry.