Want to be the tong-master at your Australia Day barbecue?
Here’s a quick Q & A with South Coast-based TAFE NSW commercial cookery teacher Luke DeVille to give you some insider tips.
Q: Let's begin with steak. How do we get off to a good start?
A: Start with a nice hot hotplate. Don't put the steak on the plate until it's quite hot.
Q: Any tips on wrangling six different orders for how guests want their steak cooked?
A: Start with those that will be well-done first then work your way through to the rare steaks last. Many chefs keep track of where they are by placing them in order on the hotplate, say from left to right.
Q: Alright, turning the steak. Is it once or more?
A: Yes you only need to turn your meat once. Unless you're going for the trellis pattern, in which case you'll be turning it 90 degrees once on each side on a hot grill.
Q: How can I tell if it's medium, rare or well done?
A: There's a quick easy way called the hand test. Now it doesn't work on all steak but is good for rump. Turn your right had palm up, touch your thumb to your index finger. Now with the index finger on your left hand press on the fleshy part at the base of your right thumb. This is what rare feels like. Now on your right hand replace your index finger with your middle finger and thumb. Press on the fleshy part again this is what medium should feel like. Move through to your little finger to get a sense for what well-done feels like. To check where your steak is up to press on it with the back of the tongs.
Q: What's with the rest? Do we still let meat rest? Does it really make a difference?
A: Yes, let it rest. The rule of thumb is to let the meat rest for about the same amount of time you cooked it. So if you cook it for ten minutes, rest it for ten minutes. During the cooking process muscle fibres and tendons tense up with the heat. Resting the meat after cooking allows them to soften.
Q: What's the most common mistake you see at a barbecue?
A: Overcooked meat. There aren't many expert steak cooks around, but if I'm at a barbecue I'm not going to complain because it's just nice to have someone else doing the cooking.
Q: Alright, now for the perfect 'snag'. How hot's hot enough?
A: Sausages are best cooked on medium heat. If your barbecue plate is too hot the sausage will split.
Q: Some people prick their sausages. Good idea?
A: No, don't prick them, you want to try and keep the moisture in.
Q: So cutting them down the middle is not on?
A: Some people like them butterflied lengthways. If you're going to do this make sure they're cooked first, then cut them at the end.
Q: How do you spot a quality sausage?
A: Trial and error I'm afraid. Go by the reputation of a good butcher and your personal taste.
Q: How do I know when a sausage cooked?
A: Sausages should be cooked right through. A good way to tell is to push a skewer into the middle, then press the skewer on your wrist. It should be hot. If it's only warm the sausage isn't fully cooked.