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How to cook on a BBQ


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It’s a little known fact that you can cook almost anything on a BBQ. Grilling, roasting, smoking and baking are all techniques that can be done on your BBQ. From burgers to bread, and fish to fruit, the sky’s the limit when it comes to creative barbecuing.

If you’re not sure how to light your BBQ, take a look at our how to light a BBQ, chimenea or firepit guide.

Cooking methods

The main factors affecting what cooking method to use with your BBQ are food type, heat source and desired result - the last factor has to do with personal preference. The table below lists the best BBQ cooking method to use according to what you want to eat:

Direct heat grillingIndirect heat grilling50/50          Smoking               Roasting               Baking               
BurgersWhole turkeysSausagesBeef brisketBeefCake
SteaksLeg of lambSpatchcock chickenLamb jointLambBread
FishFoods with sugary sauces/marinades

Pork (pulled)



Direct heat grilling

Direct heat grilling is the most basic and common grilling method. Food items are placed over direct heat in order to cook them and can be done using charcoal or gas.

To set up a charcoal BBQ for direct heat grilling spread charcoal evenly across the bottom of the BBQ, and for gas BBQs turn all burners onto a medium heat. Once the BBQ is hot place food on a grate over the heat, turning occasionally until cooked through. This method is ideal for small cuts of meat that take less than 20 minutes to cook.

Direct method

Indirect heat grilling

Indirect heat grilling is where food is cooked using reflected or indirect heat. Indirect heat grilling involves not placing the food over a direct heat source and keeping the lid covered most of the time.

To set up your charcoal BBQ for indirect heat grilling you must place charcoal on the sides of the BBQ, leaving space in the middle. On a gas BBQ this means lighting the side burners and leaving the middle ones off. Always ensure the lid is shut or lowered while cooking. Having the heat source on the side of the BBQ and the food in the middle means gives a similar effect to roasting the food in the oven, but with all the benefits of that grilled texture and flavour that get from a BBQ.

Indirect method


The 50/50 method involves using high heat to sear your food item for a few minutes to seal in flavour, before sliding it over a cooler part of the BBQ to cook through slowly. The thicker your meat, the longer you can sear.

To set up a charcoal BBQ for the 50/50 method, position charcoal on one side of the BBQ and a drip tray on the other side. To set up a gas BBQ turn half of your burners on to a high heat and the other half onto a a low heat. 

Once hot, place your food item over the high heat for a few minutes to sear then transfer it over to the cooler part of the grill to cook. This should leave your food crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.


Smoking can be done using a gas or charcoal BBQ. This technique involves cooking food at a low temperature, in a closed chamber, for a long time - hence the industry term 'low and slow'. Before you set up your BBQ for smoking, take a handful of smoker chips and soak them in water for around ½ an hour. These will add extra flavour to your food.

To set up a charcoal BBQ for smoking, pile charcoal on one side of the BBQ and place a foil tray filled with water on the other side. Once the coals are white put the smoking chips over the charcoal then add your food item to the grill on the opposite side to the charcoal.

To set up your gas BBQ for smoking, first turn on the burners on one side of your BBQ and a drip tray on the other side to catch fat dripping off the food later. Once the BBQ is hot place a smoker box with your smoking chips in it over the burner then place your food item on the grill over the drip tray.

Generally you should smoke for 1 ½ hours per ½ kg of food, ensuring not to open the lid during that time because looking is not cooking. Cooking with this method should result in very tender, smoke-flavoured food that melts in the mouth.


Roasting can be done on both charcoal and gas BBQs. If roasting on a charcoal BBQ, place charcoal on either side of the BBQ, leaving space in the middle for a drip tray. If roasting on a gas BBQ it is recommended to have a minimum of three burners so you can have the middle burner off and the two side ones lit.

Once your BBQ is hot place your food item over the drip tray, leaving it to roast with the vents open and the lid closed. Alternatively you could cook your food item in a roasting tin, as this will retain the juices to keep the food moist.

Top tips:
  • Put a splash of water in your drip tray – it will help keep your food moist.
  • Put tin foil in your roasting tin before putting in your food item – it will make cleaning much easier. 


To bake on a BBQ you must set them up in the same way as roasting with heat on the outside and space in the middle. Follow your desired recipe, get your BBQ fired up to the correct temperature, pop your mixture into a baking tin and place on the BBQ to cook. Baking on a BBQ must be done with the lid down so it’s easier if you have a temperature gauge on the outside of the lid.

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