The Best Herbs for the BBQ
by Rob Sproule
Summer is grilling season, and fresh herbs are as delicious on the barbeque as they are in the kitchen. When it comes to flavour, fresh herbs will always trump dried, and home grown fresh will always taste better than store bought.
Growing your own herbs is a win-win. They look beautiful, are easy to grow in any sunny spot, and the best part is that when you rip some off to cook with, it only encourages the rest of the plant to grow fuller.
When prowling for dinner, target the new growth. The fresh it is, the more flavour it will have. With woody herbs, like rosemary and thyme, you’ll notice flavour and vitality start to decrease after about 3 years. At that point, I suggest keeping the old herb as a specimen ornamental, and grabbing a new plant for the cooking.
Rosemary is the king of herbs. Its proud, Mediterranean branches can grow several feet high and its earthy, dense flavours unleash the more they’re cooked.
It’s savoury taste is unique among herbs and blends perfectly with pork, chicken, potatoes, and even beef. While it’s fashionable to use the whole branch as a meat garnish in high end restaurants, its woody, unpalatable stem makes it a good idea to peel the leaves off before cooking.
Holding the branch in your fingers, run your thumb and forefinger along its length and the leaves will peel off nicely. If the stem is big enough, you can soak it overnight and use it for a kabob or souvlaki skewer that will actually infuse flavour into the meat and peppers from the inside.
If you don’t want to chew into fleshy rosemary leaves, chop them up finely. For a quick marinade, you can blend it with olive oil, a generous amount of garlic, some balsamic vinegar and spices to taste. Soak your pork chops for a few hours, grill ’em up and tear into them.
Sprinkled rosemary will make pretty much anything you’re barbequing taste just a little bit better. Whether it’s veggies, yam or potato fries, fish, poultry, meat or burgers, throw a pinch of chopped goodness over it like confetti. Remember to add it before it goes on the grill, because the cooking process is releases its flavor.
In the winter, fresh thyme is a richly flavoured treat in soups and roasted meats. In the summer, it’s equally at home on barbequed salmon, veggies, and chicken.
One of the few herbs that will actually spill out of a mixed container, thyme looks good even as you rip off the odd chunk to cook with. You can easily peel its fine leaves from the branch, and they rarely need further chopping after that.
For a delicious lemon chicken marinade, whisk vinegar, olive oil, mustard, honey, and thyme. Soak the chicken for a few hours and barbeque for 12-14 minutes for succulent, juicy chicken breasts.
We’ve all used a brush to spread our barbeque sauce. A plain, boring brush. Try this: cut springs of rosemary, sage, thyme, and even lavender, and bunch them tightly together. Either wrap them with twine or bunch them tightly in your hand and dip your new, herbal brush into the barbeque sauce.
If you’re keen, tie the sprig bundle to a wooden stick for a “wicked witch of the west look” as you slather sauce across your chicken. The flavour of the herbs will seep into the sauce, and thus into the meat.