It’s that time of year again. The season that’s all about spending quality time with friends and family, enjoying good food, delicious wine, cooking over flames and relaxing under the stars. It’s about taking time out, taking a breath, reflecting and rejuvenating for the year ahead.
Whether you’re a seasoned host or an entertaining rookie, there are a few things you should know to ensure you deliver the ultimate outdoor dining, and entertaining experience.
We got the chance to catch up with award-winning Executive Chef Greg Piner and talk all things outdoor cooking and entertaining. Greg comes from an impressive background working in some of New Zealand top restaurants (Millbrook, Mikano and Pier 24, just to name a few), has won numerous awards throughout Australasia and now manages the kitchen at iconic Dunedin restaurant’s Vault 21 and Prohibition Smoke House.
Inspired by his travels in Asia and the team of chefs around him, Greg loves cooking with fresh seafood, venison and loves nothing more than relaxing after a hot summer’s day with good company, a cold beer and flame-grilled meal. He was the perfect person to ask about all things flame grilling and get his top tips and advice for hosting the ultimate party at home this summer.
1. Take your time
When it comes to cooking over flames, take your time and don’t rush – it’s not just about the food but the whole experience too. Most importantly and what a lot of people overlook is the actual fire – make sure you spend time creating a good base. Once you have this, it’ll be plain sailing from there.
2. A must-have outdoor setting
A well set up outdoor area is a must. Combining your cooking area with the outdoor fireplace will not only save you room but will also be a great focal point too. You’ll need a really nice solid outdoor table, fresh herbs at the ready, good sounds and seats so comfy that you’ll want to stay outside all night, around the fire and sleep under the stars.
3. Quality ingredients
There are certain foods that are just made for grilling, so make sure you do your research and gather the right ingredients (local if possible!).
Meat-wise, anything with a bone works really well as does cooking with foil (try wrapping a whole fish in foil and add some chilli or truffle butter). Better still, experiment and try hanging some pork ribs, butterflying a whole chicken, or even a pizza stone sitting across two grill trays – anything goes, so just have fun.
When it comes to veggies, drizzle some olive oil and garlic over corn and nori, baby carrots, vine tomatoes, courgettes, eggplants or onions cut in half with some garlic butter.
4. A Local brew
A local wine or beer in hand is essential! My ‘go-to’ is Chard Farm, Akitu in Wanaka or Bannockburn’s Mt Difficulty. For beer, I can’t go past a nice cold Emerson’s Bookbinder.
5. Outdoor pantry essentials
Make sure you have quality staples in your outdoor panty including salt, pepper, olive oil, garlic, chilli and butter. As the fire will be super-hot, you’ll need long tongs so you don’t burn yourself and a fork for knowing when the meat is cooked (when the juices run clear) and of course, a can of beer or nice glass of red wine.