Just in time for the bank holiday weekend, Asda innovations development chef and native South African Andrew Johnston blogs about his dream burger and shares his top tips for cooking your meat on the barbecue … and what to do if the wet British weather puts a dampener on things.


The August Bank Holiday is the perfect time to hone your skills on the barbecue and enjoy a real treat.

I was born in South Africa, growing up in Cape Town before I came over to the UK when I was 18, so to me it’s always been second nature to cook on the BBQ, or braai as we call it back home. We're pretty obsessive about our braai'ing in South Africa and as far as I'm concerned there is no better way to cook!

The UK has a really good barbecue culture and has taken a massive step on recently, but there is always that fear before you put the meat on the grill that you're either going to burn it to a crisp or leave it undercooked.

When I was younger I had a Sunday job in South Africa barbecuing the boerewors reels on the braai, and I was taught the fundamentals of how to get it right. These tips have stayed with me and if you follow them too, you won’t go far wrong.

The best way to test the barbecue is hold your hand 30cm – a ruler length – above the grill and count to ten. If you're getting to eight, nine, ten and your hand is getting hot, then you have a decent temperature. If you can't hold your hand there until ten it's way too hot, and if you get past ten it's not hot enough - so relax and have a drink until it’s a bit warmer! And please don’t hold it any closer than 30cm!

I've been taught to cook with my all senses. When you're cooking a steak and the blood rises to the top, you know the heat has reached the middle. When the blood starts to turn clear you're going from medium rare to medium, then when it dries up you're going from medium to medium/well.

Another great rule of thumb is to cook steak a minute on one side and a minute on the other for rare. Two minutes on both sides is medium rare, three minutes is medium etc. But looking for the juices is a great way to know the heat has reached the middle.

With chicken and prawns, if you're not a confident cook, buy a thermometer probe. They're only a couple of quid but really useful and give you peace of mind. As long as the temperature inside the meat is above 75C, you're golden. Baked corn is great on a barbecue. Add onions, tomatoes and red peppers too and you’ve got a delicious feast.

If you're doing fish, don't barbecue it for more than a couple of minutes as you'll dry it out. It's the same with prawns.

In South Africa braaiing is all about cooking big steaks! But, I know that a UK barbecue staple is the classic burger – and if you want to really wow your guests then I’d recommend our absolutely awesome Extra Special Wagyu Beef Burgers. It's a fabulous burger with phenomenal flavour, seasoned with cracked black pepper. See which stores they're available in here. The Aberdeen Angus burgers are fantastic too. I also love the Smoked Paprika Chicken & Chorizo Skewers. All the work – the marinading and the forming – is done for you. It doesn't matter if you've got a small disposable barbecue or a big six ring burner, the food's still going to taste great!

We’ve got loads of burger recipe ideas and inspiration on our Good Living website – it’s well worth a look.

There’s some great BBQ kits available. Our Uniflame range, which is exclusive to Asda, is fantastic, and The Uniflame Dual Sear 6 Burner and Side Gas barbecue is a fabulous piece of kit.

We sell beech, hickory and other flavoured smoking chips which impart that smoky, woody aroma to a joint of meat.

Charcoal has its purpose – it's a great heat carrier and creates a nice even heat. In South Africa we use logs and charcoal to keep our braais burning. So my advice is play around with the different types of smoking chips we have at Asda, and just use a small handful as some woods are pretty strong and will overpower the taste of the meat. We sell beech, hickory and other flavoured smoking chips which impart that smoky, woody aroma to a joint.

If you're home and it rains, fire up your oven. You'll still get the lovely flavour from the meat, and there's nothing to say you can't put some wood chips in a baking dish at the bottom of the oven to get that slight outdoor woody feel even though you're indoors and it's tipping down outside!

When I first started working for Asda I was in the colleague canteen of our home office – working on the omelette station! I absolutely love cooking so after I’d finished my shift, I’d go hang out with Mark, our head of development in the innovation kitchen, see what he was up to. He soon offered me a job and now I work with him on developing ranges for Asda. We’re always looking for influences from around the world which we can use in our range and Mark gives me the opportunity to go and work in professional kitchens to learn about new techniques – it’s been quite a change from making omelettes!

Mark was involved in a barbecue competition in America and saw the different influences and how the barbecues are essentially the same across the states, but each will have a slightly different finish or twist. For example, South Carolinans barbecue with a slight mustard tang, and we'll see that come into the Asda range. And of course, I’m always keen to see where I can add some influence from my homeland into our cooking!