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Make your barbecue really sizzle

Want to make the most of your skills on the grill? Believe it or not, there's a lot of psychology involved in the humble barbecue. Hellmann’s has enlisted the help of Oxford University’s leading gastrophysicist, Professor Charles Spence, to give us five simple tips to turn your barbecue into your personal Grilltopia. 

1 – Smoke good, eat good

Smokiness is a huge foodie trend at the moment, and the prof says says that’s we’re naturally drawn to the smell of wood smoke as it brings out caveman in us all. To impress your guests, try experimenting with the wood you use on your barbecue – oak wood has a strong flavour that works well with most red meats, while fruit woods such as apple are milder and work well with chicken and fish.

2 – Get handsy

The latest research shows that the first taste really is with the hands. The physical texture of food sets the expectation of how delicious it will taste, and subconsciously gives us a chance to assess the freshness of our food, building hungry anticipation. So save yourself some washing up and ditch the cutlery. 

3 – Texture is king

Ultimately, the brain loves contrast – it triggers ‘reward circuits’ and makes us enjoy our food more. So think about the crunch of a gherkin, or crispiness of bacon, and a delicious cooling sauce on a hot burger. 

And don’t forget the humble side salad – the contrasting colours appeal to the brain, meaning your guests will enjoy the food more.

4 – Plate expectations

Obviously, presentation matters. But did you know the colour of your plates can enhance certain flavours?  Ditch the white paper plates and try serving up on a red plate to make food taste spicier, or use black plates to make your meat look juicier.

5 – Music is the food of love

Professor Spence conducted research where participants were played different sounds and music while considering flavour elements of food, and discovered that that music changes the way food tastes – so pick your barbecue playlist carefully! 

As mad as it sounds, he found that lower pitched music is best for barbecues; the sultry tones of Nina Simone’s Feeling Good came out as the top tune to bring out the smokiness and aroma of food. In contrast, Justin Bieber’s high-pitched Baby came bottom of the list, as it didn’t enhance any classic grilling flavours. However Belieber’s shouldn’t despair, just save your favourite tunes for dessert – higher pitched sounds were found to enhance fruity and citrus flavours.

Hellmann’s is launching Finding Grilltopia – a worldwide search for grilling perfection – to mark the launch of its new range of premium BBQ and Hot sauces, each inspired by exotic flavours from around the world. The range includes American Smokey BBQ, Brazilian Spicy Churrasco BBQ, Japanese Sticky BBQ, Australian Sweet BBQ, Mexican Smokey Chipotle, Jamaican Fruity Habanero, and Moroccan Aromatic Harrisa.

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