It’s National BBQ Week this week (as if we needed an excuse), so we’ve put together a checklist to break you out of your grilling comfort zone, get the coals fried up and give you the best BBQ you’ve ever tasted.
Barbecuing has come a long way from burnt-to-a-cinder sausages and questionably cooked drumsticks; it’s cemented itself as a proper, grown-up style of cooking with cool chefs exploiting the bounty of its flavours and respected restaurants, from Berber & Q to Smokestak, becoming must-try places on the London restaurant scene.
Add to that the glorious weather we’ve been having and there’s really no better excuse to get your tongs out, your pinny on and a good old grilling session on the go.
Here’s everything you need to make your most sizzling BBQ yet…
Choose your fire and flavour
If you’re new to barbecuing by all means buy a throw away job to find your feet when grilling, but if you’re planning on embracing the BBQ season all summer long, it’s worth investing in a proper BBQ not only for flavour, ease and how much you can cook on it, but also to be mindful of the environment.
Whether you choose charcoal, wood or fire is really up to you, but we love charcoal for it’s typically BBQ, smoky taste and for the fact that it’s the most sustainable. Be sure to choose good quality, British lumpwood charcoal as it’s better for the environment, won’t up your carbon footprint by being flown in from far flung places and isn’t full of nasty toxins. King of the grill and Instagram star, Christian Stevenson AKA DJ BBQ uses Whittle & Flame which is top quality, British and sustainable.
A big, all-singing, all-dancing gas BBQ looks professional but you don’t get the same rustic, cooking-something-over-an-open-flame kind of feel, which let’s be honest, is part of the fun.
For flavour, put some woody herbs like thyme or rosemary over the coals, or chunks of lemon to penetrate the smoke flavours into whatever you’re cooking.
2. Invest in a chimney starter
If you’ve ever battled with lighting a BBQ and getting the coals hot, this is probably the most important tip to note. Invest in a chimney starter if you’re serious about barbequing. This will light your coals evenly and properly.
Cooking your coals in this first will make this a hell of a lot quicker and easier. Once your coals inside your chimney starter have turned to a greyish ash – this means you are ready to grill.
Empty them out onto your BBQ on one side. – this will be your cooking side and will get nice and hot, leaving the other half to act as a non-direct heat side. Non-direct heat will give you more control over how fast your food is cooking, ensure you can serve up food together and keep it warm in the meantime.
3. Get a head start on your cleaning
This is a nifty little tip to do before you take food to flame which you’ll thank us for come clean-up.
Once the coals are ready, shut the lid of the BBQ (if you have one) and wait for five minutes. Then, with a metal BBQ brush (you can find plenty of these on Amazon, B&Q, etc.), brush the metal grill to give you a clean, grilling surface – ideal if there’s some residue left over from your previous grill.
4. Choose a dedicated griller and do your prep
Work out what you’re cooking on the BBQ and the timings they need. Start with anything that needs more time – thicker cuts of meat or chicken for example – and leave the veg until later or space around the sides or on a section of the BBQ that’s not as hot.
And be sure to choose a dedicated griller. Everyone else can help with sides, drinks, prep, but there can definitely be a case of too many cooks when it comes to the grilling.
5. Try something new
There’s nothing wrong with a chicken drumstick, base wrapped in a bit of kitchen roll and we kind of have a strange soft spot for sausages that look like they’ve been cremated, but don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.
Cheaper and more sustainable cuts of beef can be just as good as popular rib-eye once on the BBQ and are better built for the open grill than, say, a fillet.
Ask your local butcher for a bavette steak – it’ll be a fraction of the price – and it’s a more durable meat that can afford to get gorgeously charred on the outside, taking on that smoky BBQ flavour without falling apart.
Vegetables can be super tasty on the BBQ too – more on that later – as can fish and if you have a big enough set up and the patience, you can even cook a full chicken with the lid closed for about 90 minutes – make sure it’s marinated for at least 12 hours first to ensure it stays moist and full of flavour.
6. Let the meat rest before and after
Never BBQ food straight from the fridge. Take it out with time to warm up to room temperature (about 30 minutes) and let it sit for 15 minutes wrapped in foil or on the non-direct heat side of your grill once cooked. This will get the juices flowing and the meat tender.
7. Order a box
Lockdown has brought a whole host of delivery services quite literally to our doors, from weekly fruit and veg boxes to booze deliveries. Order a BBQ-friendly box and have all the meats you need in one place and, most probably, some for the freezer too.
Premium butchers HG Walters do BBQ Boxes from £65 for 4 which include the likes of a bavette steak, burgers, pork chops, lamb steaks, premium sausages and more, plus rich BBQ rubs and sauces.
Mac & Wild
Scottish restaurant and genius inventors of the Venimoo Burger (that’s beef and venison topped with caramelised onions, gherkins and béarnaise sauce on brioche) have launched a heap of lockdown boxes to curb any meat cravings.
Choose one of their BBQ boxes from as little as £28.82, which includes premium, highland meats like burgers, ribeye, lamb leg steaks and venison sausages.
BBQ In A Box
Delivering delicious BBQ marinated meats, moreish sides and freshly made salads to the Home Counties, London, Essex and Surrey, BBQ in a Box gives grilling novices the chance to build the BBQ selection from the likes of succulent king prawn kebabs to teriyaki tuna, asparagus to jerk chicken. Perfect if you’re not all about the red meats
DJ BBQ for Donald Russell
You know you’re not messing about with a box that brings together Instagram favourite DJ BBQ and Scotland’s finest butchers, Donald Russell. This exclusive box includes everything you need to make a memorable BBQ, from a 950g Beef Rump Cap to Alpine Fries and burgers and sausages outrageously flavoured with DJ BBQ’s signature “umami bomb”.
8. It’s not all about meat
Fish and seafood can be just as good, if not better on the BBQ, from whole sardines stuffed with herbs, breadcrumbs and citrus flavour to lobsters and Asian-inspired prawn skewers.
A simple but cheffy trick is to get some scallops still in their shell from your local fishmonger, add some nduja and garlic and grill shell down to let them cook – almost like they are in their own self-made frying pan. They’ll be gloriously rich, a little spicy and beautifully smoked.
Or cheat with the London Shell Co.’s BBQ box. Their Seashore to Front Door boxes are being delivered across London, containing everything needed for an alfresco meal for two – super fresh fish and seafood ready to BBQ, ready-to-eat sides and a bottle of fizz.
Think Tandoori Monkfish Steaks, Whole Rainbow Trout and King Prawns. Sides such as Potatoes with Seaweed Butter, Salsa Verde, Mayonnaise, Coleslaw and Smokey Bean Salad – all for £60
9. Get creative with veg and vegan options
From halved gem lettuce brushed with lemon butter to whole-grilled turmeric cauliflower and simple spring asparagus, upping your veggie game is essential for a seriously good BBQ.
You can also make a banging baba ghanoush that will never want you to buy the supermarket stuff again. Simply place your whole aubergines straight onto the coals, not the grill, and let the outer skins burn. Turn them as they char but don’t be alarmed that they will look very burnt. Chuck in a whole bulb or garlic, skin and everything on. It will look like it’s totally burnt but the inside will be deliciously smoky and gooey.
Slice the aubergines in half and spoon out the flesh – don’t worry about little bits of char getting into the flesh, this will add to the flavour, but avoid the skin.
Do the same with the bulb of garlic – squeeze it all out and mix together with the aubergine in a bowl with two tablespoons of tahini, the juice of half a big lemon, salt and pepper. You’ll be left with the best baba ghanoush you’ve ever tried. Perfect for dolloping on warm, fresh flatbreads.
Talking of flatbreads, make up the easiest bread dough ever with our two-ingredient flatbreads – find the recipe here. You’ll need your grill to be super-hot – the hotter the better – to cook them and top them with gooey cheese and any veg you have hanging about in the fridge.
If you have one of the popular Weber grills, you can buy a pizza stone for ease to make the perfect BBQ bases.
10. Don’t forget the sides and salads
Perfectly grilled meat or fish is only as good as the sides you serve them with. Make them sensational and premade to take some of the heat off of the grill and save you time. A classic new potato salad is a retro favourite, or a watermelon, mint and feta salad is the perfect refreshing side to an otherwise meaty meal.
11. Puddings are made perfect on the BBQ
For something simple, grill sliced peaches and plums on the BBQ and serve with a scoop of ice cream. Or make a crowd-pleasing s’mores with 45 Park Lane’s gloriously gooey recipe – you can find it here.
12. Learn from the masters
Follow these Instagram accounts to learn from the big names in grilling, from DJ BBQ, yep, he literally DJs and BBQ’s for a living to Hasan Semay AKA Big Has, who will turn your BBQ skills into something special.