You know, we went off barbecues a few years ago. All that hassle, smoke and charred-outside-raw-inside food. That was until we found some barbecue designs that make things easier and tastier.
The best barbecue is…
We’ve tried them all – from £5 buckets and disposable trays to marvels of engineering. For most people, the cheaper the better. If you’re only going to barbecue a couple of times a year, don’t make a production out of it. You want to make the most of your time outside with friends or family and, to be honest, the food is sort of secondary.
A bucket barbecue is neat and simple. Painted ones will lose their paint fairly quickly, so we like this galvanised one.It has a bit bigger surface area than some too, so it’s better for families. If you come across one in the supermarket and it’s under a tenner, though, you’ve not got much to lose!
We wouldn’t ever use the standard disposable trays. Firstly, they make unnecessary waste. Secondly, the coals are too shallow to sustain much cooking. For a bit of fun, try an Eco Grill disposable. It’s basically a log filled with charcoal that you can use for barbecues or to stand a pan or kettle on. You’ll need something to stand it on to avoid setting fire to the ground.
There are lots of portable barbecues to choose from that fold up to avoid mess. We’ve tested some VERY bad ones with hinges and handles that break. One that we’ve quite liked is this ‘notebook’ version, which folds super-flat and seems reasonably well-made for the money.
The other good shape is the barrel barbecue, though they’re not as easy to clean out. If ordering online, do check they haven’t been dented en route (which can lead to ill-fitting lids). These are made of mostly stainless steel, so no paint to peel off, but they will discolour after use.
Let’s get serious
If you’re a big barbecue fan and you’re going to get a lot of use out of your kit, then it pays to buy better. Actually, spending more on a well-designed barbecue can encourage you to cook outdoors more.
The two we recommend are the Cobb and the Lotus Grill, but the latter just pips it to prime position thanks to its built-in fan and temperature control. Both have lots of accessory options for baking, frying, griddling etc, and neither are cheap. We’ve thoroughly tested both of these and you can see reviews and recipes here.
Their advantage is that they’re virtually smokeless, can be used on a table and do more than just barbecue. We’ve made cupcakes in a Cobb and made a stirfry on the Lotus Grill.
Beyond the barbecue
Fancy cooking outside without needing to buy charcoal? There are some wonderful stoves that use wood for cooking – so you can pick up sticks, pine cones and fallen branches and make outdoor eating even more of an experience. We’ve written all about wood-burning outdoor stoves, but the firm favourites seem to be the Anevay Frontier and Horizon stoves. The first is an amazingly portable stove that keeps you warm and has a cooking surface (it all folds down into a neat bag). The second is a super-efficient rocket stove that needs only sticks to keep it cooking.
And for a helping hand…
We’ve found a couple of things to help get your barbecue burning nicely. This chimney device takes your charcoal and encourages flames to rise to the top. It speeds up the process of getting the coals to a glowing state. Invaluable on a breezy day!
And these eco firelighters are much nicer than smelly cubes or bottles of fluid.
Is it ready yet?
Finally, here’s a quick guide to cooking times for properly cooked meat, fish and vegetables. Use your judgement too, of course, as barbecue temperatures vary greatly. Check out our recipes as well.
If you’ve got a favourite barbecue or a tip for making them easier and more enjoyable to cook on, let us know in the comments section below.