With the summer solstice approaching, it’s time we started getting ready for outdoor socialising and of course, for barbecues – the ultimate way to eat alfresco.
As part of the country’s roadmap out of lockdown, prime minister Boris Johnson has announced that shops will begin to reopen from 12 April while pubs and restaurants will be permitted to open for take-away and groups of six sat outside. Hotels, cinemas, museums and art galleries will start opening up again from 17 May in the third phase of the roadmap.
From 29 March, six people or two different households can meet outside with social distancing guidance remaining in place, meaning the return of the rule of six.
The current government advice to stay in your local area will no longer apply, with people instead being encouraged to minimise their travel. By June 21, it is thought the rule of six will be scrapped completely with a sense of normality returning.
With this blanket “stay at home” rule abandoned for the first time in months, many of us will be getting together with our nearest and dearest for outdoor socialising, whether in parks or in backdoor gardens.
Whether you’re planning to wheel out the old family barbecue or are planning for your first foray, we have your ultimate guide to creating the best barbecue possible.
From the best barbecues to cook on, to the expert-recommended tools, recipe ideas and the drinks to go with it, we’ve got your outdoor grilling summer covered.
We’re sure there will be no better time from 29 March onwards to fire up the grill and sip on your cocktails to celebrate making it through another week.
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The best BBQs
The Weber spirit II E-320 (Weber, £765.45) topped our test of the best gas BBQs, which will suit cooking for a larger family. A gas barbecue is much quicker to get cooking on than its charcoal counterpart, and means you won’t have to get your hands dirty or deal with the plumes of smoke either.
The cast-iron grate gave a really good sear to all of our tester’s food, and it incorporates a removable circular section, so you can accessorise with a pizza stone, griddle or even a wok, adding real versatility to the meals that you produce.
Another bonus was the side burner, which meant our tester could simmer some sauces in a 10in pan or even fry some mushrooms to go with a barbecued breakfast. The foldable side table can be collapsed after use, reducing the footprint of the barbecue and making it a welcome addition to different sized spaces.
Genevieve Taylor, BBQ expert and author of vegetable barbecue cookbook, Charred (Amazon, £12.25), told The Independent that her favourite barbecue is the Napoleon Pro22 charcoal kettle (The BBQ Shop, £319.99). It has a stainless steel heat diffuser and dual stainless steel air vents and an ash catcher that unclips so you can dispose of it without leaving charred remains on your grass.
The best BBQ tools
“Good fuel is essential, charcoal is your number one ingredient and will make or break your cooking,” says Taylor, who recommends Whittle and Flame cornbury ash charcoal (Whittle and Flame, £14 for 4kg).
Simply stick the probe into the thickest section of the meat and then sync it to your smartphone. Tell the app what type of meat you’re cooking, how you’d like it cooked (from rare to very well done), and as long as you’re within 50m, it will tell you when it’s ready to eat without the need to keep lifting the barbecue lid.
An alarm will alert you if there’s an expected surge in temperature thanks to misbehaving flames and it will even advise the best resting time, too.
DJ BBQ’s favourite tools to use when he’s cooking up a feast are the Weber premium tongs (Weber, £25.19). “They act like an extension of my hand,” he says. They have a non-grip slip handle and are useful for turning hot dogs and rearranging sliced vegetables and even large joints.
Prevent any hot spitting meat from staining your clothes with this hardy Le Creuset chef’s apron (Amazon, £37.16). Made from hardy canvas cotton, it’s heat, stain and steam resistant, and can go straight in the washing machine if it gets too smoky.
BBQ recipes, sauces and cookbooks
Once you’ve got your grill fired up, tools at the ready and apron tied, it’s time to get to the cooking part.
It contains six beef burgers, six sausages, six lamb ribs and six pork ribs. It champions farmers who really care about the environment, animal welfare and quality but allows you to make the choice of whether you want organic or free-range produce.
No barbecue is complete without a tasty burger and DJ BBQ is the master of big, over the top burgers that taste as impressive as they look.
“The DJ BBQ crew cook a lot of burgers. I reckon each summer we grill around 8,000 burgers over live fire. As many people won’t have access to a butcher, it’s best to just go for a decent fatty beef mince (ground beef). The more fat, the better. Minimum 20 per cent fat,” he says.
Taylor says: “My favourite dishes to cook are big sharing platters of grilled vegetables, layered up with lots of spices, herbs, dressings; they look impressive and are bursting with flavour. For grilling, I love all the Mediterranean vegetables such as peppers, aubergines and courgettes, as sunshine vegetables have a real affinity with fire.”
Find our other favourite recipes perfect for vegetarian barbecue cooking, from Georgian-style aubergine rolls to sweet potato and quinoa rosti in her cookbook, Charred, here.
For a vegan diet, Thea Brook, owner and executive chef of The Brook in Hackney, London, suggests Seitan “ribs”. Seitan is a great for those who want a meat replacement every now and then. It has a good bite to it, is very versatile and can be flavoured and cooked in different ways to create a range of dishes. Find the full recipe for them here.
Henry Firth and Ian Theasby, the duo behind the BOSH! vegan cookbooks, have their own version of creamy mac and greens, which makes the perfect hot side dish to grilled meats and veggies. The vegan version uses roasted mushrooms to add a salty flavour and a dairy-free bechamel. Find the full recipe here.
It has smoky notes from the paprika and a sweetness from using real tomatoes and dates. Our reviewer liked using it to dip chips in, but it’s also great as a tasty base for making pizza, and it totally transforms a can of jackfruit, too.
If you need some more inspiration on what to cook, or how to best use your grill, we’ve rounded up the best barbecue cookbooks. The selection is inspired by barbecue cooking from around the world, with bold, exciting flavours from as near and far as the Middle East, the American midwest, Korea and a whole host of other areas along the way.
Our review said: “Whether you prefer to smoke, grill or slow-cook, most books start with an intro on how to get the most out of your barbecue – whether you cook with charcoal, wood chips or gas.”
Rich Harris’ book, Fire & Smoke, came top in our IndyBest on the best barbecue cookbooks. It won the BestBuy award as recipes didn’t just focus on slabs on meat and included instructions for every component of the dish – including marinades, dipping sauces and any accompanying veg it should be served with. And we also liked that it had more innovative recipes like tandoori sea bream, lobster rolls and Galician octopus that could all be barbecued, too.
Pour yourself a drink
It’s the weekend so treat yourself to a cocktail while you finish cooking your meat and veggies to perfection.
A classic margarita requires just tequila, cointreau, lime juice and ice cubes. Pour into a cocktail shaker, shake it up, serve and enjoy.
Or stock up on the beers with this Honest Brew party box (Honestbrew, £59.90). It’s a carefully curated case of 24 beers featuring breweries like Northern Monk, Verdant and Wild Beer Co, so you can have fun finding a new favourite.
Once you’ve eaten yourself full, finished off the beers and seen the sunset, use this Weber grill brush (Amazon, £8.46) before you head to bed so you’ll have nothing to do the morning after.
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