Brits love to BBQ. I count the quality of the summer by how many BBQs I’ve had. A couple of years ago I had a New Zealand friend staying. So in tune with the BBQ lifestyle are the Kiwis that his family would have a cook-up on Christmas Day.
On balmy evenings we would fire it up, crack open the beers or a bottle of rosé, and kick back. However, the British weather being what it is, I ended up buying a portable gas Weber Q for instant post-work entertaining.
But this year, we’ve had ample opportunity to crack out the barbie. NASA says 2016 has been the hottest summer on record and, thanks to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, we may have to get used to a warmer climate. Now may be the time to really get into the sport and invest in some serious BBQing kit.
If you’re lucky, you’ll have a top-of-the-range Big Green Egg, the outdoor grill of choice among top chefs. Based on an ancient Japanese ceramic Kamada oven, you can pick up a portable MiniMax version from John Lewis for £600.
If you’re cooking for large parties, the Original BBQ Jerk (approx. £500) will cater for your needs. Handmade in Streatham, it’s a big oil drum, sliced in half, with an added thermometer and chimney.
But how do you turn your garden – or terrace as it’s likely to be in these parts – into the perfect outdoor kitchen? Treat your guests to lunch at a rustic garden table festooned with dwarf plants and flowers, coloured mismatching glassware and crisp napkins, à la Provence.
Creating the right ambience is done with flickering lighting for evening and shade for the afternoon, along with fresh ingredients and good company, of course.
If you want to up your skill level, check out the specialist cooking classes from Weber, for example, or give a loved-one a fancy-pants present of the gourmet BBQ day at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons (£440). Adam Johnson is Raymond Blanc’s development chef and heads up the day.
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“We use charcoal, all-natural briquettes and a range of wood,” he says. “My tip is that you don’t need to fill your BBQ with charcoal to cook a meal. One kilo of charcoal generates enough heat to grill and smoke for one or two hours depending on its quality.
“If you pile it up on one side, you give yourself a hot side for grilling burgers and fish and a medium/hot side for slow-cooking your sausages and chicken.”
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He advises to start simple, master the basics of heat control and trade up from there. “Weber has always been a favourite of mine,” he says. “They are durable, portable and come in a wide range of sizes for different uses and cooking styles, perfect for taking to the beach, smoking at home or for the ultimate BBQ.
“There’s lots to learn about cooking on different fuels, slow cooking/smoking, different cuts of meat, spice rubs, marinades, wet and dry brining… it goes on, and it’s exciting to see where the UK is going to take the humble BBQ.”
Summer BBQ Cooking at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Oxfordshire, September 6 and 16, £440, belmond.com. Weber runs courses in London throughout the year, from £99, grillacademy.co.uk
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