This week it’s National BBQ Week, a culinary celebration of the burning brazier that’s the centre point of many summer outdoor gatherings. The event aims to educate us about the versatility of al fresco cooking and get us Brits to accept there’s a whole lot more to this cooking method than singed sausages and uncooked burgers.
Running until 3rd June, we can expect a packed programme of manic marinating, thrilling grilling and gripping dipping from these passionate champions of charcoal.
But how much do you actually know about the BBQ that stands unloved at the back of your garden for most of the year? The Smoove Move team like nothing more than feeding your curiosity, so if your interest has been ignited, read on to learn all you need to know about the BBQ…PDQ.
The word “barbecue” comes from the colonial Spanish word “barbacoa”. Those in the know think this comes from a word used by the Arawak people of South America for a frame designed for drying and roasting meat.
This method of cooking was taken up with great gusto by the good folks in the southern half of the USA and evolved into three distinct forms that remain massively popular today: Memphis (mutton), Texas (beef) and North Carolina (pork). BBQ purists generally acknowledge pork as the originally authentic BBQ meat, with beef, lamb and chicken latecomers to the party.
Charcoal is seen by many as the best way to BBQ. It certainly provides a more satisfying visual effect, with hot fat dripping onto the coals exploding into aromatic smoke which sizzles and flavours the meat above. However it offers very limited control over the heat, can be tricky to light and burn quality can be inconsistent.
There are two types of charcoal BBQ: Kettle and open brazier. Kettle models cook slower, evenly and less fiercely as they use convection to heat up the food, not a direct flame. Just get it lit, close the lid and relax. Open brazier cooking is the high-maintenance cooking method we all know and love. It requires constant attention with the tongs, a modicum of cooking skill and a dedication to keeping your eyes on the grill while the party goes on around you.
If you are using a charcoal BBQ, remember lumpwood charcoal will be easier to light and burn faster and will be ready to cook on in around 25 minutes. Briquettes will need more ignition, burn longer, but won’t reach optimum cooking temperature for approximately 40 minutes.
A way of BBQing that’s growing more and more popular amongst the serious enthusiast, gas models provide reliable, controllable flame that lights instantly and gets up to cooking temperature in less than five minutes.
“But what about that unique charcoal-smoked flavour?” we hear you cry. Well, when did you last eat a burger that tasted of charcoal? Unless it was way too overdone, that BBQ flavour we love so much is actually the result of the meat fat hitting the heat sources, then imparting a smoky flavour upwards and into the meat. So it doesn’t actually matter what creates the heat, as long as there’s a method of vaporising the dripping juices and getting that flavour circulating into the food on the grill. Gas BBQs are designed to do just that.
They run on propane with the most popular size being 5kg. One of these should cost around £20 – £25 and last at least 15 BBQs for a two burner model so you’ll benefit from a lot of al fresco eating for less. A grill each weekend throughout an entire British summer is not beyond possibility on one full tank.
From hi-tech braziers that wouldn’t look out of place in a science lab, to rusted oil drums hacked in two and filled with coal, BBQ designs are as many as varied as the tasty treats they produce. Check online and you’ll find every shape and size imaginable, from Landrover shaped BBQs to designer mega-monoliths with more controls and kit than an average kitchen.
They all do basically the same thing; cook food on an open griddle. But, depending on your requirements and penchant for gadgetry and precision, you can spend anywhere between £10 and £1000 to do pretty much the same thing.
In the UK, a BBQ will stand unused and fending off the elements for most of the year, so make sure you choose one that’s built to last. Alternatively, if you have a garage, choose one with wheels and job’s a good on until next summer.
Our research has shown you do generally get what you pay in terms of durability and quality, but not necessarily usability and cooking ability. So be sure to shop around and read reviews before you buy to get the right one for you. Bon appetit!