The sun is slowly starting to creep from behind the clouds, which means it’s time to unleash yourselves on the outdoors to cook food over hot flames.
Get some sausages going, debate endlessly whether your chicken is done, and enjoy all that is great and good about a traditional British barbecue.
With statistics suggesting that there are days in the year when almost a quarter of the UK is BBQ’ing (aka bank holidays), and with food festivals like the increasingly popular Meatopia attracting swarms of food lovers, IndyBest went in search of some professional chefs to see what ingredients you should invest in. Between them, they represent some of the best BBQ restaurants in the UK.
And if you're looking for something equally delicious to drink, check out our favourite BBQ beers. We've also rounded up the very best charcoal and gas BBQs, as well as all the accessories you need to become a BBQ maestro.
1. Maldon Sea Salt: £1.08 for 125g, Asda
Maldon Sea Salt comes in larger flakes than your usual table salt, making it ideal for rubbing into steaks and other bits of meat. It comes highly recommended by meat-cooking legend – the man behind Hawksmoor, Pitt Cue Co and Blacklock – Richard Turner. And Oscar Holgado, the head chef at Pitt Cue, echoes that sentiment. “You should always have sea salt,” he says. “It brings everything to life!” For just a couple of quid, you will be seasoning your BBQ treats all summer long.
2. Philip Warren Butchers: Various prices, Phillip Warren Butchers
You can get decent meat from most supermarkets nowadays, but connoisseurs of fiery outdoor cooking will always go for a top butcher over anything else. “Philip Warren Butchers is my butcher of choice,” says Oscar Holgado from Pitt Cue. “Quality is at the forefront of everything they do, from the quality of the animal’s life, right through to the finished product – plus you can also order online!” The good news is that the Cornwall-based butcher, which has been in the business since 1880, delivers nationwide. There’s a massive selection of meat available, including a dedicated BBQ section, ranging from deliciously spicy chicken wings to minted lamb, but we’re particularly fond of the spectacular cote de boeuf.
3. T&G BBQ 2.4 Box: £52.50, Turner & George
The Turner bit of London-based butcher Turner & George is the top chef Richard Turner – anyone who has sampled his work at Hawksmoor will attest to some seriously good meat. This box comes with everything you can imagine at a dream family barbecue, from a healthy portion of chicken wings, to pork ribs (ideal for slow cooking), burgers, and a Flintstone-worthy, bone-in rib steak. It will comfortably feed a family of four. The Sauce Shop Chilli Sauce that sneaks into the box is a very tasty bonus. It delivers nationwide, and delivery is free on weekday orders over £50.
4. Wing BBQ Fish Box: £55, The Cornish Fishmonger
Fire and fish can be terrifying for an amateur BBQ’er, yet there are few things more satisfying than fish cooked over a flame – so just swallow the fear and try it out. The family-run Cornish Fish Monger gets the majority of its produce from local sources, and has assembled a wonderful box of fish and seafood, including a dozen scallops, four big pieces of salmon, some plaice, some mackerel, and a great big box of frozen, head-on prawns. It’ll serve six to eight people, but you might be wise to get it for two, and clear some space in the freezer. “The same quality fish and seafood ordered by Michelin-starred chefs can be yours,” reads the website. Sounds good to us.
5. Wild Fennel Pollen from Calabria: £15, Sous Chef
A good way to help your meat (or veg) along is with a good variety of spices. One that is always in Richard Turner’s store cupboard is fennel pollen, also known as the Spice of Angels. Used in the same delicate portions as something like saffron, this beguiling spice packs a honey-aniseed flavour, which works especially well on pork chops, but is suitable for just about any other meat you care to mention. And like saffron, you must be sure not to overdo it (the 15g will see you through BBQ season).
6. Abel & Cole Super Salad Box: £15, Abel & Cole
There’s no sense in firing up a tableful of meaty treats without having something zingy and uplifting to accompany them. The salad boxes from Abel & Cole are the perfect foil, delivered to your door, with enough ingredients for a couple of big, hearty salads, complete with recipes and simple instructions. The box changes to suit the best vegetables in season, but the curried chickpea chop chop salad that we tried – a feast of chickpeas, turmeric, and peppers – was delicious and comes massively recommended. This is a subscription service, which works if you want to be supplied with some salad for two people every week, but you’re not tied into any contracts so you can cancel at any time (there’s a pretty nifty barbecue meat box too).
7. HG Walter Steak Box: £100, HG Walter
The bad news is that if you live outside the Greater London area, this box is, for the time being, off limits (if you’re not too far outside the M25, it’s worth ringing up to double check whether you can still get a delivery – we’re told that nationwide delivery is in the works). But for those in the catchment area, by gum this is good. It comes from a family-run business that specialises in mouth-watering cuts of free-range British beef. In this box, you’ll find grass-fed, 30-day aged sirloins, ribeyes, fillets, cote de boeuf, marrow bones, and a couple of astonishingly good burgers. With “special occasion” written all over it, this somehow feels like a snip at £100.
8. Smoke ‘n’ Spice BBQ Kit: £20, Sous Chef
Aside from the classic ingredients used to enhance your meat, you can find all kinds of excellent “kits” to use. Such as this one from Sous Chef, which comes complete with two kinds of marinades, two different rubs, and even a handy syringe for pumping extra flavour into your meat. And don’t worry, you don’t have to have a degree in surgery to administer the flavour – it’s extremely straightforward. See the online description for some suggestions on which kind of meat to use them on – or you can get experimental.
9. Bad Byron’s Butt Rub: £13.95 for 737g, Riverside
If you’re looking to elevate your meat to a new level, rather than fussing around with dry herbs and whatever else is in the cupboard, invest in a one-stop rub. Few come with a higher rate of approval from BBQ aficionados than Bad Byron’s Butt Rub. Considered by many in the US as a barbecue staple, you’ll find a heady blend of spices, salts and natural sugars. Just rub this into your meat a short while before you cook it, and then let the heat from your barbie do the rest.
10. Waitrose Le Gruyere Slices: £3.29 for 6, Ocado
When it comes to sourcing the ideal burger, the consensus is that you should try using chuck mince, but when it comes to the cheese used to transform it into a cheeseburger, the debate will last for all time – many are convinced by the plastic Kraft slices of American Cheese, while others aren’t so sure. But for a nutty flavour, and a wonderful melted consistency, try sliced Le Gruyere from Switzerland instead. There simply isn’t anything better. Now combine with a thick slice of onion, a few pickles, some ketchup and mustard.
The Verdict: BBQ food
There is so much more to creating the perfect barbecue than just buying a grill and getting some supermarket meat. The meat from Phillip Warren Butchers is excellent, the Steak Box from HG Walter is beautiful, and the fish and seafood from The Cornish Fishmonger is second to none. But the Best Buy for your barbecue clocks in at just over a pound. Maldon Sea Salt is a bona fide must-have.
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