By Tamra Booth, Keeeps
With Summer slowly showing its glorious face, we cannot wait to smell the sweet aromas of sizzling marinated delights and smoking charcoals in the air. Because of our somewhat unreliable weather, a classic British barbeque often means running to Waitrose, grabbing a few packs of meat, salad and bread rolls in a complete rush! So let’s find ways to make your barbies less stressful, more impressive and a lot more sustainable.
It is often said that Brits blame everything on the weather, but in the case of BBQ’s in the UK, our lack of barbie prowess is definitely because of the lack of practice due to the unpredictable climate!
Australians and Americans on the other hand take barbequing seriously and use their grill on average at least 5 times a month. We’re talking cooking an evening meal out there, slow cooking meats, marinating for 48 hours…not bunging a pack of sausages on the grill and pairing with some finger rolls.
Brits, on the other hand, have around 10 barbeques per family per summer. However, cooking outdoors is becoming more popular and serious barbequing is really catching on in the UK, come rain or shine. There are so many mouth-watering Instagram accounts and cookbooks which focus solely on the beauty of barbeque with lots of year-round inspiration.
We’ve been thinking of ways to really up the barbeque game this summer, so much so that you can take it into the autumn with you too. And as for the winter, well, you may be surprised to hear that apparently 250,000 people are now BBQ’ing their Christmas dinner in the UK!
9 WAYS TO UP YOUR BBQ GAME
1. Set the Mood
Whether the barbeque is with family, friends or your partner, chances are you’ll be out there until it gets dark and nothing creates a cosier space than lighting. A chiminea is a great investment and will keep everyone outside into the early hours, providing subtle lighting and a bit of warmth for when the sun goes down. They became particularly popular during lockdown when people were taking the opportunity to renovate their houses and gardens, which often meant making the most of the outdoor space and bringing the outside in so that the area could be used whatever the weather.
Chimineas are also traditionally made from clay (we approve!!) and can be eco-friendly as “you can buy specialised chiminea fuel made from 100% recycled material”. Of course, invest a bit extra and “with the addition of a cooking grill, many chimineas can double as a barbecue, allowing you to feed your guests whilst keeping them warm”.
Alternatively, tiki torches (bamboo poles that hold a fuel canister and burn with a wick) give tropical island vibes and can be enjoyed guilt-free with the Firefly Safe & Green Tiki Torch Fuel as it’s 100% sustainable, non-toxic and odourless.Or, some simple solar-powered fairy lights to give off a soft glow really creates a comfortable and inviting space. Alternatively, some simple tealights in beautiful, handmade, ceramic holders create a warm, stylish atmosphere, and you are supporting artisans at the same time, which is always a good talking point.
2. Drinks on tap!
No barbeque is complete without a good selection of booze. Investing in a great cooler (which can even just be a metal bucket with ice) means you can avoid having to run in and out to the fridge. A clay wine cooler however is a real statement piece to have on the table. Made from terracotta, which is porous, you soak them in cold water, then put them in the fridge or freezer for at least 20 minutes. Place a pre-chilled bottle of wine or bubbly inside and the cooler will slowly release the cold moisture, keeping the bottle cold. The burnt orange colour of the terracotta looks so rustic too, with real Mediterranean vibes! We love these partially glazed ones from Weston Mill.
3. Go BIG on the snacks
Another great thing about al fresco dining is the ‘picky bits’. We’re talking hummus, tzatziki, baba ghanoush, olive oil with balsamic (just any kind of dip) with some grissini bread sticks, veggies, your favourite crisps, or some delicious artisan bread to delve into it.
Of course, if you buy dips from the supermarket they are completely wrapped in plastic. So why not make your own dips? They are super simple and the best thing is they can be frozen and defrosted when the sun comes out and a BBQ is called for. Serve your dips in some beautiful dipping bowls (pictured below) and you’re ready to go, simple as that.
Try Love and Lemons’ (IG @loveandlemons) easy tzatziki recipe for starters. It is super quick to make and very tasty! Again, you can whip up a batch in advance and chuck it in the freezer.
4. Get the right equipment
The Big Green Egg is an investment absolutely worth making if you have the budget and want to start to explore serious outdoor cooking. This is a barbeque with a difference, a ceramic charcoal barbeque handmade by artisans in Mexico since 1974. When it comes to the Big Green Egg, we’re not just talking grilling and barbequing, we’re talking actual cooking in this bad boy - pizzas, paellas, the lot. You can even slow cook and bake in it!
And make sure you pamper that barbeque chef, whoever he or she may be. There are lots of gadgets out there to incentivise them to get grilling to their hearts content. We particularly love the Hunter Gatherer Personalised Barbeque Branding Iron, the Meater smart wireless meat thermometer, and the Weber range of barbeque baskets to cook veggies and fish fillets.
5. Lettuce go big on salad
Salads are massively underrated for a barbeque but if done well can be a showstopper. There are so many great salad recipes out there, but a couple of our favourites are the Thai-inspired salad with a garlic, chilli and lime dressing (which is to die for) featured on Healthy Food Mag and Food to Glow’s Sweet Potato and Kale Panzanella Salad is also delicious. Mixed with a couple of freshly grilled skewers hot off the barbie and that is close to perfection.
Alternatively, if you don’t fancy following a recipe and want to go completely fuss-free, get a simple green salad together, throw in some mixed grains and top with an eye-catching topping, like pomegranate seeds, feta, avocado or asparagus heads. Serve on a big ceramic platter or salad bowl, and it’ll finish it off with panache!
6. Meat me at the grill
If you’re cooking meat on the BBQ the best advice is so simple – quality over quantity. The downside to nipping into the supermarket to buy meat (aside from the plastic waste), is that the meat isn’t always of the best quality and you often end up buying and cooking more than you need, which then gets thrown away. Instead, support your local butcher and buy some good quality meat. Whilst the secret to BBQ’d meats is all in the marinade, if you haven’t got time to make a marinade for your meat, simply making sure it is well seasoned with salt and pepper will do the trick. Keep your trusty ceramic salt pig nearby to quickly pinch the salt and sprinkle to your heart’s content.
Our fave butchers are:
Local to us are the excellent Tom Kerridge’s Butcher’s Tap in Marlow and J&S Rook Butchers in Holyport. Two other firm favourites are the Black Farmer (founded by the eccentric and inspiring Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, using only British meat and also supporting the increasingly large community of people who have Coeliac disease, or a wheat and gluten intolerance) and The Ginger Pig with its amazing 8 shops across London including Borough Market (you have to try their sausage rolls!).
7. Try new recipes
With barbequing becoming a bit of a trend now, more and more people are cooking outside, no matter what season it is, experimenting with what you can do with that smoky flavour that can only be achieved on the grill. We LOVE Tom Kerridge’s new cookbook ‘Outdoor Cooking’, which focuses on the beauty of cooking outdoors. It gives the humble kebab a new lease of life and features some absolutely mouth-watering halloumi recipes.
For more tasty recipe inspiration, Marcus Bawdon’s book Skewered (IG @countrywoodsmoke ) contains some delicious (you guessed it) skewer recipes – which are guaranteed to go beautifully with that salad you’re planning on making!
8. Avoid disposables
Finally, this is a no-brainer but disposable plastic cutlery, plates and tableware are a total no-go!) adding to the planet’s already huge plastic problem. Paper tableware is no better, as this surprisingly takes up more space in landfill than plastic, and paper that's been used for food (like paper plates and cartons) usually isn't applicable for recycling. In addition, plastic and wax-lined cardboard cannot be recycled and will contaminate the recycling process of all the other paper if you include it in the bin All you need to do is use your usual metal cutlery (and place in a stylish cutlery holder on the table!) and your usual crockery, and if you haven’t got enough in the cupboard or drawer, simply ask your guests to bring extras along.
In terms of actual BBQ’s, the lightweight aluminium disposable ones you can buy at the petrol station or supermarket must be avoided at all costs. They have been banned in parts of Hampshire and Dorset due to the fire risk they pose and the danger to wildlife and the environment. Additionally, the charcoal they contain is normally unsustainably sourced, contributing to the desertification of forest.
Most disturbingly, disposable barbecues can’t be recycled or composted, and each year in the UK alone over a million of these single use barbeques are sent to landfill. If you want an affordable BBQ on the go, then try the Citi Chef 40 Table Top Gas Barbeque. At under £200, it is a favourite across UK campsites as they can be put together in minutes and heat up quickly with an efficient single burner, auto ignition and ceramic grill plate. Perfect!
9. Presentation is everything!
Plating up is the key to a good spread. Platters and big dishes can be all shapes and sizes and the bigger the better! Big bowls, impressive platters, salad dishes, cutlery holders - pottery, of course 😊
But seriously, don’t go for melamine platters or plates as melamine cannot be recycled and is reported to cause kidney stones and other health issues.  Even though melamine dishware doesn't look like plastic, melamine can leach into food after dishes are repeatedly microwaved or used to hold both hot and acidic foods. Don't go putting those hot-off-the-grill burgers onto your new summer plates!
So, reach for the ceramic tableware and mix it up to create an interesting and stylish setting that you and your guests can tuck into with great pleasure! Not only do serving platters look fab on the table but you can have multiple guests helping themselves at once. Also, big platters and bowls are the perfect gift for the foodie that loves to entertain.
We hope this has given you some food for thought with our sustainable ideas for barbeque styling and serving, to help get you out of the house and cook up a storm, whatever the season!