Barbecues are arguably one of the best things about the British summer time. You can't beat a slightly charred burger in one hand, and a cold pint of something in the other. But whether it's the unpredictable British weather, the lacklustre limp salad or the token drunk uncle, BBQ's can be an underwhelming affair. We show you how to master the art of the BBQ with our top picks.
Summer is well and truly upon us, and we're sure by now you've stoked up the barbecue in true British fashion, even if it is a bit drizzly. So you've had your test run, your sausages were slightly more black than you'd hoped, the chicken was questionably pink and you forgot the all-important condiments. But fret not - your BBQ game is about to step up big time.
No more will you endure raised eyebrows from your judgemental parents when they taste your homemade marinade and pound shop plastic plates will be a thing of the past. So here it is - we've put together our top picks for you to consider when the sun next comes out to play. Trust us, they'll have you barbecuing like a pro in no time, and you'll wonder how you ever barbecued like such a novice.
Some may say that food is the most important part of any BBQ, but you'd be wrong. Where would you be without a cold one in your hand whilst stoking the hot coals? A relaxed chef is the best chef, and you're burger flipping technique will be a whole lot more confident after sipping on these bad boys - of course, we're not suggesting you play with fire whilst completely intoxicated though! Step away from your usual budget booze and try Badger's range of fancy ales.
This year, their limited edition brews include the amusingly named Mysterious Mer-Chicken and An American Venture. The former is infused with basil, which gives a distinctive but delicious taste, which would be the perfect herbal accompaniment to your BBQ delights. If you're feeling particularly snazzy, you can also use the ale as a marinade for sticky ribs - if that's not got your mouth-watering, we don't know what will.
Pimms x POPS Lollies
Who doesn't love an ice pop when the weather pulls through? But forget your childhood favourites - there's a grown up version in town. POPS has pioneered in the art of premium alcoholic ice lollies, and has completely fulfilled our wildest dreams by partnering up with the summer favourite, Pimms.
There's literally nothing quite as British, and the ice pop version of the sunny tipple certainly doesn't disappoint. Made using only natural ingredients, the classic Pimms No. 1, lemonade and a scattering of real fruit, sun worshipers will love the fresh, fruity flavour. And plus, with only 32 calories and with a 4.3% ABV, what's not to love?
Jardine's 5 Star BBQ Sauce
A barbecue sauce can be the make and break of a good barbecue. There's nothing worse than under-seasoned, bland meat sitting sadly in between a bun. If you really want to impress your guests and give them a feast they'll still be talking about next year, then you need to nail the marinade - and you can't do much better than Jardine's 5 Star BBQ Sauce.
It's been consistently at the top of the BBQ sauce list, and is a firm favourite for its punchy authentic Texan flavour, plus it contains only natural ingredients sourced from local farms and farmer's markets. Smother this one all over your meat joints, or use it as a tangy dip for chicken wings. We're practically salivating.
While meat might usually steal the show at your barbecues, and we know how it is. BBQs actually take a lot longer to put together than you think, so getting everything to the table can be a laborious affair - especially if you've had a couple at this point. Keep the peckishness at bay and give the nibbles included in your spread a bit of attention too. Move over the tried and tested Bombay mix (that no one really likes) and opt for some proper crisps to tide your guests over until the main attraction eventually arrives.
As far as posh crisps go, Pipers steal the show. Not just your average salt and vinegar, Pipers have created a myriad of new flavours that'll definitely get a couple of "mmmmms". Our new favourite is their wild thyme and rosemary variation, which is full of flavour, but won't detract from the love you've put into your other tasty treats.
The Dip Society
Like salt and pepper, fish and chips, Bonnie and Clyde, you simply cannot have crisps without dip. Quite frankly it's a travesty and a disservice to your hosting skills to go without. But no longer should your choice of dip be a nip-to-the-garage after thought or a sad-looking pot of watery sour cream and chive. Enter The Dip Society.
These guys know how to do dips properly, and have created an extensive range of condiments that will get your taste buds tingling. Started by two girls' love of honest, delicious food, The Dip Society first came to life with some research and experimental blending in their kitchen. Their offerings include the likes of avocado houmous, hot smoked salmon with honey and mustard and beetroot with mint and honey. There are so many tempting flavours that we're sure you'll find one to work with any BBQ nibbles. #thedipsociety
Polar Iron Skillet
Take your barbecuing up a notch, and ditch the disposable supermarket BBQ for something a little more professional. Granted, serious barbecues can cost a small fortune, so if you want to recreate the charm of a BBQ in the comfort of your own home, then an iron skillet like this one by Polar is a perfect choice.
Whether fireside or over your stove, the iron skillet still creates that smokey barbecue feel, but let's face it, it's a lot easier to handle than a fired up BBQ. Measure 9 inches x 9 inches, this skillet is ideal for grilling all those delicious side dishes that turn your average barbecue into a full on feast. Poler also do a range of bigger skillets too, so you'll be sure to find one big enough to cook for the whole street.
Walkerswood Jerk BBQ Sauce
So you've covered the Texan style BBQ flavour, but there ain't nothing wrong with mixing up your flavours a little. Walkerswood Jerk BBQ sauce is the best around for getting that fruity, tangy, fiery flavour that Jamaican cooking is renowned for. They combine a traditional jerk seasoning paste with ripe Jamaican bananas to give this sauce a fruity sweetness which softens the fiery spice of the jerk - so there's no fear of blowing your unsuspecting Grandma's head off with this one.
Walkerswood suggest using this jerk BBQ sauce as a marinade or for basting, and it works especially well rubbed into pork ribs and left to marinade overnight. A drop of honey also transforms the sauce into a tantalising meat glaze. You're welcome!
So you've got your nibbles, you've covered the dip situation and you've tended lovingly to your meat - by why put in all that effort just to chuck your barbecued culinary delights onto a soggy paper plate? Look no further than Falcon Enamelware. They've become a bit of an icon of the British home, with their recognisable coloured rims giving that instant air of reliability that your mother would more than approve of.
Their beautifully functional set has got everything you need for your BBQ prep - it's oven proof, dishwasher proof, and can even be used on the hob, so there's no limits of barbecued treats that you can whip up. You might have thought you would never get excited over mixing bowl or a colander, but you're a grown up now, and when they look this cool it's difficult not to.
Daylesford Organic BBQ Sauce
For the health conscious amongst you, the deciding factor of a quality BBQ sauce might be its production, ingredients and organic-ness. If that sounds a bit like you, then you can't do much better than Daylesford. Originally an organic farm in Gloucestershire, the family run business has branched out into creating delicious lines of treats, ranging from soups, sauces and organically reared meat. Basically, if you're one for a fancy barbecue to impress the in-laws, just head to Daylesford for your whole shopping list.
Made from all natural ingredients including tomatoes, honey, mustard, molasses and tamari with a kick of ginger and chilli, the BBQ sauce gives a mouth-watering sweet, smokey and rich flavour. Try it as a glaze over your equally as organic chicken for a succulent offering to your salivating guests. If this has got your taste buds tingling but the weather is looking less than optimistic, then Daylesford also have a couple of farmshop cafes where you can sample all of their delights.
Fortnum & Mason's Ultimate Banquet Hamper
Whilst BBQs are no doubt one of the best things about British summer time, shopping around for all your ingredients can be a bit of a faff, and that's putting it mildly. There's always the last minute dash for that specific potato salad that your mum likes or a last minute dash for that certain brand of vegetarian sausages you've forgotten. Why not simply eliminate the stress of it all and have everything you need delivered to your door?
Now we're not talking your standard supermarket delivery. Barbecues should be a bit of an occasion, so why not splash out on something a little bit more fancy, like this offering from Fortnum & Mason. Granted, it comes with a bit of a hefty price tag, but the contents of the hamper are every bit as decadent as you would expect from the luxury department store. Who wouldn't say no to a taste of caviar, lobster, grilled quail, a cheeseboard and beef carpaccio - and that's just scraping the surface. Delving into your hamper you'll find layer after layer of deliciousness, including a trio of puddings, truffles and a couple of bottles of Fortnum's finest tipples to get the party started. What more could you want?
The Apron Shop's Ultimate BBQ Apron
The question is, who doesn't love a novelty apron? Sure we've all see the 'butler in the buff' ones, but we'd go as far as to say that this one is borderline genius. 'The Man Apron' is the next level of barbecue equipment, and come rain or shine, this gem has got you covered while you're in charge of the grill. It's got a ridiculous array of pockets, including perfectly shaped holes for your beer, matches, phone, ketchup and mustard.
What more could you want? Well what about somewhere to hang your collection of BBQ tools, I hear you ask? No worries, the apron has belt across the middle to keep your tongs and tea towel in easy reach. I mean, it's even got a hood and a built-in bottle opener, for crying out loud. The apron banishes the need to run inside for forgotten bits and bobs, and you're sure to get all the neighbours peering over their fences. Don't worry, it's just because you look so darn cool.
It goes without saying that the weather isn't usually on your side during the Great British summer, but that doesn't mean you should banish your BBQ dreams to the garage along with your dusty grill for another year. There are some incredible barbecue restaurants out there, and let's face it, who wants to deal with the washing up anyway. If you're after an incredible barbecue feast, then head to Smokestak in Shoreditch. It first started as a food stall, but its permanent home has perfected the art of deep South American soul food.
This isn't just your standard burger in a bun and chicken wings affair - their menu includes crispy ox cheek, beef brisket and coal roasted aubergine with red miso and toasted cashews. You'd be forgiven for thinking a meat joint might be a bit heavy, but contrasting with light, but no less flavoursome salads and green sides, there's no signs of the dreaded 'meat sweats' in here. And if the food isn't enough, the moodily lit, high ceiling industrial setting is definitely a feast for the eyes. With ridiculously knowledgable staff, all with enviable passion about all things barbecue, you'll wonder how you ever settled for a supermarket own burger with knock off ketchup.
On That Note
Britain loves a BBQ, but there's no reason why you should stop at a meagre banger in a bun. Follow our guide for the best barbecue picks and you'll be sure to impress even your most critical of guests. Who can resist a sticky marinade, followed with a spoonful of decadently naughty ice cream, all washed down with a cold pint? You'll be the talk of the town when the neighbours get a waft of your barbecue on the go - or it might be because of the statement apron, who knows.