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& Alfresco Eating & Entertaining right here!
Top 20 BBQ Facts
BBQ Fact 1
BBQ & at-home eating & entertaining is now the UK's No1 summer home leisure activity, with three out of four households now owning some type of BBQ grill!
BBQ Facts 2
In 2017 the UK was once again Europe's leading BBQ nation, hosting over 135 million Barbi's and beating the Germans into 2nd place for the fifth time!
BBQ Fact 3
The average number of BBQ's held per family during the summer has risen sharply from around 2.5 around ten years ago to over 9.5 now!
BBQ Fact 4
The overall BBQ & alfresco eating & entertaining market in 2017 was worth just over £7.6 billion, up from £150 million back in 1997.
BBQ Fact 5
Although BBQ & alfresco eating has now become a standard alternative summer meal format with nearly half the population now considering it as normal to BBQ or eat outside during the summer. However paradoxically and perhaps as a continuing hangover from the tighter economy and the effects of the Brexit vote, alfresco eating occasions are still perceived to be an indulgence or treat, with 33% likening BBQ to a dinner party in terms of entertainment value!
BBQ Fact 11
US Style Lo&Slo smoking has become very fashionable with pulled pork being especially popular. Hot and spicy food regions such as South African, the Caribbean, Mexico, North African and Southern US styles such as Cajun & Creole, are also becoming more popular on the Barbi as are South America styles as a direct result of last years Olympics in Brazil!
BBQ Fact 12
Over the last few years there has been a clear 'sausage to swordfish and burger to brochette' evolution in the style and type of food cooked at a BBQ.
BBQ Fact 13
Standard pre-planned BBQ's are changing fast, as lifestyles become more casual. Down from 70% in 2002 to fewer than 21% in 2017.
BBQ Fact 14
Charcoal although having been in decline, is still a very popular BBQ choice however in line with the trend towards more traditional and slower BBQ styles is now seeing a resurgence standing at 43% in 2017 up from 37% two years ago. However Gas remains the most popular at 47%.
BBQ Fact 15
Hooded BBQ's are now the most popular, accounting for 46% of all sales, followed by Flat-bed grills remain most popular, with rotary grills and smokers growing fast.
BBQ Fact 6
Despite times still being tough, many consumers are now indulging themselves as a way of ‘lightening the load’ and will now spend around £41 on food and drink for a BBQ, up from £16 just five years ago!
BBQ Fact 7
14% of all households now have 2 BBQ grills and 7% 3 or more. Traditional US 'smoker' BBQ's are now in 2.5% of all homes. 3% of all households now have some form of outdoor kitchen.
BBQ Fact 8
After-work or mid-week Barbi’s now account for over 42% of all BBQ occasions, although this is down from a high of 48% in 2015 and probably du to consumers being more time-poor!
BBQ Fact 9
Despite the economic recovery, BBQ and alfresco eating & entertaining remains a fashionable and cheaper alternative to a visit to the local pub or restaurant.
BBQ Fact 10
As new house building begins to pick-up again, developers are incorporating patio areas and built-in BBQ's as key purchase incentives.
BBQ Fact 16
Once male dominated BBQ's are now becoming much more gender-neutral with women accounting for 46% of all Barbi occassions, whilst men are still tangling with the tongs, they have slipped by 4% over the last three years to 56% in 2017.
BBQ Fact 17
Couples are 3 times more likely to host a BBQ than singles, only 4% of pensioners are likely to have a Barbi. 8% of adults claim to have found love over the coals!
BBQ Fact 18
Both Americans and Australians love to Barbi with 3 out of 4 households owning a grill and using it on average at least 5 times a month.
BBQ Fact 19
33% of men and 32% of women now attend between 8-9 BBQ's a year.
BBQ Fact 20
Apart from the summer 24% of us now have BBQ's during the spring, with a further 5% claiming to BBQ all year-round.
Grilling vs. BBQ vs. Smoking
Although barbecuing been around for years, believe it or not there’s lots of confusion regarding the terms & styles of BBQ cooking. For example BBQ aficionados in the Southern US, consider BBQ to be a slow indirect method of cooking, using smoke and taking around 12 hours for a brisket of beef or small hog. But for most, BBQ means grilling over direct heat, So what’s best and do you need to take your time, or simply ‘go for the grill’ & what about smoking? Well they’re all great cooking techniques and can be tailored to the occasion or type, style or taste of food you want – so here’s a quick guide;
In the UK and Europe, the term BBQ is generally accepted to mean grilling. Grilling is cooking at medium to high temperatures with the food being placed directly above the heat source, meaning the food cooks quicker and is generally ready in minutes, rather than hours. However the intense heat can easily cause food to burn and whilst a lightly char-grilled appearance is good, ‘burnt is bad’! Burnt not only looks and tastes bad but it doesn't’ do you much good and plays havoc with the digestion!
Still using the grill, but this time, you’ll need a hooded Barbi; BBQ’ing is the slower process to be used on long summer afternoons or evenings with our favourite drink by your side. Food is cooked at one end of the grill with the heat at the other and the hood closed. The heat is kept at medium and dependent upon the size and type of food can take a minimum 1-1.5 hours or longer to cook. Remember to keep the food well basted with a good marinade, sauce or oil so as to retain flavour.
Smoking – A more sophisticated and slower version of BBQ’ing, much favoured in the USA that uses only the heated smoke to cook foods. The aim being to get a smoke-ring around the edge of your meat. Cooking is by the indirect method, which means that the heat source is normally in a separate area, a heat box, away from the food, with flavoured wood, chips or herb branches placed in a tray over the heat source. The smoke is then channelled into the separate cooking area by way of a smoke-pipe. These American style smokers are now starting to appear in DIY stores and garden centres, but you can also make your own.
So what’s best?
The truth is they all have merits. Most people start of grilling, and most never change; but it all depends on the occasion, preferred flavours and foods and the time you have to cook. Either way given time, practice and patience you can produce perfect BBQ’ed food to be enjoyed with friends and family throughout the summer.
To Gas or not to Gas – is that the question?
Although there are almost as many different types of BBQ grill as there are days in the year, perhaps the most fundamental question in buying a BBQ is whether to go for charcoal or gas. Today this choice is both easier and more complicated than it was even five years ago, when the choice of grills was quite limited and the market was dominated by charcoal, with gas grills mainly being quite expensive. Now there's probably more gas grills around than charcoal and the cost has come down dramatically.
So to gas or not to gas what’s the answer, well simply there isn’t an easy one. Originally most people entered the market by way of a simple charcoal grill, but now with gas grills costing under £50, this has all changed, so is it gas or charcoal, or even both?
Modern gas grills are now so much easier and user-friendly and are perfect for both impromptu, or ‘after-work Barbi’s as well as for more sophisticated alfresco eating and outdoor dinner parties. They also get up to cooking speed quicker and are so much more controllable, especially the multi-burner grills, or those with a hood or smoker attachment. Many gas grills now come with a rotisserie, hobs, griddle plates, or woks, as well and warming plates. Certainly unless you’re only going to BBQ very occasionally, it pays to have a hooded, multi-burner grill, with a minimum of 3 burners. Gas grills with lava-rock beds are perfect as you can even get a charcoal smoke effect by throwing wet on wood chips or herb branches. Even gas canisters have changed with either lightweight see through styles or those with gauges to ensure you don’t run out of gas.
On the other hand, BBQ purists’ would argue that you can only really get that true BBQ taste from charcoal as charcoal adds flavour and depth to food, whereas gas simply cooks. Charcoal imparts a smoky style, which can be enhanced by the addition of wet wood chips or herb branches. However, whilst charcoal adds flavour, for some lighting charcoal can be a tricky business. For even expert grillers there remains the set-up time; you can also control the heat by varying the depth of charcoal across the grill from thin/low to thick/hot. The addition of a natural charcoal lighter, such as coconut gels also helps.
So What’s the Answer?
Well the easiest way to choose is Charcoal for Taste & Gas for Ease!
It’s all about the Grills;
Disposables – We don’t recommend disposable BBQ’s. Essentially the simplest form of BBQ, the disposable, is an aluminium tray filed with charcoal and covered with wire mesh. Although seemingly a good idea, they can be both flimsy and dangerous. It's difficult to cook food properly and they can be a potential fire hazard unless disposed of safely. So we say - "Ditch the Disposable!"
Portable Grills – Mainly bucket or round style charcoal grills, costing as little as £10 they may have a limited life, but are much better than disposables and can be safely cooked on and moved. We say - "A good choice for BBQ'ing away from home!"
Charcoal or Gas Tray Grills – The most basic form of BBQ, these grills consist of a ‘tin tray on legs’ with a separate, detachable hood or not, no cooking height variation and powered either by a single gas burner or charcoal. We say - "A good entry choice!"
Larger Tray or Kettle Grills – The majority of charcoal and gas grills fall into this category. Most will have adjustable grill heights with gas grills being 2 or 3 burners and some will have a ‘hinged’ hood. We say - If you're moving up in the Barbi world, a good choice!"
Multi-burner Grills – Great for control and many will come with a separate griddle and gas hob, all will have hinged lids or hoods. The minimum number of burners is 3, the maximum 6-8! We say - A great, but expensive choice allowing maximum flexbility & control!"
Dual-fuel – A relatively new type of BBQ is the dual-fuel grill which combines the best of both gas and charcoal in one grill. We say - We like these, but ensure you get a grill with equal cooking space!"
Smokers – A new phenomenon, part of the Lo&Slo trend, ‘smokers’ are now available in many outlets and on-line. Using a separate indirect heat source, these allow a slower and different style of BBQ. We say - A great, although time-consuming way to enjoy real BBQ!"
Plancha grills –A new grill option, originating from Spain. Basically consist of a thick metal sheet, ideally cast-iron, which allows even cooking, including delciate foods. We say - Given the range of grills now available, possibly more of a novelty, but does work well!"
Essential BBQ Tools to help you be a Better BBQ’er
BBQ’ing is a unique form of cooking that requires a few additional utensils in order to help you make the most of your grill. Here are some suggestions that can help you create the perfect alfresco meal;
Grill Thermometer – It can be difficult to accurately judge when the grill has reached the right cooking temperature, a grill thermometer will help ensure that you begin grilling at the right heat. We say - "Reasonably essential!"
Spatulas – Turning and lifting food by spearing it with a fork, is a bad idea as the natural oils and juices tend to drip out and cause ‘flare-ups’; this is where spatulas score as they perfect lifting and positioning of food. However it’s important to ensure that you have long handled spatulas, with a broad blade area for lifting and turning. A serrated edge is also useful if food sticks to the grill-bars. Spatulas are especially useful for turning more delicate foods such as fish. We say - "Essential!"
Grill Forks – See above, not recommended, avoid any BBQ tool set that has grill forks. We say - "Don't use!"
Tongs - An essential tool, like spatulas, tongs allow turning and lifting without squashing, or piercing food and allows more accurate grill positioning. In fact it can make sense to have two sets of tongs, one with broad blades for larger food movement and one with pointed ends for more precise movement. There are even combination spatulas and tongs if space or your budget is limited. As with spatulas, it is important to ensure that the handles are long enough and that the tongs are either tensioned or spring-loaded. We say - "Essential!"
Knives – It may seem obvious, but professional Chefs and Grill-masters swear by good quality, sharp knives. In fact a good culinary knife set is pretty essential and means that your preparation will be much easier and you’ll also run less risk of cross-contamination by using different knives for different jobs. Stainless steel knives are best; they retain their edge and stay sharper longer. We say - "Essential!"
Carving Forks – If you’ve gone to all the trouble to cook mouth-watering foods, it’s a shame to ruin it with poor presentation. Carving (not grill forks) will hold food securely whilst you slice for serving. We say - "Pretty essential!"
BBQ Fans – If you’re using charcoal, a grill fan can help start a reluctant grill and get the coals up to cooking heat quicker. It’s also useful if the BBQ gets a bit smoky to blow away excess smoke from the grill area. Although if there’s a lot of smoke, there shouldn’t be, so you’ll really need to look at your grilling style. We say - "Useful, but not essential!"
Cutting Boards – Large heavy duty cutting boards, made from either hard-wood, or hi-density plastic are essential for the pre-grill preparation of food. Colour coded is good, reserve one for meat/fish and one for vegetables or other foods and have a further serving/cutting area for cooked foods so as to avoid cross-contamination. Ensure each board is thoroughly wiped with a hygienic food-safe cleaner between serves. We say - "Pretty essential!"
Serving Spoons – A long-handled serving spoon is useful to add extra sauce or marinade to food on the grill, but be sure not to put on too much! We say - "Pretty essential!"
Sauce Mop – A sauce mop or brush is a useful accessory for adding sauce or marinade to larger areas of food. However you need to be careful not to slop on too much sauce! Do not use a cloth. We say - "Useful!"
Meat Thermometer – A meat thermometer is a very useful aid, especially with larger cuts of meat and is simply inserted into the meat to give a temperature read-out. We say - "Pretty essential!"
Grill Brush – A metal brush or composite grill pad, is pretty essential to help keep the grill clean between serves and to clean-up when grilling has finished. We say - "Essential!"
Grill Cloth – A well-oiled (rape-seed or olive oil) thick cloth or well-folded paper towel is a great way of keeping the grill-bars clean and ensuring that food does not stick. We say - "Essential!"
Make Your Barbi The Best!
If you’re careful you can make yourself look like a real grill-star, increasing the level of smoke or ‘flaring’ the flames to create a real grill master effect, but be careful to practice, as it can go wrong, so here are some tips to help get it right!
Smoke – Increasing the smoke level should only really be done on charcoal and can be achieved by throwing on either wet wood chips (fruit wood is best) or herb branches, even vine clippings which work really well. A similar effect can be achieved on gas, as long as the grill has a lava-rock bed.
Flames – Flaring the flames can easily be done on either gas or charcoal and is achieved by briefly pressing down, hard on meat or poultry with either long-handled spatula or tongs, which will release the natural fats/oils onto the grill causing a brief ‘flare-up’. However please take care when attempting this as flame volume can be widespread, so keep your body well clear of the grill. Do not, under any circumstances, try to enhance the effect by adding extra oil!
Colours – BBQ’s look great with a mixture of colours – red, green or yellow bell peppers look and taste fantastic and can be flame-roasted to increase their flavour; once the skin has begun to blacken, place in a plastic bag and allow to cool before removing skin. Green and yellow courgettes also look good and grill well, as do chillies, asparagus and aubergine.
Grill lines – To achieve professional ‘cross-hatch’ grill-lines, sear meat, poultry, fish or fruit/vegetables on highest heat at right angle to grill bars, remove, lightly wipe oiled cloth, then turn and repeat. Once both sides are seared, turn food lengthwise to grill-bars and repeat. Once achieved, return food to normal cooking heat.
Fruit, Veg and... – You can even grill fruit such as bananas, pineapple, papaya and mango, all of which add colour, flavour and taste on the Barbi.
Diversity - Believe it or not there’s no end to what you can cook on the Barbi; the classic English breakfast, yes even an egg can be BBQ’ed, simply pierce the shell with a needle and place directly on the grill-bars, or cheat and use a griddle-pan for fried egg! Perhaps the most impressive BQ dish is a Pavlova, difficult to do, but it will enhance your BBQ and street-cred, no end!
Ambiance - A combination of good music, food, wine, beer and the right company all helps makes for a great BBQ.
Theme – Choosing an overall theme for the food, and drink, especially if you’re entertaining, is a great idea. The US, particularly the South, Australian and South Africa are all key BBQ regions and great bases to plan from. It also helps that they produce excellent wine! The Caribbean, South America and North Africa make equally great themes for a more exotic BBQ.
Blues, Booze & BBQ’s – In fact great BBQ planning should be based around the 3-B’s Blues (or any music you fancy), Booze & BBQ’s – Enjoy!
No more dry burgers! – Stop your tender meat from going dry on the barbi…. place an ice cube in the middle of your homemade burger before placing onto the grill. This will prevent your burger from drying out. A tip not to be missed!
Top Health & Safety Tips for a Better Barbi!
No.1 Safety Tip Wash your hands thoroughly before preparing food, after touching raw meat and before serving and eating.
No.2 Safety Tip Unless the cooking instructions say otherwise, always ensure that frozen food is defrosted before BBQ’ing so that it cooks evenly.
No.3 Safety Tip Always keep raw and cooked meats separate and keep uncooked meat, fish and vegetables separate from each other when preparing.
No.4 Safety Tip In hot weather, throw away BBQ’ed food left out for more than an hour.
No.5 Safety Tip BBQ’ed food may look well-cooked when it’s not. Burgers, sausages and chicken should ideally be checked with a meat thermometer or cut open and visually checked. If necessary continue grilling until cooked through.
No.6 Safety Tip Never part cook on a BBQ and finish off later. However you can par-boil poultry in the oven and then immediately finish off on the Barbi for added flavour.
No.7 Safety Tip Keep children, animals and the elderly well away from the BBQ.
No.8 Safety Tip To light charcoal, always use proper BBQ lighter fuel, or better still newspaper knots. Never, ever use petrol or other highly inflammable liquids.
No.9 Safety Tip If using gas ensure that the grill lights immediately. If it fails to light at second attempt, turn off gas immediately leave for a few minutes then turn on and retry.
No.10 Safety Tip Position BBQ’s on level ground, well away from fences, hedges, trees, any over-hanging foliage or indeed anything that could catch fire!
No.11 Safety Tip Ensure that you have sufficient preparation and serving areas and keep these two apart. If using separate tables, ensure that these are kept well away from the grill.
No.12 Safety Tip Make sure that all knives and grill utensils are securely stored when not in use and regularly wipe down all utensils and prep areas with a disinfected disposable cloth.
No.13 Safety Tip It may be obvious, but remember that BBQ’s can be dangerous, the grill is very hot and can cause nasty burns, or even serious fires if knocked over.
No.14 Safety Tip If using charcoal have a fire-blanket or water spray handy, if using gas turn-off and rely on the fire-blanket.
No.15 Safety Tip Ensure charcoal is cold and/or gas securely turned off or disconnected before retiring for the night.
No.16 Safety Tip Finally, however tempting it may be please don’t drink alcohol whilst lighting or grilling food on the Barbi!
Don't be a Barbi-babe!
BBQ should be enjoyable and fun, but when you first ‘go-for-the-grill’ it can be somewhat daunting, so as a Barbi-babe, here are some simple and practical tips to help you get the very best from your first BBQ;
Barbi-babe Advice No.1 When you’ve brought your very first BBQ grill it’s a good idea to remove the impurities that have built up during the manufacturing process. So light the BBQ and let it burn for up to an hour at the highest temperature. Then turn off and when it has cooled down, but is still ‘warm’, rub the whole inner cooking surface with an oiled cloth to season. A standard cooking or groundnut oil is ideal for this purpose.
Barbi-babe Advice No.2 Plan your bigger Barbi’s in advance. Although ‘after-work’ Barbi’s can be both spontaneous and fun, a little planning works wonders for larger grilling.
Barbi-babe Advice No.3 It can be difficult to decide how, or if meat needs seasoning, when new to BBQ’ing. However it is good idea to use suitable marinades or grill sauces as they not only add flavour but also protect food from the direct and intense grilling temperatures.
Barbi-babe Advice No.4 A simple tip that will speed up the marinating process by around half is to place the food in a sealable plastic bag with a suitable marinade. Massage in marinade for a few minutes, seal then place in the coldest part of the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes depending on the food.
Barbi-babe Advice No.5 Vegetables, even fruit can also be marinated and work well on the grill.
Barbi-babe Advice No.6 Remember there is no correct temperature or length of grilling time to achieve great BBQ food, so be prepared to experiment and even get it wrong sometimes.
Barbi-babe Advice No.7 A good, simple temperature guide is the 'hand test'; hold your hand around six inches above the grill surface, being careful not to touch any hot surface; if you can only keep your hand there for a few seconds the grill is probably too hot, around 20-30 seconds is probably the correct cooking heat, anything longer than that should really only be used for warming or slow grilling.
Barbi-babe Advice No.8 When using wooden skewers always soak well in water for at least 30 minutes before use.
Barbi-babe Advice No.9 Ensure that the grill-bars are well oiled and turn meat or poultry, once per side to sear and then once more to cook-through. Do not keep turning food as removes from the heat and delays cooking. Food should not be allowed to stick to the grill.
Barbi-babe Advice No.10 Do not try to cook too quickly or over too high a heat, as this will cause food to burn on the outside and be undercooked in the middle.
Barbi-babe Advice No.11 Do not burn ‘bangers’ or indeed anything! Burnt food on the Barbi is a real ‘no no’ and as the saying goes ‘Burnt is Bad’! However do ensure all food, especially poultry, sausages and burgers are well cooked.
Barbi-babe Advice No.12 Ensure that you baste meats, poultry and fish to retain moisture and flavour. Remove food at the end of the grilling process and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving. Always serve to warm plates.
Barbi-babe Advice No.13 Put on some great summer tunes pour yourself a chilled glass of your favourite beverage and enjoy the best food of the year.