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Sunshine, sausages & steaks – got any tips for a great BBQ?

It’s finally happened – after weeks of moaning about the weather, we’ve been treated to our first glimpse of the sunshine. At Which? HQ we’ve been swapping our best barbecue tips. Got any of your own to share?

I love a good barbecue. Having some friends round and sharing good food and drink in the sunshine – what’s not to like? And I like to think that having grown up in a vegetarian family I’m a dab-hand at making sure everyone’s catered for.

My personal barbecue tip is to think outside the freezer box when it comes to veggie food – meat-free burgers and sausages don’t tend to do well on barbecues. So I usually pick up some halloumi from the supermarket and combine with fresh veg to make delicious halloumi kebabs. A marinade of olive oil crushed with garlic and basil makes sure they cook really nicely.

Safety first…

If you’re nervous about cooking meat for safety reasons, Sue Davies in our food policy team had some great advice:

‘You don’t want to put raw chicken on a BBQ if it’s going to come into contact with food that’s finished cooking. If you’re cooking chicken, make sure it’s thoroughly cooked before you add other food to the grill. If you want to play it safe, try pre-cooking your chicken in the oven then adding at the last minute for a nice BBQ flavour with less risk of contamination. Be careful with burgers and sausages as well – although some meat (like steaks) can be served ‘rare’, anything with minced meat should be cooked all the way through.’

A recipe for success

Our Australian colleague Simon wanted to shore up his country’s reputation as barbecue specialists:

‘Breadcrumb salsa on steaks has won me heaps of friends – make breadcrumbs from fresh sourdough and add pan-fried garlic, thyme, olive oil and a dash of red wine or vinegar. Whack a bit on top of the steaks when they’re cooked – fantastic.’

Lisa Barber, deputy editor of Which? magazine, has a tip for making everything smell even more delicious:

‘Chuck some fresh herbs from your garden on to the barbecue coals – you get a lovely smell and flavour from the smoke.’

One out of left field from Florence:

‘I was quite shocked by the news last week on how many fires are caused by people barbecuing while they’re drunk. It sounds like an obvious tip, but clearly bears repeating – if you’re the one in charge of the sizzling, don’t get sozzled! There’s plenty of time for relaxation when all the food’s been cooked.’

Avoid burning the sausages…

Patrick’s got a tip to help deal with the issue of slightly charred food:

‘Although it’s good to spread the coals evenly when you’re lighting a barbecue, once they’re lit shuffle most of them over to one side so you have a ‘high’ and a ‘low’ section. Then you can put food that takes longer (like sausages) on the ‘low’ section so it can slowly cook without burning. The ‘high’ section can then be used for fast barbecuing, such as for steaks.

‘And don’t be limited by the fact that your barbecue’s just a grill – I regularly use saucepans on the barbecue to heat up bits and pieces (fried onions, etc) that would otherwise have to be done on a stove.’

I’m certainly going to be following Patrick’s advice – a burger is always miles better with a bit of fried onion. And I have to admit I didn’t realise you couldn’t serve them rare, so Sue’s advice could mean my friends are less likely to get food poisoning this year. What are your top barbecue tips?


That’s a great introduction, Nikki. Anyone who follows this advice is unlikely to end up with food poisoning. I would add that slower cooking will help to ensure that the centre of larger items is heated adequately. Any frozen meat etc. should be fully thawed before cooking.

It’s best to avoid eating any food that is blackened and charred because burned food will contain carcinogens.

Phil says:
2 June 2012

If you must have a BBQ have it indoors so your neighbours won’t have to put up with the stink.

I don’t think anyone is likely to have a barbecue in their house but in a confined space a barbecue can produce lethal amounts of carbon monoxide. A teenager was killed recently, while camping.

But yes, it’s another way of irritating the neighbours.

John says:
14 June 2012

That is irresponsible. I would not want house filled with smoke and high levels of carbon monoxide.

I have never met anyone interesting at a barbeue.

Thats probably what they say as well 😪

Tip No. 1

If you are serious about barbecuing, stop fiddling with charcoal and invest in a gas barbeque with lid. After about 20 years of doing it the hard way, and I can’t tell any difference in taste. Maybe I’m getting old – but then I never did like dry, burnt food from trying to cook directly over flaring coals.

Gas is far more versatile and so the BBQ gets used throughout the summer, and sometimes even at Christmas for a treat – or when the electric oven fails. As long as it’s not actually raining, you can cook more or less anything, including small whole chickens and roasts.

Tip No.2

If you are going to make the switch to gas, make sure you get a large propane (Calor gas) cylinder – the cost of the small disposable cans is prohibitive and costs as much as using charcoal.

Tip No.3

Buy a Weber style stainless steel vegetable basket. Sometimes, life’s too short for threading vegetables onto skewers. Put your chopped vegetables into a bowl and coat with olive oil. Pour contents into basket.

Tip No.4

You can also make sauté potatoes like this. Just microwave or parboil potato cubes, toss in olive oil and herbs, then place in basket and turn occasionally. Keep separate from vegetables, or the potatoes won’t crisp.

Tip No.5

Use a gas BBQ for browning meat. If I’m making a beef or lamb stew or curry, I cube and cook all the meat in one go on the BBQ grill. Saves messing with small batches in a frying pan or stew pot.

Using charcoal requires a lot of skill and very rarely have I been to a barbecue where the chef managed to achieve good results. Em is right about the advantages of gas barbecues, and many more people can use them effectively.

McS says:
4 June 2012

I agree gas bbq’s are by far and away the best .. quick to heat up, no mess, control with heat and no flare up issues. We use ours at least 4 days a week from May through to Sept cooking joints of meat, whole chickens, steak, fish and even our puds often get the bbq treatment. My top tip is .. ditch the idea of burgers, sausages and chicken legs for your barbie and get creative

Sophie Gilbert says:
6 June 2012

My step-dad makes the best t-bone steaks, ordinary steaks and rabbit on charcoal that anyone has ever tasted. This is partly because he’s got decades of experience, because he is really pernickety with the fire and spends a lot of time on it making sure it’s exactly right, including waiting for the flames to die down completely like one should, because he sometimes uses grapevine twigs to add a special fragrance to the meat (gas will never give us that), and also partly because he’s simply got the knack. Some people have it, some don’t yet, some never will, like baking.

I agree with the get-creative thing, with skewers for example. Get all sorts of combinations of stuff on them, fun to prepare, great to look at with all the combinations of colours and textures, and great to eat!

As we’re expecting a heatwave in the next couple of days, I thought it’d be nice to host a BBQ tomorrow with some of my friends. As summer’s approaching, does anyone have any new BBQ tips they’d like to share? 😀