Sitting outside and cooking meat at the first sight of sunshine is an old British tradition. So before you dust off your old BBQ set and don your most hilarious apron, we've put together a guide covering everything you need to know, from how to cook your meat perfectly to the drinks you should serve alongside.
Whether you're planning a boozy, carnivorous afternoon or a low-key event with friends, we've got restauranteur (and Esquire columnist) Mark Hix to suggest the perfect BBQ marinade.
Also, to save you even more effort, we've put together an hour-by-hour BBQ planner, so all you need to do is follow our advice and everything will be fine.
John Head, “Master of Barbecues” is a 30-year veteran of the BBQ pit. He is adept at both the grilling and wood-smoking styles, and has overseen the transformation of 800 students from mere mortals to Master Barbecue Cooks at his Master BBQ Cooking School in Denver, Colorado.
These are his tips for a flawless al fresco cook out:
1 How to choose the right meat for your BBQ
“If you’re talking grilling (cooking over a heat usually in the 450-600 degree range), steak is best. Wood smoking imparts a different flavour and texture so naturally tender meats like steak or chicken or pork chops can be grilled, but don’t come out all that well smoked.” Try these for good-quality cuts.
2 Don't be afraid to try new things
“I had an Uncle who lived in Florida, he used to bring up alligator and turtle meat, when it was in fashion. It tasted wonderful, kind of a beefy flavour, not very fishy. It’s hard to describe because it doesn’t taste like chicken.”
3 How to tell if the grill is hot enough
“Hold your hand as low over the coals or the gas as you can and count ‘one Mississippi, two Mississippi…’ until you can’t hold it there any longer (you can use a big English word, if you like). If it’s really a hot one it’s a one or two Mississippi, if it’s a medium fire it’s a three or four. If you get to five or six it’s not warm enough to cook.”
4 Remember to let the meat rest first
“When meat comes off the grill it needs to rest for 10 or 15 minutes and it’s very smart to “tent” it in foil, rather than wrapping it. If you let a steak rest the juices will reabsorb into the meat and make it juicier, more tender and more flavoursome.”
Mark Hix's BBQ Marinade
"I like to keep my marinades quite simple. Good steak needs little more than a light seasoning, but chicken and lamb work well with flavours such as chilli, cumin, mustard and honey. Ketchup is also a good vehicle for bringing flavours together."
4tbsp tomato ketchup;
2tsp wholegrain mustard;
1 squeeze of lemon;
a glug of vegetable oil;
salt and black pepper
Place all ingredients in a jar and shake before spreading over meat in a shallow dish. Cover and leave in the fridge overnight if possible. Once you begin grilling, apply thin layers with a stiff brush and cook until browned. The sugar in the ketchup will burn easily, so be sure to keep flames at bay.
The Ultimate BBQ Planner
Like a meticulously planned military campaign, the key to barbecuing success is all in the timing. Follow our guide for a blow-by-blow rundown of how to pull off the perfect BBQ.
1300 hours: Put on your apron (plastic breasts optional) and open a cold beer.
1305 hours: If your barbecue is new, allow it to burn for about 45 minutes at high temperature before adding the meat. This will remove any impurities collected during manufacture.
1350 hours: Throw on some sausages to start. To avoid that burnt-on-the-outside, freezing-on-the-inside effect, parboil them in ale first (Trust us on this one). Grill for 15 to 20 minutes and turn three or four times. Don’t prick them - this releases the juices resulting in dry meat.
1400 hours: Add the first burgers to the grill. Assuming a temperature of 350-400 degrees, burgers take about five minutes to barbecue medium rare (flip them after three).
1405 hours: Let the meat sit for ten minutes, before distributing it.
1415 hours: While they’re eating, dazzle your guests with some makeshift fireworks: flaring flames are achieved by pressing down on the meat with a spatula and releasing fats into the grill.
1525 - 2000 hours: Repeat the above steps until boredom sets in.
2000 hours: Let the dog loose on any remaining pork chops and do a majestic victory lap of the garden while someone else cleans up.
The All-purpose Cocktail
Ryan Chetiyawardana, head barman at The Whistling Shop — the latest venture from the team behind London bar Purl — mixed this simple crowd-pleaser for Esquire. His riff on Brazil’s national cocktail, the caipirinha, uses London gin in place of cachaça, giving the drink a distinctly British slant.
1 lemon; 1 orange; 1tsp sugar; Angostura bitters; 40ml Beefeater 24; ginger ale
1 In each glass, muddle two wedges of lemon and three wedges of orange with a teaspoon of sugar and two heavy dashes of Angostura.
2 Fill with cracked or crushed ice.
3 Add 40ml Beefeater 24 gin.
4 Stir, then top with ginger ale.