BEWITCHED YET BOTHERED ABOUT BARBECUES?
Then fret no more as Kya delongchamps takes us through a range of modern and ancient outdoor cooking models from gas to charcoal and wood as well as built-in outdoor kitchens
There are several soul stirring elements to eating outside — and it’s never all about that delicious food, is it? Wrestling with a rudimentary cooker, (downright primitive by choice for camp-site purists), combined with the alchemy of fresh air and taste; the break from that standard, kitchen routine and the bonus of teasing those who have risen to the challenge of food and fire.
A side serving of sheer fun is all but guaranteed, whether you have your intimate few or a wide, ravenous gathering. Beyond the sizzle, take a commonsense approach directed by scale, solidity and practical
The First Time (€50-€130).
Barbecue reviews often refuse to include barbies below €150, as they are largely wobbly, potential dangerous units that rust out over a couple of summers.
Scope out your garden. Imagine family and guests of all ages milling (a bit giddy) around a hot cooking surface, and choose a firm design you can site safely, on good footing and out of the direct traffic paths.
It might be the corner of a railed-in deck or on a few slabs further out into the garden, shielded from the wind and not over-hung by planting and also, there’s a bit of counter needed.
Integrate these with side shelving and at least one 30cm bar for hanging utensils. The prices for charcoal kettles and drums are enticing, but for barbecue virgins my money is on a mid-quality 2-3 burner fuelled by the familiarity of gas with independent burner control, instantaneous heat and a hood (ensure you choose an off-set hinged lid that folds away).
See the piece assembled, and check joints; don’t allow any rock n’ rolling. Using standard kitchen cookware, 35cm by 35cm is the most diminutive practical grill that doesn’t tie up the chef in endless batches.
A small side burner can be used to tenderly prepare and keep sauces deliciously warm. Despite the chatter, with what are termed flavour bars and even the addition of wood flakes to some models, taste and succulence is not at issue. For charcoal, keep in mind the food is cooked by glowing embers, not by flame — plan ahead for light times of up to 30-45 minutes. With a hood, you can reach beyond simple grilling techniques.
If real flame fires you up, the Landmann Grill Chef (charcoal) is tough, POA, available through Tesco and more. The Weber classic charcoal barbie costs around €200 and caters for 6 — with proper care is should last years. Look for lump wood charcoal instead of briquettes for a greater cooking heat and unmatched flavour. Pretenders can cost as little as €50 from your local DIY store and with some care, will last the stretch.
Argos do a 3- Burner Propane for €129, (but the bottle will cost you in a deposit too). With four work- ing burners and one side warmer, this barbecue has a lot of detailing for the money, including a porcelain grill, and a hood allowing for roasts and wind shelter. €142 buys you another burner. Assemble to the letter.
Warming to Quality (€150-€350)
A few juicy summers and seasoned experience, you now know what you want and a long-term investment will allow for a more confident spend. A wider, weighty barbecue of at least 50cm by 40cm, flanked with shelving and protected on two sides, discourages dangerous huddles over a naked flame. In real fire, spice up the spec with solid plate, angled griddles to reduce fat and inexpensive battery powered rotisseries that can be bought separately and added to your unit.
Developing on what you can deliver to the troops beyond searing steaks, pizza ovens are becoming something of a must-have. Free-standing or attached to a standard barbecue (only ever use dedicated additions) there’s no reason you can’t crisp up a base most of the year when the weather allows.
Weber charcoal kettle grills are legendary and with 10-year warranties, and proven staying power of fire, rust and weather-resistance as standard, traditional charcoal chefs adore them. The classic Smokey Joe 57cm kettle has been discontinued (there are some still on the market), replaced by finer detailing including their Onetouch Cleaning system. From €329, newlands.ie. Additional Pizza Oven for 57cm barbecues, €299.
A more generous warming plate is great for larger numbers, where you may be cooking in batches but want to deliver the food simultaneously to a more formal sit down gathering. Gadgetry from fish-baskets to kebab skewers can be sourced separately.
Rodeo Professional Charcoal Kettle Grill, comes with temperature gauge to avoid the red hearted roast — a no-no for poultry and pork. Takes up to 23 burgers at once, heavy gauge steel charcoal grate, cooking grids hold and transfer heat like a cast iron frying pan — three height settings. Massive terrain proof wheels, €289, outdoorfurniture.ie.
The Kinley from B&Q is a stylish new take on the kettle with an oval top, swivel grill, integrated chopping board and more, €204.
The Flame Grilled Pro (€350-€5000)
Building what is essentially an outdoor kitchen borders on hysterical optimism to many, but if you love your steaks, and have ventured into slow cooked meat and pizza making, this arrangement can last longer than a summer, servicing indoors as well as out. Starting with a barbecue, and if you have the build skills, then simple poured concrete or hefty timber shelving set in retaining walls can spread the wings of your outoor oven into a proper kitchen, from as little as €350.
Leave shelving open and cleared off for the winter, with the stove covered or rumbled into a shed, then the area won’t look idiosyncratic.
An integrated sink is the absolute dream topping for serious barbecuers and can be covered over for winter. It can also function as an outdoor utility and dressed in natural stone, or steel, can have style too.
Serious, outdoor rated kitchens start at €3-4,000 for detailed steel or powder coated carcasses set around a supplied BBQ (cabinets with doors establish the look), and including a small sink with cover. The new Beefeater Discovery 1100s outdoor kitchen 5burner.from Australia, is a great compromise between a huge BBQ and a reach to a second kitchen. Start here and add sinks, fridges and the rest to suit yourself. €2,799, outdoorfurniture.ie.
Masonry barbecues are a hefty but attractive option. Bushbeck of Germany is represented by several retailers here in Ireland. These tall, sculptural quartz and terracotta stoves with timber and copper detailing make great garden features, anchoring an outdoor area . There’s something of a learning curve in terms of cooking with these beasts. Prices from €645 (also suited for use as eye catching outdoor fireplaces), buschbeck.ie.
The Allegra pizza oven is available through House of Heat on the Kinsale Road, Cork, importers of genuine Italian, wood-fired pizza ovens. Made from stainless steel, they’re perfect for the damp Irish climate, will heat up in ten minutes and can cook a pizza in 90 seconds flat when hot. Available in a range of sizes and colour options, the ovens are also portable and can be easily moved in the garden. houseofheat.ie