So the Great British Summer is almost upon us, and with it comes long lazy days in the sunshine and lots of eating outdoors. Sometimes. Maybe. Weather permitting. With possibly the most changeable weather conditions on the planet, Britain and her relationship with said conditions is something of a worldwide joke. Well haha, very funny world, but you try enjoying barbecued T-bone in a cagoule. With sand in your mouth.

The key to doing anything in our Mother land is as follows. Be prepared for snow, rain, wind, or sunshine, whenever you leave the house. Telescopic umbrella. Check. Microscopic mac. Check again. Dressed in layers? Of course. And so it is with cooking outdoors. When the sun does eventually come out, it leaves you with the feeling that it is here to stay. But here's the thing; IT MIGHT NOT BE. So, you have to grab it when you can. And enjoy your garden even when it's not.

Which leads me to BBQ. And the newest addition to the UK garden scene; pizza ovens.  We love to cook outside and can be found at our grill, tongs in hand, at every available opportunity. Why? Because a BBQ or Pizza Oven is simply an extension of your kitchen. I am ready to cook outdoors at any given moment. As with everything, the more you partake, the better you get at it. For us, lighting the BBQ is no more bother than making cheese on toast.

Here are our top tips to make the most of cooking outdoors…

Step 1 - Match the meal to the occasion

You need to think ahead, however briefly, about what you plan to cook. Pizza Oven or BBQ? If you’re looking for a quick but delicious weekend lunch, there’s nothing better than a pizza cooked in an outdoor oven. Make or buy a base then get your guests to add their own toppings. Everyone gets something they love. But nothing beats a BBQ when it comes to family entertainment. Cooking over fire is an art and the coals are an important part. Lumpwood or briquette? How many? For a burger or two, you will get away with a few handfuls of lumpwood but for a lazy chicken lunch, you will need a large number of briquettes to keep the heat going. Getting harassed isn't part of the deal; if time and energy are low then choose the quick easy option like a steak. You can enjoy cooking and eating outdoors without a major production.

Step 2 - Keep a BBQ area

Barbecue grills and pizza ovens are made to be weatherproof. Or at least they should be. If you have to drag it out of the cobwebby shed each time you wish to use it then chances are that you won't. You don't need a major production, though outdoor kitchens are becoming much more common these days. But really all you need is space for the thing to live. Somewhere that is a big enough area to cook in and won't set fire to next door's trees. A few garden shelves are a bonus, not a necessity. With our Wrangler BBQ collection, you can tackle both of these issues in one. With shelving that allows you to prep as well as an outdoor cover that ensures the BBQ is protected when it’s not in use.


Step 3 - Keep your BBQ clean

Yes, we know it’s obvious but it needs to be listed here. Granted, cleaning the grill can be a major pain in the backside but if you do it at the end of the meal (or the next morning) as oppose to at the beginning of the next one, you will find the art of cooking outdoors far more spontaneous. It need not be sparkly clean, just emptied of coals and dust and with the cooking grill rack cleaned. Ready for action, so to speak.

Step 4 - Stock up on the essentials

Nothing kills the mood quite like traipsing to the shop for a bag of charcoal or realising that you are out of firelighters. Something meant to be pleasurable becomes a chore. You don't need the full Masterchef range of barbecue fripperies to be an ace at the grill, just the bare essentials and the knowledge to bring them to life.

Charcoal briquettes will burn for longer, with a slower burn, than lumpwood charcoal. A steak or burger will be perfectly happy over lumpwood but a spatchcock chicken will need the longer burn of a decent pile of briquettes. Keep both to hand in a cool dry place.

Some sort of flame is essential. Something with a long handle is helpful but a good old match will do. A cook's blowtorch is fun if you happen to have one.

The only utensil you need is a sturdy, long-handled pair of tongs. A fish slice/spatula will only encourage you to press all of the juice out of the meat; poking it with a fork will also let all the juice run out. Just tongs; to pick up and move. 

Step 5 - Keep a well-stocked cupboard

Again, things become less spontaneous if you need to traipse to the supermarket for the means of flavour. Whether a quick but perfect burger is on the cards or a fish banquet, life is much easier if you have the things you need to hand. The baseline, for us, has to be the herb garden. It’s always handy to buy soft herbs like parsley and coriander in bunches, but woody herbs like rosemary, thyme and oregano will thrive anywhere. A small chicken, spatchcocked and then covered with whole cloves of garlic, a handful of fresh woody herbs, a slick of oil and a squeezed lemon, will soak up those flavours in a matter of hours. Even the lowliest of burgers will need some kind of condiment to bring it to life.

Note; garlic burns easily so use it whole for flavour and then discard. Crushed garlic on the grill will ruin your entire meal.

TOP TIP How to Light Your Fire

Setting the fire is the basis of all outdoor cooking; undercooked sausage or charred lumps of meat are all down to a lack of knowledge about how fire and heat work. You could use a BBQ chimney, or (God forbid) a gas burner, but there is a certain satisfaction to be had in lighting the perfect fire.

Fire needs oxygen to burn, so lots of spaces are essential. Lay a layer of coals on top of the lowest rack in the barbecue and add a few broken pieces of firelighter. Build up, in a rough pyramid, until you have as many coals as you will need. With enough air circulating, the fire will burn when you touch a match to the bottom pieces of the firelighter and will burn for long enough to eventually die down to a pile of glowing coals with grey dust. You will need to leave it for longer until it becomes hot enough to cook over. More grey dust than black coal; you can move them about now to get an even layer. Now you are good to go.

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