A few weeks ago we had a burst of hot sun which went straight to Rich’s head, causing him to come up with an idea: why don’t we feature a new section on the website dedicated to outdoor summer activities in the garden. This could include reviewing summer garden accessories, taking part in summer activities, making summer cocktails and drinking summer beer. The idea was put to the shareholders and approved immediately.
The centrepiece of most summer gardening activity tends to be a barbeque, a place where sun soaked, mildly inebriated humans gather like moths round a smoky flame. Neither of us were in possession of a decent BBQ so to light the touch paper to this new section we decided to review one.
About the same time as Rich had his good idea, we were also providing ace garden retailer Onestore with an interview as part of their ‘Green Gardens’ guides, answering some questions about our digging and swigging adventures. We liked the cut of their jib; they sell a range of decent looking but affordable barbeques; they were hoping to get some coverage on our site; our people spoke to their people and, before the clouds gathered to wash away summer, a half barrel BBQ was in our possession waiting to be reviewed.
This weekend the sun returned. Time to sizzle.
Putting the BBQ together is not a particularly taxing task, although there are quite a few nuts and bolts (some of them in positions that make it awkward for sausage fingers), so make sure you allow around 40 minutes to get it built. Initially it feels a bit rickety, but get the central supporting bar in place, tighten a few nuts, and it’s suddenly a much more stable beast. A bit of manhandling on my part created a gentle curve where a straight edge should be, but not in a particularly detrimental way: precision neatness soon becomes irrelevant when you’re filling something with burning coals.
The generous 780mm long trough allows for many strings of sausages with charring action divided into two grills that can be positioned at three different heights. Below these grills the hot coals sit on two more sturdy metal racks allowing ash to filter through to the base of the trough. Wind protectors rise from three sides, while vents at either end keep air and smoke moving in the correct direction. A handle screws on to one end allowing an easy tilt for effortless transportation courtesy of a pair of wheels at the other end.
With only two people dining I confined my culinary efforts to one half of the barbeque. The charcoal roared to a mighty heat in no time at all and my spitting sausages were soon raised to the furthest distance from the heat to prevent burnt-on-the-outside, raw-on-in-inside medical drama. Despite a meager scattering of burning rocks, the heat kept going long enough for a few rounds of grilling time, with the decks being lowered towards the end for some extra slices of veg as the heat subsided.
The barbeque cooked the goods to perfection. It’s a good size and great value at the price. Other BBQs may offer weightier structures, but you’ll pay considerably more and I doubt they can improve on meat grilling quality. There’s no lid or other fancy cooking extras so slow cooked pulled pork is probably a non-starter, but for the main BBQ fare it’s a great piece of kit.
We ate posh M&S pork sausages (minimum spittage, good firm texture, full porky flavour) tucked inside baguettes with English mustard and freshly picked salad leaves. This was served with BBQ’d sweetcorn, courgette, peppers and asparagus, all lightly brushed with oil before hitting the heat. This was washed down with glasses of Hammerton‘s Islington Steam Lager – a superb BBQ beer with a clean, flavoursome, fresh lager taste and a crackling peppery spice bitterness.
The half barrel charcoal BBQ is available from greatlittlegarden.co.uk
Price at time of publication £77.99
Hammerton’s Islington Steam Lager, 4.7%, is available from Eebria.com
Price at time of publication £2.80