• Top chefs share their BBQ secrets
  • Dos and don’ts for safe grilling and great food
  • Four recipes to wow guests at your first-time BBQ 

Which is best: gas or coal?

‘Coal – but not briquettes,’ says Theo Michaels (@TheoCooks‏), MasterChef semifinalist and now a regular on ITV’s This Morning. ‘Use the best-quality lump wood charcoal you can get. You can't beat it for flavour.’

Marcus Bawdon (@devonwoodsmoke‏), editor of UK BBQ Mag, agrees.

‘My preference is charcoal – I find it easier to control for quicker, tastier results,’ he explains. ‘There’s a place for a gas BBQ: some folks like that they can turn it up and down with a knob.

‘The most cost-effective BBQs are larger kettle BBQs or bullet-style smokers,’ adds Marcus.

If you’re buying a new BBQ, make sure you have the right home insurance in place to cover you against any theft or fiery mishaps.

What equipment do you need?

Chris Arnold, part of the Bullet Brothers BBQ team (@BulletBrosBBQ‏), competes in competitions across the UK.

‘Use a digital cooking thermometer, as BBQ food should be served only when it's done – not to a time schedule,’ he says. ‘Two sets of tongs are vital: one for raw food and one for cooked. A chimney starter will help you get your coals lit quickly and safely. Avoid self-lighting coals that contain chemicals that could taint your food.

‘Also get a good grill brush. Once your grill is hot, give it a good scrape with the brush to remove any bits of food from your last BBQ.’

Do you need to prep food in the oven?

‘Don't use the oven!’ says Theo. ‘Big tip: take your meat out of the fridge a good hour before you want to cook it to get it to room temperature. 

‘If your BBQ is too hot and you're worried about food not being cooked through, just move some of the coals so your meat is not directly over it. This is good for slower cooking and ensuring food is safe to eat.’

Chris agrees.

‘If you’re having sausages and chicken, cook these off the heat initially, and then transfer to the direct heat when ready to get those great grill marks you love,’ he says.

Use the indirect heat method to evenly cook food.

‘Cook the larger meat first with a lid – this is called the indirect heat method,’ advises Marcus. ‘It makes your BBQ more like a smoky oven than a grill.’

What are the best ways to wow guests?

‘Go big!’ says Theo. ‘Forget burgers and bangers – try something different. I like to use whole cuts and serve on a large chopping board in front of guests.’

Marcus says simple, good-quality food cooked really well is the best way to impress.

‘A large cut of meat, some nice home-made bread and salad is all you need,’ he says. ‘I usually start people off with a good steak, chicken thighs and a roast beef joint cooked to medium-rare indirectly with the lid on.’

Any other BBQ tips?

‘Always start your BBQ earlier than you think you need to – and take your time,’ advises Chris. ‘Enjoy the experience and your food will reflect that.’

‘BBQs are, at their heart, the most simplistic and oldest form of cooking: a grill over burning wood – or coal,’ says Theo. ‘The food is only as good as the ingredients and person cooking it.’ 

Impressive recipes for first-time BBQs

Cooked chicken drumsticks on a bbq

Marcus Bawdon's two-zone chicken on the bone

For this recipe, you’ll need to use a BBQ with a lid that’s set up for two-zone cooking (with charcoal on only one side to allow the BBQ to be used like a smoky oven, with the lid down).

Makes 8 drumsticks.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp coarse pepper
  • Garlic granules, pinch
  • Smoked paprika, pinch
  • 8 chicken drumsticks
  • BBQ sauce

Method:

  1. Light the coals and wait for them to white over. Combine the first five ingredients to make a simple rub, then sprinkle lightly over the chicken and rub in.
  2. Place slightly to the side of the main heat zone so that the chicken cooks gently, then finish off over the direct heat to crisp up. Check the internal temperature of the chicken with a digital thermometer. It should be 74°C in the middle to be cooked through.
  3. Brush on your favourite BBQ sauce for the last few minutes; if you do this any earlier it will burn.

Pork skewers roasting on a bbq

Theo Michaels' pork souvlaki (Greek kebabs)

Serves 6.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5kg pork shoulder (skin removed)
  • Pepper, generous pinch
  • Olive oil, good drizzle
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • Salt, generous pinch (omit if marinating overnight)
  • Half a red onion, finely diced
  • 30g chopped herbs (parsley or coriander go well)
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • Some tzatziki or plain Greek yoghurt
  • 1 lemon, cut up to squeeze over the cooked meat
  • 6 wraps

You’ll need:

  • 6 skewers

Method:

  1. Dice the meat into 2 inch cubes, add the pepper, oil, lemon zest and salt, and combine in a large bowl (you can leave this to marinate for an hour or overnight). If using wooden skewers, soak overnight or for an hour to stop them burning (you can also put foil over any wood that’s showing).
  2. Skewer the meat (if wooden, pre-soak the skewers in cold water for 10 minutes) and place directly over the charcoal on direct heat. Turn the meat every few minutes to char on all sides (about 2-3 minutes on each side). Drizzle lemon juice and sprinkle salt over the meat while cooking.
  3. Once cooked, remove from the BBQ, let the souvlaki rest for 5 minutes and then start assembling. Lay out a wrap, spoon over some tzatziki on the meat, then garnish with the onion, herbs, tomato, tzatziki and lemon.

Watch Theo Michaels cook his pork souvlaki recipe on YouTube.

Salmon on a wooden block

Chris Arnold's cedar-planked salmon with charred red pepper and pancetta

Serves 6-8.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large red peppers (or enough to cover the salmon)
  • 200g pancetta
  • Salmon fillets (about 750g), side or half-side – with skin on
  • 2 tbsp clear honey
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • Rocket leaf (optional)

You’ll need:

  • Cedar plank – as available here

Method: 

  1. Soak your cedar plank in water for at least an hour before starting. Blacken the peppers, either over your chimney starter or directly over your charcoal.
  2. Place the peppers into a Ziploc-type bag and leave on the sideboard to sweat for 10 minutes. Place the pancetta on a tray and grill over direct heat for 5 minutes or until crispy. Remove from the tray, place on kitchen paper and allow to cool.
  3. Peel the blackened skin off the pepper and slice into strips the same size as the salmon fillet(s). If doing a larger piece of salmon, portion the fish before cooking – it’s much easier to cut cleanly this way.
  4. Place the portioned salmon onto your cedar plank. Mix the honey and mustard together and brush the salmon fillets/pieces with the mixture, then place the pepper on top.
  5. Put the cedar plank on the grill and, using the indirect heat method, cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the salmon is cooked to your liking. Don’t worry about the plank charring; it adds to the flavour.
  6. Finely chop or crush the crispy pancetta and sprinkle on top of each salmon fillet. Garnish with a rocket leaf (optional).

Halloumi and tomato skewers

Vegetable and halloumi skewers

Serves 8.

Ingredients:

  • 250g halloumi
  • 1 medium courgette
  • 1 large red pepper
  • 250g cherry tomatoes
  • 1 small garlic clove, crushed
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsbp olive oil

You’ll need:

  • 8 skewers

Method:

  1. Cut the halloumi and courgette into 3cm-wide pieces, about 1cm thick. Cut the pepper into 3cm-wide pieces.
  2. Thread the halloumi, courgette, pepper and tomatoes alternately onto 8 skewers (pre-soaked in cold water for 10 minutes, if wooden).
  3. Mix together the garlic, salt, lemon juice and olive oil to create a dressing and drizzle over the top.
  4. BBQ the skewers over an indirect heat for 2-3 minutes on each side, until the halloumi is crispy and the vegetables are cooked through.

More BBQ ideas

We teamed up with Jamie Oliver (@jamieoliver) and DJ BBQ (@DJ_BBQ) to bring you even more expert tips that will make you a pro in the kitchen.