when the sun comes out we like to take our worlds outside, from lunching on the grass in the local park or drinking out by the river in the evening. If you have ever tried cooking a barbecue when the rain starts you will know why it really is a summer ‘sport’ – and barbecuing indoors is even less fun!
But when the sun is out and the sky is clear, it really is a great time to stoke up those coals, fire-up that ‘barbie’ and get cooking. Grilled meats over smoking wood have a flavour that just cannot be achieved in the modern spatially-challenged kitchen. But there are some places you can go that will happily, and expertly, do it for you.
Whatever your preference; barbecued meats, kebabs or burgers, cooked outdoors by yourself or in the hands of a professional we have taken a look at some of the best options in and around the area.
Do it yourself
Where to get your BBQ
During the summer almost every supermarket has stacks of disposable barbecue trays which are fine for spur of the moment or park-based cooking. But for a longer lasting free standing barbecue then you will need to look online and either get one delivered or find the nearest supplier as the usual garden centres are not so easily found in central London.
Where to get your produce
Borough Market or a great local butcher is always preferred and they often have grilling packs of food ready made up with a mix of burgers, kebabs and ribs.
Tips for cooking
* Don’t think about doing it indoors or even on your balcony, it never ends well!
* The small disposable BBQs can be tricky and not especially hot so don’t overload them, and do stand them on their foldout legs if they have them – it helps the coal tray drop from the grill and prevents the meat tasting of petroleum.
* Marinade or not to marinade? Personally I prefer a classic flavour of good quality meat and veg just well-seasoned with salt and pepper and let the coals add the rest of flavour. If you do go for some additional flavours remember that too much will drip into the coals and smoke like a joke.
How to cook your perfect steak (on a grill or barbecue)
As with most cooking, you’ll find that the more ingredients you use the more complicated it gets and can confuse the taste of good simple foods.
Pay the right price for a cut of meat, and remember to get a thick cut if you like anything more rare than ‘well-done’. If you are cooking it ‘medium’ or under, don’t get one with too much fat as it won’t have time to break down in the pan but that some slivers of fat, or ‘marbling’, throughout will cook and add flavour to the meat.
Really, there are only two ingredients you need when preparing your steak: salt & pepper, but lots of it!
A handy guide to favourite cuts of steak
One of the most popular steaks, the rib-eye, comes from the cow’s rib section, this tender and flavoursome cut is best cooked for slightly longer than other types (medium-medium rare) to allow the meat to absorb the infused fat. Due to the flavour and fat content it is best served with something light and fresh.
A leaner cut, located between the rib and fillet, the sirloin is better for the health-conscious as there is less fat marbling in the meat, instead, the fat can be trimmed off. The amount of flavour suffers slightly as a result, so be slightly more adventurous with your accompaniments.
The rump is one of the best ‘everyday’ cuts, due to its relatively modest price and high quality. Being located on the cow’s backside means the rump is where a lot of the animal’s exercise happens, although this can make the meat slightly tougher, it gives it a much more intense flavour.
Porterhouse & T-bone
The porterhouse and T-bone cuts are very similar in terms of appearance and taste, and are the biggest and heaviest cuts you are likely to find. These cuts are in fact part sirloin, part fillet, so you are likely to find one side is rarer than the other when cooked. The attached bone ensures a great deal of flavour in the meat, which is great for grilling.
Fillet & Chateaubriand
Often regarded as the most pricey of all cuts, the fillet and chateaubriand are the leanest types of steak available. Because of this, they can dry out quickly if they are over-cooked, and so are best served rare. Their reduced fat content also means they are aged for a shorter time and served best with a simple yet rich sauce.
Local Steak Houses & BBQ Restaurants
52 Tanner Street, SE1 3PH
Independent Argentine steak house serving beautiful meat, full bodied wine and delectable deserts in an intimate atmosphere.
Typical price per head £45
London Marriott County Hall, SE1 7PB
British steak restaurant serving 11 different cuts of 35-day aged Aberdeen Angus beef including the 1kg ‘Bull’s Head’ double rib steak.
Typical price per head £70
Bodean’s (Tower Hill)
16 Byward Street, EC3R 5BA
American themed BBQ restaurant serving favourites such as burgers, ribs, steaks and their famous Burnt Ends.
Typical price per head £40
Big Easy (Chelsea)
332-334 Kings Road, SW3 5UR
BBQ and lobster shack with delicious food and fun atmosphere. Regular live music captures the soul of southern USA.
Typical price per head £45
18 New Globe Walk, SE1 9DR
BBQ diner serving wholesome food and refreshing cocktails. For some added fun why not try out a game of Beer Pong or take on their ‘Man vs. Ribs’ challenge!
Typical price per head £30
20 New Change Passage, EC4M 9AG
Jamie Oliver’s ‘cathedral to fire and food’ serves a range of fantastic flame grilled meats with a spectacular view of St. Paul’s.
Typical price per head £52
Around the world in ‘eaty’ days
The US has plenty of regional differences in their BBQ. The Carolinas, for example, are said to specialise in pork, whereas the West-Texas ‘cowboy style’ will specialise in beef, goat and mutton. Competitive BBQ ‘cook-offs’ are commonplace in America, and can be small local affairs or huge festivals.
Jerk chicken and pork are popular BBQ styles in Jamaica; the meat is dry-rubbed with a mixture of spices, including the infamous Scotch Bonnet peppers. In Spanish speaking Caribbean countries, a whole grilled pig, or Lechon, is a common delicacy.
Brazil, and especially Argentina, are both renowned worldwide for the quality of their beef, as well as their barbecue-style meat, Churrasco.
Japan’s BBQ cuisine tends to contain more vegetables and seafood than their western counterparts, with teriyaki and soy based sauces being the popular glaze. Marinated ribs, or galbi, are very popular in Korea, and it is becoming more common to find Korean BBQ restaurants popping up around London.
In China, small pieces of meat on skewers, or chuanr, are popular street dishes. In tourist heavy areas, chuanr can sometimes consist of insects or other exotic animals. As in the Latin-Caribbean, Lechon is a staple in the Phillipines (the country was named in honour of King Phillip II of Spain, after all).
European BBQ is very diverse, thanks to the huge regional variety of the continent. In the north of Europe, you will find that pork is the most common BBQ meat (think German bratwurst), and in Scandinavia you will also find barbecued venison.
In the Mediterranean countries you will tend to find less pork and more chicken, all cooked with olive oil, of course. Grilled halloumi cheese originates from the Mediterranean, too.
The staple of the Arabic BBQ is the kebab – mostly made from lamb but also from beef and chicken. You will also find that your grilled meats are served with pita breads, hummus and tabbouleh. In places like Iran, the meat will be accompanied by a delicious saffron rice.
Barbecuing, or braai in Afrikaans, is a hugely popular way of preparing food as well as a social custom in many parts of Africa. In fact, 24 September is Braai Day in South Africa, a day that celebrates the rich cultural heritage of the country over beautifully flame grilled meats. As well as beef, chicken, lamb and pork, Rock Lobster is a common barbecued delicacy in the coastal areas of southern Africa.
In the South Pacific Islands and Hawaii, grilled meats are often accompanied by refreshing tropical fruits, cooked on an Umu, or earth oven. In New Zealand, lamb is the most common grilled meat, but there is also plenty of fresh fish, crayfish and other seafood.
The BBQ in Australia is a huge cultural pastime, so much so that it is common in some city parks to have coin-operated public use barbecues. Barbecues are even enjoyed by some families on the beach on Christmas day, with various poultry thrown on the flames. Putting shrimp on the barbie was actually not very popular when the phrase was first coined in 1984, but has become more so as US influences have reached Australia.
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