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The Brits Do Barbecue


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Aila Ledezma



When you think of barbecues, you might envision sizzling steaks on a grill, the smell of smoky ribs, or the sound of burgers sizzling over an open flame. While barbecuing is often associated with American and Australian cultures, it may come as a surprise to learn that England also has a rich barbecue tradition. The Brits may not have the same year-round warm weather as their counterparts across the pond, but that doesn’t stop them from firing up their grills and enjoying a delicious outdoor feast.


The history of British barbecues may not be as well-known as their American or Australian counterparts, but it dates back centuries. England has a long-standing tradition of outdoor cooking, influenced by its agricultural heritage and love for communal dining. Over time, the British have developed their own unique style of barbecuing, incorporating a variety of flavors and ingredients into their recipes.


While British barbecues may not always be associated with warm, sunny weather, they are a cherished pastime during the summer months. From small backyard gatherings to large-scale events, Brits love coming together to enjoy good food, good company, and the unmistakable aroma of grilled delights.


In this article, we will delve into the history of British barbecues, explore the traditional barbecue recipes, and provide tips for a successful outdoor cooking experience. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or new to the world of barbecuing, this guide will help you discover the unique and delicious flavors of British barbecue.


History of British Barbecue

The history of British barbecues can be traced back to ancient times when the Celts, the indigenous people of the British Isles, would cook their food over an open fire. Barbecuing was not only a practical way to prepare meals but also a social activity that brought communities together.


When the Romans invaded Britain in 43 AD, they brought their culinary traditions, including the art of grilling. The Romans introduced a variety of cooking techniques, such as spit-roasting and smoking, which added new dimensions to the British barbecue culture. The British would often roast meats on spits or grates over an open flame, resulting in flavor-infused dishes that quickly became a favorite among locals.


During the medieval period, barbecuing in Britain was associated with grand feasts and elaborate banquets hosted by the nobility. These extravagant events showcased the wealth and power of the upper classes, and the use of outdoor grills and pits was a common sight in the gardens and courtyards of castles and manor houses.


In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Industrial Revolution brought about significant changes to British society, including advancements in technology and transportation. As the country became more urbanized, the popularity of barbecuing waned temporarily. However, it experienced a resurgence in the 20th century, particularly after World War II, as people sought to reconnect with their outdoor roots and embrace the joys of al fresco dining.


Today, the British barbecue tradition continues to thrive, with families and friends gathering in gardens, parks, and even beaches to enjoy a good grill session. While the weather may be unpredictable, the British have honed their skills in adapting to whatever nature throws their way. Rain or shine, you can be sure that Brits will be firing up their barbecues to create mouthwatering dishes.


Over the years, British-style barbecuing has developed its own distinct characteristics. The emphasis is often placed on flavorful marinades, rubs, and sauces, which are meticulously crafted to enhance the taste of the meats and vegetables. From succulent lamb chops to juicy sausages, the British barbecue scene offers an array of delectable options for meat lovers.


With a history steeped in tradition and a passion for outdoor cooking, British barbecues are a testament to the enduring love affair between the British people and their grills. So, the next time you visit England during the summer months, be sure to indulge in a quintessential British barbecue experience and savor the unique flavors that this ancient tradition has to offer.


British Barbecue Traditions

British barbecue traditions are as diverse and unique as the country itself. From regional specialties to seasonal favorites, there is a wide variety of barbecue styles and techniques to explore. Here are some of the key traditions that define British barbecuing:


Marinades and Rubs: One of the hallmarks of British barbecues is the emphasis on flavor-packed marinades and rubs. Whether it’s a tangy lemon and herb marinade for chicken, a smoky barbecue rub for ribs, or a spicy jerk marinade for pork, these preparations add depth and complexity to the grilled dishes.


Sausages and Burgers: No British barbecue would be complete without sausages and burgers. From classic Cumberland sausages to gourmet beef burgers, these staples are a crowd-pleaser. Brits take great pride in sourcing high-quality meat and experimenting with different flavors to create the perfect patty or sausage.


Fish and Seafood: Being an island nation, seafood often takes center stage at British barbecues. Freshly caught fish like salmon, sea bass, and mackerel are commonly grilled and served with a squeeze of lemon or a zesty herb sauce. Shellfish, such as prawns and scallops, are also popular choices for barbecue enthusiasts.


Vegetable Skewers: Vegetarian options are an important part of British barbecues. Colorful vegetable skewers with a variety of seasonal produce, like bell peppers, zucchini, and mushrooms, are a common sight on the grill. These veggie skewers are often marinated or brushed with flavorful sauces for an extra burst of taste.


Puddings and Desserts: British barbecues don’t stop at savory dishes; they extend to the realm of sweets as well. Grilled fruit, such as pineapple or peaches, is a popular choice for a light and refreshing dessert. For a truly indulgent experience, sticky toffee pudding or warm fruit crumbles are sometimes cooked on the barbecue, adding a smoky twist to these classic British desserts.


Accompaniments: A British barbecue wouldn’t be complete without a variety of side dishes and condiments. From jacket potatoes and coleslaw to homemade relishes and chutneys, these accompaniments complement the grilled meats and provide a well-rounded dining experience.


While these traditions form the foundation of British barbecuing, it’s important to note that barbecue styles can vary across different regions of the country. For example, in the north of England, you might find hearty pork pies and black pudding gracing the grill, while in Scotland, a traditional haggis might make an appearance. Exploring these regional specialties adds another layer of excitement and discovery to the British barbecue experience.


Whether it’s a casual gathering in a suburban backyard or a grand beachside barbecue event, British barbecues bring people together to enjoy delicious food and good company. These traditions have stood the test of time, connecting generations and celebrating the flavors and culinary heritage of the nation.


Traditional British Barbecue Recipes

Traditional British barbecue recipes are a delicious reflection of the country’s culinary heritage. They showcase a wide array of flavors, ingredients, and cooking techniques that are sure to delight your taste buds. Here are a few classic British barbecue recipes to try:


1. Beef and Ale Pie: A quintessential British dish, the beef and ale pie is a perfect choice for a hearty barbecue meal. Tender chunks of beef are slow-cooked in a rich ale gravy, then encased in a buttery pastry crust and finished off on the grill for a smoky twist.


2. Lamb Kebabs: Succulent lamb kebabs are a beloved feature of British barbecues. Marinated in a blend of spices, garlic, and yogurt, the lamb skewers are grilled to perfection, resulting in juicy, flavorful morsels that pair well with a fresh mint yogurt sauce.


3. Sticky BBQ Ribs: These finger-licking ribs are a barbecue favorite. Pork ribs are marinated in a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce and slow-cooked over indirect heat until they become tender and caramelized. The result is melt-in-your-mouth ribs with a smoky, sticky glaze.


4. Salmon with Lemon and Dill: Grilling salmon is a popular choice at British barbecues, and this simple yet delicious recipe brings out the natural flavors of the fish. A fresh salmon fillet is brushed with a mixture of lemon juice, dill, and olive oil, then grilled until it is flaky and perfectly cooked.


5. Vegetable Skewers: For a vegetarian option, vegetable skewers are a colorful and flavorful choice. Skewer an assortment of seasonal vegetables, such as bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes. Brush them with a marinade of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and herbs, then grill until the veggies are tender and charred.


6. Corn on the Cob: No British barbecue would be complete without corn on the cob. Simply brush the corn with melted butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and grill until the kernels are juicy and slightly charred. Serve with a dollop of butter and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.


7. Eton Mess: Finish off your British barbecue with a classic dessert like Eton Mess. This delightful combination of crushed meringue, strawberries, and whipped cream is an easy and refreshing treat. Sprinkle with a few mint leaves for a touch of freshness.


These traditional British barbecue recipes are just a taste of the diverse flavors that you can explore. Whether you’re grilling meat, fish, or vegetables, don’t be afraid to experiment with different seasonings and sauces to create your own unique twist on these classics. So fire up the grill, gather your friends and family, and enjoy the mouthwatering flavors of a traditional British barbecue.


British Barbecue Tools and Equipment

When it comes to British barbecues, having the right tools and equipment is essential to ensure a successful grilling experience. Here are the key tools and equipment that every British barbecue enthusiast should have:


1. Barbecue Grill: The centerpiece of any barbecue is the grill itself. Whether you prefer a gas grill for convenience or a charcoal grill for that authentic flavor, choose a sturdy and well-constructed grill that can withstand the heat and provide even cooking.


2. Long-Handled Tongs and Spatula: Long-handled tongs and spatula are must-have tools for flipping and turning your food on the grill. Look for ones with heat-resistant handles that provide a firm grip and keep your hands safe from the heat.


3. Meat Thermometer: To ensure that your meats are cooked to perfection, invest in a meat thermometer. This handy tool helps you monitor the internal temperature, ensuring that your food is safe to eat and cooked to your desired level of doneness.


4. Grilling Basket: A grilling basket is ideal for cooking delicate foods like vegetables, seafood, and smaller cuts of meat. It prevents them from falling through the grates and makes flipping and turning easier.


5. Basting Brush: A basting brush is useful for brushing on marinades, sauces, and oils to add flavor and moisture to your grilled dishes. Look for heat-resistant silicone or natural bristle brushes that are easy to clean.


6. Chimney Starter and Charcoal: If you prefer the smoky flavors of charcoal grilling, a chimney starter is a convenient way to light your charcoal quickly and evenly. It eliminates the need for lighter fluid and ensures a consistent heat source for your cooking.


7. Grill Brush: After each use, it’s important to clean your grill grates to prevent the buildup of residue. A good quality grill brush with stiff bristles will help you scrub away the charred bits and keep your grill ready for the next barbecue.


8. Grilling Gloves: Protect your hands from heat and flames with a pair of heat-resistant grilling gloves. These durable gloves provide both grip and insulation, allowing you to handle hot grill grates, pans, and utensils without worrying about burns.


9. Portable Grill: For those on the go or for picnics in the park, a portable grill is a fantastic option. These compact and lightweight grills are easy to transport, allowing you to enjoy a barbecue wherever you choose.


10. Outdoor Furniture and Accessories: Create a comfortable outdoor dining space by investing in sturdy outdoor furniture such as tables, chairs, and umbrellas. Don’t forget essential accessories like plates, utensils, serving trays, and coolers to keep drinks and perishables chilled.


Having the right tools and equipment enhances your barbecuing experience, making it easier and more enjoyable. Take care of your equipment by cleaning and properly storing them after each use to ensure their longevity. With the right tools in hand, you’ll be well-equipped to master the art of the British barbecue and create mouthwatering dishes for your family and friends.


Vegetarian and Vegan Options

Barbecues are not just for meat lovers. British barbecues also offer a wide range of delicious options for vegetarians and vegans. Whether you follow a plant-based diet or have guests who do, it’s important to have flavorful and satisfying alternatives. Here are some fantastic vegetarian and vegan options for your next British barbecue:


1. Veggie Burgers: Swap traditional meat patties for vegetarian or vegan burger options. There are a variety of pre-made veggie burger options available in stores, or you can make your own using ingredients like black beans, lentils, quinoa, or mushrooms. Serve them on a toasted bun with all the garnishes, just like a classic burger.


2. Grilled Vegetable Skewers: Skewers loaded with colorful vegetables are a great way to showcase the flavors of the season. Thread a selection of veggies such as bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, and onions onto skewers, brush them with marinade or herbs, and grill until they become tender and slightly charred.


3. Grilled Halloumi: Halloumi, a semi-hard cheese with a high melting point, is perfect for grilling. Simply slice the halloumi into thick pieces, brush them with olive oil, and grill until they develop a golden crust. Serve them as a delicious vegetarian option or add them to salads or sandwiches.


4. Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms: Portobello mushrooms make an excellent meaty substitute on the barbecue. Remove the stems from large portobello mushrooms, brush them with a flavorful marinade, and stuff them with a mixture of breadcrumbs, herbs, and vegan cheese. Grill until they are juicy and the filling is nicely browned.


5. Grilled Corn on the Cob: Corn on the cob is a classic side dish at barbecues, and it easily caters to vegetarian and vegan diets. Simply grill whole ears of corn until they acquire a slight char, then serve them with vegan butter or a sprinkle of chili powder and lime juice.


6. Tofu and Tempeh Skewers: Tofu and tempeh are both protein-packed options for vegetarians and vegans. Cut them into cubes, marinate them in a flavorful sauce, and skewer them along with your favorite vegetables. Grill until they have a nice char and serve them as a protein-rich option.


7. Grilled Fruit: Grilling fruit brings out their natural sweetness and creates a delightful smoky flavor. Try grilling slices of pineapple, peaches, or watermelon until they caramelize and develop grill marks. Serve them as a refreshing dessert or alongside savory dishes as a unique twist.


With these vegetarian and vegan options, everyone can enjoy a delicious meal at your British barbecue. Don’t forget to provide a range of plant-based sauces, condiments, and toppings to accompany the dishes. By including diverse and flavorful options, you’ll create a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere for everyone to indulge in the joys of outdoor grilling.


Tips for a Successful British Barbecue

Hosting a successful British barbecue requires some careful planning and preparation. Here are some essential tips to ensure your barbecue is a hit:


1. Plan for the Weather: The unpredictable British weather can be a challenge for outdoor events. Keep an eye on the forecast and have a backup plan in case of rain. Consider setting up a gazebo or marquee to provide shelter and keep the barbecue going even in inclement weather.


2. Prep Ahead of Time: Prepare as much as you can in advance to minimize stress on the day. Marinate meats, chop vegetables, and prepare side dishes the day before or in the morning. This will allow you to enjoy the company of your guests and focus on grilling when the time comes.


3. Master the Charcoal Grill: If you’re using a charcoal grill, learn how to control the temperature to achieve the desired level of heat. Start the charcoal early, allowing it to turn gray and ash-covered before you begin grilling. Create different heat zones on the grill by moving the coals to one side, giving you flexibility for searing and indirect cooking.


4. Timing is Key: Timing is crucial for a successful barbecue. Start with foods that require longer cooking times, such as large cuts of meat, and finish with quick-cooking items like burgers and sausages. This way, everything will be ready to be served at the same time.


5. Monitor the Heat: Keep a close eye on the heat of your grill. Invest in a good quality meat thermometer to ensure that meats are cooked to the proper internal temperature. This will help avoid undercooked or overcooked dishes and ensure everything is cooked to perfection.


6. Don’t Overcrowd the Grill: Give your food enough space on the grill to cook evenly. Avoid overcrowding, which can prevent proper airflow and lead to uneven cooking. Cook in batches if necessary or consider using additional grilling surfaces if available.


7. Offer a Variety of Flavors: Provide a diverse range of marinades, rubs, and sauces to cater to different tastes. Experiment with different flavor profiles to enhance the natural flavors of the grilled dishes and offer a memorable dining experience for your guests.


8. Keep it Simple: Barbecues are all about relaxed and casual dining. Don’t feel pressured to create complicated recipes or gourmet dishes. Focus on quality ingredients, simple flavors, and highlighting the natural smoky flavors that grilling imparts.


9. Cater to Dietary Restrictions: Take into account any dietary restrictions or allergies your guests may have. Have vegetarian and vegan options available, and consider providing gluten-free buns or marinades for those with dietary restrictions.


10. Enjoy the Experience: Lastly, remember to enjoy the experience. Barbecuing is about more than just the food—it’s a chance to spend time outdoors, connect with loved ones, and create lasting memories. Relax, have fun, and savor the delicious flavors of a British barbecue.


With these tips in mind, you’ll be well-prepared to host a successful British barbecue. Embrace the spirit of outdoor cooking, embrace the flavors of the season, and make your gathering a memorable one for all who attend.


Famous British Barbecue Events

Throughout the year, England hosts numerous barbecue events that attract food enthusiasts from near and far. These events celebrate the rich culinary heritage of British barbecues and showcase a wide range of delicious dishes. Here are some of the famous British barbecue events that you don’t want to miss:


1. Grillstock: Known as the “King of BBQ Festivals,” Grillstock is one of the largest barbecue events in the UK. Held annually in various locations, including Bristol and Manchester, this festival brings together pitmasters, street food vendors, and live music for a weekend of barbecue indulgence. From slow-cooked meats to sizzling sausages, Grillstock offers a feast for meat lovers.


2. The Big Grill: Taking place in London, The Big Grill is a celebration of all things barbecued and grilled. This festival showcases a wide array of international flavors, with vendors offering creative dishes from around the world. From Texas-style barbecue to Korean BBQ and Argentinean asado, The Big Grill offers a global gastronomic experience.


3. British BBQ Championships: This annual event brings together barbecue enthusiasts and competitors from across the country to showcase their grilling skills. Held in different locations, the British BBQ Championships feature a variety of categories, including ribs, chicken, and brisket. Judges evaluate the flavor, tenderness, and presentation of the dishes, and winners are crowned as the best BBQ teams in Britain.


4. Meatopia: Meatopia is a unique food festival that celebrates the art of cooking with fire. Held in London, this event features renowned chefs and pitmasters who showcase their culinary prowess by grilling a wide array of meat cuts and exploring different flavor combinations. Meatopia is a carnivore’s dream come true, with a focus on sustainable and ethically sourced meats.


5. Ribstock: Ribstock is a celebration of ribs, sauces, and all things smoky. Held in London, this festival features a rib cook-off, where teams compete to win the title of “Best Ribs.” Attendees can sample various styles of ribs, from sweet and tangy to fiery and bold, and enjoy live music and craft beer while indulging in their favorite barbecue fare.


6. Irlam Live BBQ Festival: This family-friendly festival combines live music with mouthwatering barbecue in Irlam, Greater Manchester. With top-notch bands performing on stage, attendees can savor an array of grilled delights, including classic barbecue dishes and global flavors. This event is a perfect combination of great music and great food.


7. Foodies Festival: Foodies Festival is a touring event that takes place in various locations across the UK, including London, Bristol, and Edinburgh. This culinary extravaganza showcases a wide range of food and drink, including barbecued dishes. Renowned chefs share their expertise through live cooking demonstrations, and visitors can indulge in a variety of grilled treats from local vendors.


These famous British barbecue events demonstrate the passion and creativity of the British when it comes to outdoor cooking. Whether you’re a barbecue aficionado or simply love good food and lively atmospheres, attending one of these events will give you a unique insight into the vibrant world of British barbecues.



British barbecues offer a delightful fusion of history, tradition, and flavor. From ancient cooking techniques to modern twists on classic recipes, British barbecues have evolved into a vibrant and diverse culinary experience. Whether you’re enjoying succulent meats, grilled seafood, or mouthwatering vegetarian options, the flavors and aromas of a British barbecue are sure to tantalize your taste buds.


As we’ve explored the history of British barbecues, it’s clear that this tradition has deep roots in the country’s culinary heritage. From the Celts to the Romans and the grand feasts of the medieval period, barbecuing in England has long been a communal activity that brings people together to enjoy good food and good company.


Today, British barbecues continue to thrive, with families and friends gathering in gardens, parks, and beaches across the country. The Brits have embraced the challenges of weather and created unique flavor profiles, mastering the art of grilling in their own distinct way. From succulent beef and ale pies to tantalizing grilled vegetable skewers, British barbecues offer a smorgasbord of delicious options for all palates.


To host a successful British barbecue, it’s important to have the right tools and equipment, plan for the unpredictable weather, and cater to the diverse dietary preferences of your guests. By mastering the art of grilling, experimenting with flavors, and embracing the relaxed and casual atmosphere, you can create unforgettable memories and savor the flavors of Britain’s outdoor cooking tradition.


So, the next time you find yourself in England during the summer months, be sure to immerse yourself in the world of British barbecues. Whether you’re attending a famous barbecue event or hosting your own gathering, prepare to be delighted by the feast of flavors and the warm camaraderie that defines the British barbecue experience. Gather your friends and family, fire up the grill, and let the tantalizing scents and tastes of a British barbecue transport you to a culinary paradise.