Choose and Use a BBQ

What is a Barbeque?

There is always a problem in deciding exactly what is a barbeque.  By that I don’t mean what you cook on the barbeque, but the fuel you use to cook it.

Take a look around the campsite and you will find a number of different methods of cooking which all come under the heading of a barbeque.  Let’s consider the basic differences, their pros and cons in a campsite setting, and acknowledge that at the end of the day the decision is individual, but that cooking times will vary, and vary dramatically, between one fuel and another.

Before you decide to invest in a barbeque of any type, check with your favourite sites as to what is acceptable and what is not.  There is an increased fire risk to the site associated with certain types of barbeque.  Generally speaking the nearer the heat to the grass, the more likely it is that the site owner will prohibit its use.  In dry spells, sites will often ban all types of charcoal burning barbeques.  This is not because you are expected to set fire to your meal, but the possibility of an unintentional fire is increased when the coals are disposed of, or when the barbeque is left outside to cool whilst you sleep.

Please respect the decision of the site owner.  If your preference of barbeque is banned on a particular site, it is because the site owner has carried out a risk assessment and decided that the best solution to keep everyone safe is to limit barbeques on his site, or at specific times of the year.  Some campsites now offer firepits or areas where you can build and cook over an open fire.

Choosing a Barbeque

Disposable

Readily available from the supermarket during the season, the tinfoil container has everything you need for a one-off barbeque.

Advantages

Buy it as and when you decide to have a barbeque meal. Great for emergencies or last minute decisions to cook on a barbeque.

No need to transport from home to campsite – therefore no problem with weight or space.

Disadvantages

Very small, you may need more than one unit to cook for family and friends.

Limited fuel, although the charcoal will burn for quite a while, there is no extra fuel to keep the barbeque running if you have a meal that needs just a few minutes more.

Some sites will not allow this type of barbeque as it may constitute a fire risk under certain conditions

The foil is usually placed on the ground and may damage grass, unless a dedicated barbeque area has been provided by the site owners.

Charcoal

Perhaps the simplest form of barbeque, essentially the charcoal barbeque is a lower container for a live charcoal fire, with a rack on which to place the food and a lid to help with cooking.  Placing the lid over a barbeque, gives a cooking environment similar to an oven.

Many people insist that this is the only way to get the real barbeque flavour into food.

Advantages:-

Cheap to buy

Light to transport

Disadvantages:-

Takes a long time to reach a cooking temperature, and even longer to cool when the meal is served.  This may affect departure time if you like breakfast cooked al fresco.

Difficult to regulate temperature.  Some models have several levels for the cooking grid, but you cannot simply turn the heat up and down.

Supplies of charcoal may be difficult in some places, especially outside the summer season.

If food is liable to give off fat or oil, the flames can get out of control – just watch your eyebrows.

Ashes must be completely cold and disposed of appropriately.

Gas-Fired

Gas-fired barbeques come in a variety of different shapes and sizes from tiny units which barely stand off the ground, similar to the charcoal version illustrated above, suitable for cooking a meal for one, to a family sized unit which is better left in the back garden than taken in the caravan or car.

If size is not an issue, there are two types of gas-fired barbeque.  The more traditional mimics the charcoal barbeque, using a gas heat source at the base of the unit (not that different to a grill) which heats lava rocks, which, when they glow red are hot enough to cook the food on a wire shelf similar to that used in the charcoal unit.

The second type, popularised by Cadac, uses a gas burner to heat a plate on which the food is cooked.  The plate may be circular or rectangular, flat or ridged.  Many units have interchangeable plates to increase the dishes that can be cooked on the unit – some include a large frying pan especially for stir fry, risotto and paella type dishes.

Advantages:

Quick to reach cooking temperature

Easy to control the heat, the flat surface on some models even allows fried eggs to be barbequed (if that makes sense).  Turn gas up and down, but remember that if you have a plate, it retains its heat or takes time to heat up, but if you are used to an electric hob at home, it will not be difficult to adjust.

Connects quickly to caravan using external bbq point.

Cools quickly and leaves no waste fuel to be disposed of.

Disadvantages

Dependent on type chosen, size and therefore weight may be a problem

Needs a gas supply – if you don’t have a bbq point on a caravan you will need to carry an additional gas bottle (3.5Kg ‘dumpy’ as a general rule)

Electric

Found mostly in Europe, the electric barbeque is growing in popularity.  In most instances, the grill is plugged into the external 240V socket supplied for the caravan awning.  Debate rages as to whether or not this device is truly a barbeque, but it does produce very similar results.

Cooking On A Barbeque

Barbequing is not an excuse for burning food, or for serving food raw endangering health because naturally occurring bacteria has not been killed off through exposure to high temperatures for a sufficient length of time.

The barbeque chef must keep a close eye on the food to ensure that it is thoroughly cooked all the way through without simply burning the outside.  Burnt food not only tastes unpleasant, but it is believed to cause a number of illnesses in later life.

Times given for barbeque recipes are very approximate and will vary depending on the type of barbeque you choose to use..  They should not be taken as gospel.  Chill and use the approved barbeque timing mechanisms – a glass of whatever you like to drink as an aperitif, or two to be really certain that your meal is ready.

BBQ Safety

All types of BBQ give off Carbon Monoxide and should NEVER be used inside the caravan, awning or tent. 

Ensure that the BBQ is fully cold and any ashes removed before storing in the caravan, tent or car.

Remember that most types of BBQ remain hot long after the meal has cooked, and make sure that children are properly supervised whilst they learn to cook.