HARRY WALLOP tests the new trend of outdoor grilling hampers

Have Rick Stein do your BBQ! HARRY WALLOP tests outdoor grilling hampers

  • Harry Wallop discovered barbecue hampers popular in the UK
  • Restaurant chains, butchers and celeb chefs are selling the boxes 
  • Options include boxes of burgers and steaks along with accompaniments
  • Harry put a number of different grilling hampers to the test 

As the temperatures rise, so do the sizzling smells from Britain’s back gardens. We are entering peak barbecue season, and with each passing year, home cooks become more adventurous.

No longer content with frozen burgers and limp sausages, many are now cooking spatchcock chickens, ribs of beef, or octopus over the coals, which helps to explain one of the hits of summer 2022: the barbecue box.

A number of restaurant chains, online butchers and celebrity chefs are selling boxes with the key ingredients you need for a great home barbecue.

The cheapest ones start at £30 or so and include not much more than a few burgers and a couple of steaks, but there are plenty of options costing more than £100, which come with side dishes, sauces, seasonings, tea towels and even Spotify playlists to accompany the meals.

Harry Wallop put some of the new outdoor grilling hampers to the test, to see which are tasty and which are damp squibs 

‘There are still a lot of sausages and burgers going on,’ says chef Jose Pizarro, who owns a number of upscale Spanish restaurants in London. ‘But many people are happy marinating their meat and cooking big joints on the barbecue; there has been a real explosion in people experimenting.’

He started selling meal kits during the first lockdown, but they have remained popular. ‘It’s now become a successful part of the business. If you live in the middle of Scotland, you can’t pop into one of my London restaurants, but you can order a barbecue box.’

This is true of Rick Stein, too. The TV cook runs a mini-empire of restaurants and shops in Padstow, Cornwall. But his food delivery boxes now make up more than 20 per cent of the business, allowing customers all over the UK to get a taste of Cornwall.

‘The boxes have been incredible,’ says Rick’s son, Jack, who is the chef director for the restaurants. ‘Supermarkets do a great job with pre-marinated meat, but sometimes people want that reassurance of a box with a chef’s name on the side. This is what Rick cooks when he’s having a barbecue. People like that seal of approval.’

He adds that the booming sales of egg-shaped grills called kamado ovens — Big Green Egg is the most famous brand — are proof that Brits are prepared to take their barbecuing to the next level. ‘We’re much more adventurous now. We have the best meat and fish in the world — why wouldn’t you stick it on the barbie?’

Why not, indeed. But which of the many boxes sizzle and which are damp squibs?

SPANISH SIZZLER

JP Spanish Barbecue Box (£109, shop.josepizarro.com)

At first glance, this looks like a huge price tag for a box that doesn’t contain all that much, and chef Jose Pizarro is being ridiculo. There is 0.46kg of one type of pork, 0.6kg of another type, two bags of suckling lamb cutlets — some as thin as a finger — and six cans of Estrella Damm beer.

But, gosh, what high-quality meat it is. The skinny chops were unbelievably moreish, while the Presa Iberica pork was melt-in-the-mouth tender. 4/5

FULL-ON FLAVOUR

Provenance Classic BBQ Box (£109, deliveries.provenancebutcher.com)

Harry says the provenance box’s best feature is the t-bone steak- a tender cut full of flavour to it 

Provenance, a small chain of butchers in London, delivers nationwide. In this box you get enough to feed at least eight hungry people, with leftovers for the next day. There’s steak, burgers, sausages, chicken and more.

The star attraction is the T-bone steak — a tender cut full of flavour. The Bute burgers have a great, rough-chop quality to them. 5/5

FRENCH FEAST

Cote At Home Luxury Barbecue Box (£79.95, coteathome.co.uk)

You certainly can’t fault Cote for the volume of food here. The French restaurant chain — which has gone into home delivery — says this should serve four, but it could stretch to eight.

You get beef, lamb, chicken, burgers and sausages. There’s even a tea towel, and a booklet which includes a ‘lovingly curated Spotify playlist’ featuring Serge Gainsbourg and Francoise Hardy.

The quality of the meat was a bit hit and miss. The cote de boeuf was succulent, but the burgers were tasteless and the Toulouse sausages tasted far more like merguez ones. 3/5

STEIN’S FINEST

Stein’s At Home Luxury Barbecue Box For Six To Eight (£165, shop.rickstein.com)

This is less of a barbecue box, more of an entire dinner party laid on by Rick Stein. And you pay for the privilege.

A bit of prep is required, though there are clear instructions and it’s great to have side salads, pudding — a really impressive strawberry cheesecake in individual portions — and even G&T cocktails (using Cornish gin) included. Disappointingly, considering it’s a Rick Stein creation, fish only makes a brief appearance as a starter: sea bass ceviche.

The main course features spatchcock chicken with a gorgeous tarragon butter and excellent thick-cut ribeye steaks (supplied by the Cornish butcher Philip Warren, whose meat is some of the best you can get in Britain).

A small niggle: the packaging needs some work. A few of the herbs and vegetables arrived a bit bashed. 5/5

STEAKS ARE HIGH

Farmison Premium BBQ Meat Box Beef (£50, farmison.com)

Farmison is an online butcher based in Yorkshire. A supplier to Harrods and Fortnum & Mason, it specialises in unusual cuts and meat you often can’t find in the supermarket.

Its range of barbecue boxes starts at just £30. This luxurious version is made up of burgers, steaks and bangers, but it’s a shame there’s no cooking guide or sauces included. Most of my family thought the beef and ale sausages were too strongly flavoured, though the flat iron heritage breed steaks were good. 3/5

ECO-FRIENDLY FARE

Ethical Butcher BBQ Box 2022 (£64.99, ethicalbutcher.co.uk)

Eating meat is bad for the planet and unethical, right? That’s the view of many environmentalists.

But Ethical Butcher’s beef comes from cattle that are only grass-fed, and from farms that are members of Pasture For Life, which is committed to putting more carbon back into the soil than animals release. The chickens are also not fed soy, as its cultivation can destroy rainforests.

So, you can tuck in guilt-free! My daughter thought the pork sausages were ‘scrumptious’ and the beef koftas were wonderfully rich.

You get enough meat to feed 12, along with some jerk seasoning and Rubies In The Rubble ketchup made from supermarket vegetables that would have been wasted. It’s a good-value box. 4/5

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