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Barbecue ideas

Updated: Mon, 19 July, 2021

It's this time of year again - we get out of the kitchens and into the gardens. The gas or charcoal arguments, tongs wielding chefs for a day - here's something to throw on the barbecue!

the perfect barbecue ideas

Barbecue ideas or barbecue recipes?

I’m not entirely sure what to call this post as there is much more than just one recipe in it. It’s my barbecue hack, barbecue template, fit both for big summer parties and weekend family grilling sessions. All you need to do is adjust the quantities.

It's worth making an effort

You may well think it’s all wrong and going to too much trouble when Tesco value burgers and sausages stuffed into buns or baps do very well thank you.

You may say there’s nothing like burnt burgers and undercooked sausages for a successful barbecue because it’s just a fun, outdoorsy thing and not fine dining. Undoubtedly – if the ratio of beer to food favours beer by far.

But we should eat decent food, whatever the occasion. It will be far more fun if what’s coming off the barbie is enjoyable.

beef porr lamb and chicken kebabs

What to barbecue?

I’ve thrown all sorts of food on the barbie in my time: shrimp kebabs, whole sweetcorn in husk (success), broad beans in their pods (failure), chicken and beef patties and steaks. We'd done chicken wings to death; went through the burger period and at times just barbecued bacon.

And I’ve found that good quality meat marinated beforehand, then threaded on skewers with chunks of vegetables is the most popular and the healthiest option, however good a shop-bought burger might taste after several pints.

What else to barbecue?

But my kebabs are not the end all of barbecues. You can’t beat a few crispy and sticky chicken wings! The barbecue basket will be a useful tool here, rather than skewering individual wings into a kebab.

barbecued chicken wings

And though I berated burgers above, it’s only the overprocessed, ready-made ones that are nutritionally hazardous. Nothing wrong with grilling beef burgers, lamb koftas or chicken burgers made from scratch.

It’s not just minced or chunked meat that can go on the rack: a bavette or rump steak slapped on the barbie whole, then sliced and tossed with a salad will be absolutely spectacular. Mexican style carne asada or bavette steak with Thai flavours are good options.

barbecued bavette steak

Vegetarian and vegan barbecue

The framework below still works a treat even if you skip the meat.  For vegetarians replace it with thick cubes of halloumi or scamorza. For vegans thread on marinated tofu, tempeh or seitan.

halloumi and vegetable skewers

You can also marinate portobello mushrooms in any of the marinade mixes below and use instead of meat. Skip the ordinary mushrooms in the veg selection in that case.

It’s a good idea to serve plenty pita bread or tortilla wraps if you’re having a veggie barbecue. A juicy veggie kebab sliding into a warm pita or soft tortilla – and who needs meat!

What to serve for starters and sides?

For starters - and it's a good tip, even though I'm not a fan personally - get some good quality sausages to test the grilling readiness with, and to appease the hungry crowd.

The best and easiest side dishes for a barbecue are: flatbreads or wraps, pickles and condiments, and masses of green salad.

If you’re worried some of the vegetarian guests might go hungry, make a gorgeous potato salad, with vegan mayo and yoghurt if appropriate.

spring potato salad

What’s the best dessert after a barbecue?

Ice cream! The one and only post-barbie dessert is ice cream, and it needn’t be homemade. But if you’d like to churn some yourself (or freeze a no-churn mix), I’m happy to oblige.

Which fuel to go for?

So you might be waiting with bated breath for my verdict on gas vs, charcoal - I'm sorry to disappoint.

I've used both and can't say which is better. Whatever works for you - it may even be the tiny disposable BBQ box that will cook you the most memorable meal ever!

mixed meat barbecue kebabs

And the final tip

Paper plates and throwaway platters, or even disposable bowls for ice cream served for afters, are perfectly all right. So limit your washing up to the cutlery as plastic is a no-no until they invent biodegradable forks.

Barbecue ideas

Servings: 6-8Time: 30 minutes plus marinating


  • 1 green, 1 red and 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 medium courgette
  • 1 medium aubergine
  • 2 onions
  • 2 firm peaches
  • 250g (8oz.) cup mushrooms
  • 3 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tbsp. dark soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • For the beef kebabs:
  • 60ml (¼ cup) light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp (2cm) fresh grated ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 1 tsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  •  ½ lime, juice only
  • 500g (18oz.) rump steaks
  • For the lamb kebabs:
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, lightly crushed
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp harissa paste
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ lemon, juice only
  • 400g (just under a pound) lamb neck fillets, two medium sized
  • For the pork kebabs:
  • 2 tsp smoked salt
  • 4 tbsp. hoisin sauce
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 500g (1 large) pork tenderloin fillet
  • 4 rashers of streaky bacon
  • For the chicken kebabs:
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 birdseye chilies
  • 2 tbsp. yoghurt or buttermilk
  • 4 chicken thighs, boneless and skinless
  • To serve:
  • pita bread
  • a large head of iceberg lettuce


1. The meat can be marinated well in advance, even the night before. Trim the excess fat, tendons and any unsightly bits from all the types of meat and cut into 3-5cm (1½ - 2 inch) chunks.

2. For the beef marinade, mix the soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sugar, pepper and lime juice in a bowl and toss the meat in it.

3. For the lamb, mix all the ingredients in another bowl, add the lamb chunks and turn to coat.

4. For the pork kebabs, mix the salt, hoisin sauce and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl, add the pork pieces and toss around to coat. Cut the bacon rashers into four each and keep separate.

5. For the chicken, pound the garlic and the chilies (with or without seeds, as desired) to a paste in a mortar and pestle. Stir into the yoghurt or buttermilk in a bowl, add the chicken pieces and turn to coat.

preparing barbecue

6. About half an hour to an hour before you aim to assemble the kebabs, prepare the vegetables: core the peppers and cut them into eights; you want the vegetable pieces to be similar size to the meat pieces. Halve the courgette lengthwise and cut across into 2 cm chunks. Quarter the aubergine lengthwise and cut into similar chunks, each with skin on if possible. Peel and thickly slice the onions. Stone and quarter the peaches. Trim stalks from the mushrooms and slice bigger ones in half.

7. Toss all the vegetable pieces with the maple syrup, balsamic, say sauce and oil in a large bowl. Prepare 10-12 long metal barbecue skewers or two dozen bamboo skewers soaked in cold water.

8. When the barbecue is lit, start threading the meat onto skewers, alternating each piece with a piece of assorted veg; reserve the peaches for the pork kebabs and thread them on with the bacon.

9. Unless you have masses of space on the bbq, warm up the pita bread in low oven. Tear the lettuce into pieces and place in a large bowl with a teaspoon of salt, a few grindings of pepper, a drizzle of honey, juice from half a lemon and a generous slug of olive oil. Toss and massage it with the seasoning using your hands.

10. When the barbecue is ready to go, place the kebabs on the grill, in batches if necessary. Turn them frequently; the beef will be first to come off, then the lamb, then pork and the chicken at the end when it’s well cooked; use a meat probe if you have one.

11. Serve with the pita bread, salad, pickles and sauces.

Originally published: Fri, 20 July, 2018

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