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The Big K garden barbecue guide brings you the basics

A man’s garden barbecue is in full swing with flames rising off the grill and greenery all around

If we’re to flex our BBQ linguistics and examine the garden barbecue, we must start with the garden. A garden is a cornucopia of sensual pleasures. Colour, shape and aroma create a feast for the mind to devour. However you could argue that this is a slightly superficial interpretation. In other words a garden as aesthetic object is one thing, but the relationship between man and enclosure is something else. A bond alive with mystery and magic. This isn’t hyperbole. Think about it. Those carefree childhood days spent exploring a small cluster of bushes that became a deep dark forest in the imagination.  Then as we grow and mature, we notice the rhythm of the seasons. Buds blossom, petals burst open in a vibrant display, leaves fall on cold afternoons. In adulthood perhaps we take up the task of gardening ourselves, with all the patience, careful watchfulness, industry, thrift and trust that entails. Our connection to our little havens is unique, personal, our very own. An intimate collection of experiences nurtured over time. The garden barbecue is woven into this experiential tapestry. An event where nature, humanity, fire and nourishment meet halfway.


Can I have a barbecue in my garden?

Please excuse our slightly flowery introduction (pun sooooo intended). We got lost tapping into the essence of our inner Emily Brontë for a second. Sorry but we couldn’t help ourselves. The nostalgia, the beauty, the lazy summer afternoon sizzles…um we’re doing it again. The point is that the garden is a very special place and to us, the garden barbecue grill is a beautiful thing. It’s a chance to cook over heat and flame like our ancient ancestors, spend time with our nearest and dearest and of course, tuck into sumptuous delights surrounded by fresh air and nature. Even if you only have a small garden or just a tiny patio, you can’t tell us that a garden barbecue doesn’t stir some kind of feelings within.

Now back to our original question ‘Can I have a barbecue in my garden?’ the answer is a resounding yes. Much like cups of tea, voting and sarcasm, a garden barbecue is a human right in this great nation of ours. Before you go and fire up your garden barbecue grill in a fit of patriotic fever, hold the impulse for a moment. There are basic things that you need to know to ensure that your garden doesn’t turn into an incinerated memory. Plus there are your guests and neighbours to think about too. Hosting a garden barbecue isn’t exactly searching for the Higgs boson particle, but there’s a definite recipe for garden barbecue grill perfection. Read on you curious minds.

A vegetarian spread of salad and strawberries plus drinks sit on a table as the garden barbecue begins

Can you make barbecue in a London garden?

Before we get into the granular, we need to clear up a little misconception. Garden barbecues are perfectly fine in any London garden, provided you have sufficient space and don’t use your garden to house your prize collection of propane gas canisters, or any high quantities of flammable materials for that matter. Yes theoretically you can have a garden barbecue in any garden in London, just use some basic common sense is all we are asking. This may seem like fairly straightforward stuff. But as we said the misconception or confusion if you like, revolves around the notion of smoke control areas. Now, there are multiple smoke control areas throughout the UK. What this means is that there are certain areas where you cannot emit smoke from a chimney that is part of an external structure (such as a shed, house or conservatory) unless you burn specifically authorised fuels. Outdoor garden barbecues, chimneas, al fresco fireplaces, pizza ovens, bonfires and fire pits are all exempt from smoke control regulation, so you can use them no probs at all. Side notey note here – fire pits are legal as long as you follow the usage laws and regulations set up by your county. Glad that’s all cleared up. Let’s move on.


A garden barbecue is all about positioning and a little planning

At first glance it all seems pretty basic stuff. Garden, barbecue, grill, flames – done. But are things in life ever so clear-cut? If you take a step back into the strategic realm, the nuances come into play, dancing a merry jig in your cerebral chambers. With any garden barbecue there are multiple elements in the alchemist’s cauldron. We’re taking fire, flammable materials, hot food, guests and the natural environment of your garden to consider. No need to start playing mental Tetris, frantically figuring out which pieces go where to form the perfect garden barbecue configuration.  We’ll give you the main pointers you need to make everything gravy.


A sausage sandwich is being held up against a colourful garden barbecue backdrop.


Be mindful of your surroundings and what’s around you

As sexy as your garden barbecue grill is, remember it is in fact an open fire rather than just a flashy bit of kit. So it’s essential to be aware of your environment. Basically you need to place your garden barbecue on a flat surface far away from anything flammable. This includes low-lying trees, branches and hedges. You should always keep a safe distance between your barbecue and your home for obvious reasons. For example, don’t set up your garden barbecue grill near the back door, especially if you the kids are running about, one collision could lead to some serious trouble and tears, not to mention hot embers entering your home.


Being seen is being safe

Your garden barbecue grill must be visible at all times from as many places as possible. To put it another way, people inside the house must be able to see the barbecue, and people by the barbecue must be able to see into the house. This is achieved by finding direct lines of sight through doors and windows between both garden barbecue and house. Once this is done then anyone con monitor the barbecue from any location inside or outside. So if there’s any kind of problem, it can be seen, communicated between people and solved in a quick and safe manner. Yes yes safety always comes first, but also spare a thought for the chef. Some would say that they are the most important person at your garden barbecue after all. If the optimal visual sweet spot forces them to be stuck facing the corner of a fence or wall, then you may need to re think things a touch and be slightly flexible in your garden barbecue grill positioning.


Which way is the wind blowing?

99 out of 100 garden barbecuers (fine…this is a figure for rhetorical reasons) are looking for that smoky aroma to fuse with their food. This is what adds that genuine and authentic barbecue flavour. If you want to know the science of smokiness, check out this blog right here and level up your knowledge. The thing is, just as the smoke will penetrate your meat, it will also penetrate your hair and clothes as well as the nostrils of your neighbours and guests. This won’t bother most people but it might bother some so you need to be considerate when setting up your garden barbecue. As we all know, smoke blows down wind, so position your garden barbecue accordingly. Be aware of how close it is to doors, windows and balconies and ensure that the smoke isn’t getting blown on guests or the chef (though the latter grill trooper shouldn’t mind too much).


Shade versus sun

We think everyone should barbecue all year round. However the reality is that many people only unleash the BBQ beast when that gargantuan gaseous sphere is shining in the sky. Naturally this means that sunshine and grilling go hand and hand, which also means there are temperature related factors to consider. Do you really want to be standing next to a blazing grill soaked in your own juices as the sun pummels you over the head with a 30-degree truncheon? Probably not. So set up your garden barbecue in the shade, taking into account the movement of the sun. Basically you want some shady goodness for the majority of the day. Nature provides, so usually a nearby tree should provide the cover you need to keep cool and let your inner Chilla-Grilla (triple rhyme bonus) shine through. The natural shade from trees is ideal as trees ventilate quickly. But be sure to check that there are no low hanging branches or that Weeping Willow will be crying for real for real as she is torched.


A man having a garden barbecue lifts the lid off his grill to reveal succulent meats ready to eat


The distance between your home and your garden barbecue

We have already touched on the safety reasons behind this concept. Practical reasons enter the mix as well. If the distance between your home and your garden barbecue is tantamount to the trek across the Himalayas from Cusco to Machu Picchu then you could be in for spot of barbecue bother (unless you have a few spare sherpas to hand). You see as you’re checking your map on the way to get some more BBQ sauce, or those prep bowls of chopped veg, your steaks will be miles away carbonising a treat.  Our exaggeration is obvious but the kernel of truth is clear. There is a certain amount of toing and froing involved in using your garden barbecue so just make sure you don’t have to go long distances to fetch things. Despite a few extra burnt calories (that will be obliterated by those ribs you’re smoking) you will add stress to your situation and potentially affect your ability to master your grill timings.


Grills up. Flame on!

If you’re looking to fire up your barbecue in your ‘geard’ (that’s the Old English word for garden in case you thought we were having a verbal spasm of sorts) then you are in the right place. We have told you some fundamentals, but that’s only the strategy side of things. You’ll need all the tools of the garden barbecue trade as well. Lucky for you, as you are nestled all snug and safe in the hands of true experts in the barbecue industry. If you’re looking for professional or home charcoal  , grills, bbq accessories, even delicious recipes  – we’ve got you covered. Thanks to over 50 years in the charcoal and BBQ fields, we have the knowledge, expertise and passion to bring you high quality, high performance products that you can trust time after time.

So what are you waiting for? Now is the perfect time to hit the garden and grill up a storm.