Gas or Charcoal?

Every self-styled pit master in the land has an unshakeable opinion on this! Perhaps it’s a primeval thing… something to do with the time old fascination of fire!

I remember I was about 12 when my mum brought back our first charcoal BBQ from the local garden centre. This was in 1983! A tiny affair with two little detachable grills called a Hibachi, I think!

Precariously perching it on an upturned flowerpot, I spent hours trying to master the art of balancing Walls sausages and streaky bacon on a sloping grill over roaring flames. Needless-to-say, we usually ended up eating more carbon than meat. Finally, mum had to resort to precooking stuff in the oven for us to cook over the flames, so at least we had something to eat

That, my friends, is ONE reason why you should use gas. You can produce cooked food that is edible!

Reason number TWO is reliability. Some years later, further on the journey to becoming a self-appointed pit master, I decided to invite a gang of lads around my house for Saturday afternoon libations and char-grilled nosh.

Sadly, there were too many of us, the BBQ was too small, and the libations flowed rather too well! The coals couldn’t handle the food and burnt out quicker than I thought they would, so we ended up eating hours later than planned, having had to cook all the stuff in the oven and woke up the next day with screaming hangovers. Sound familiar?

So, the upshot is that if you want reliability and Kitchen-style consistency - just that this kitchen happens to be on the patio - then grab yourself a gas fired beast.

I used to have one, but the cost of children has put paid to splashing out on a new one. But in summers gone by, I cooked almost every dinner on it when it was not raining….so precisely 9 times!

Just crank the knob and wait a few minutes for the grill to warm up and you are good to go.

There is a school of thought that claims coal BBQing provides a more interesting smoky culinary experience.

That’s true to some extent and cooking over coals involves concepts such as direct and indirect cooking, but I digress. The main reason us Brits like to cook on coals is the same reason why the UK is the largest market for convertible cars in the world. When we get some decent weather we REALLY go to town.

Can you imagine going through the whole faff of lighting a coal BBQ, even twice a week? No way José!

Results on charcoal can be sublime: tender chunks of meat or fish with delicate hints of smokiness. What’s not to like?? Then once those hunks of meat are safely housed in your stomach, you can grill some marshmallows on the dying embers. Or better still, as my mate Marios does, take a banana, slice down the middle, stuff with chocolate buttons, wrap in silver foil and toss on the grill for 5 to 10 minutes each side depending on how hot the coals are. Consume with gusto and noises of contentment. Great with some port.

Check out for some hardcore charcoal action.

So whaddaya gonna drink with all this yummy stuff?

Let’s start with the lighter more delicate stuff like grilled fish, shellfish and vegetables.

Germany wouldn’t be many people’s first choice to look for wine, but Martin Tesch’s wines are different. Back in the ‘90s, Martin stopped being a microbiologist and did what his father wanted him to do. Run the winery.

What his father did NOT want him to do was change the whole direction of the winery! After all, the family had been doing the same bloody thing, thank you very much, for 16 generations and it kinda seemed to work.

But Martin thought NEIN! He believed that dry styles of wine best showed of the unique sense of place of his vineyards, many of which have been under constant cultivation since the time of the Romans. That’s Martin! Take a thousand years of tradition, habit and accumulated knowledge…and say B*LLOCKS!

Queen of Whites is a delightful delicate Riesling with flavours of apples and pears and a hint of citrus. On the palate, a racy, crisp acidity with sensible alcohol levels. For me, a plate of Shell-on prawns grilled brusquely are a perfect match, although salmon and whole trout would work a dream.

It’s a fab choice with grilled asparagus too!

Try this - Take a food storage bag chuck in a clove of minced garlic, zest of half a lemon, juice of half a lemon pinch of both salt and pepper, couple of glugs of olive oil. Throw in a bundle of asparagus and make sure the marinade coats the spears nicely then grill over a medium heat for a couple of minutes until they start to soften and char a little. Serve with a drizzle of Planeta Olive Oil.

For those of you that are more focused on the hefty foods available from the BBQ such as hamburgers, steaks, chops and ribs, try out Estacion 1883 Malbec from the Mendoza Valley in Argentina. Plenty of intense dark berry fruit aromas and flavours. Gentle tannins (dryness), accompanied by wisps of smokiness and lively acidity helps to deliver the best match for most things coming of the grill, whether it be gas- or charcoal-fired.

If you’re less of a Carnivore and more about the socialising (suitably distanced) and enjoying the liquid stuff, then pitch in for a rosé. We have fruitier as well as dryer styles. My choice would be one made by a couple of Aussie dudes called Not Your Grandma's Rosé.

Happy BBQ season everyone!