Barbecue season is sadly quite short-lived in the UK, so to ensure you’re making the most out of every sunny day, we’ve rounded up our favourite books for cooking over flames.
Proving there’s so much more to a great barbecue than lacklustre meat, this selection took us on a journey around the globe, injecting each meal with bold, exciting flavours from as near and far as the Middle East, the American Midwest, Korea and a whole host of other cuisines along the way.
Barbecuing needn’t be saved for the dedicated meat-eater though, these cookbooks made us totally rethink the way we grill, showing us new ways with veggies and fish, as well as even desserts and cocktails.
Whether you prefer to smoke, grill or slow-cook, most books start with an intro on how to get the most out of your barbecue – whether you cook with charcoal, wood chips or gas – or you could skip straight to the recipes if you’re already a whizz around the grill.
Rather helpfully, a number of these books also provided instructions on how to cook indoors, allowing you to use the book all year round.
When putting these books the test, we were looking for easy to follow instructions, beautiful photography and easy to source ingredients.
We tried out at least two recipes from each book, to ensure they worked perfectly under fire.
So treat your guests this summer and brush up on your BBQ recipes with this selection of our favourite outdoor cookbooks.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
‘Fire & Smoke’ by Rich Harris, published by Kyle Books: £14.13, Waterstones
Inspired by his travels and experience working with some of the world’s best chefs on numerous TV shows (there’s a quote from Heston Blumenthal himself on the front), Rich Harris opens up with a chapter on crowd-pleasers including the mouthwatering dry-rubbed sirloin of beef with burnt onions. In the hand-held section, we were treated to everything from chilli beef burgers through to lamb sheesh kebabs with pickled red cabbage and chipotle steak tacos with guacamole as well as pork banh mi.
We enjoyed that although everything was designed to be cooked on a BBQ, recipes are inspired from around the globe and rather than focusing on simple slabs of meat, recipes include instructions for every component of the dish – including marinades, dipping sauces and any accompanying veg it should be served with.
Perhaps our favourite chapter was From The Sea, which includes treats such as tandoori sea bream, lobster rolls and Galician octopus. Photography is beautiful throughout, ending with chapters on cocktails, desserts (toasted marshmallow ice-cream anyone?) and brunch dishes including our favourite, smoked pork beans on toast.
‘Charred’ by Genevieve Taylor, published by Quadrille: £9.54, Amazon
Veggies so often get a raw deal when it comes to barbecues. But with an ever-rising number of people choosing to shun meat, it seems silly that they should never get anything more exciting than a plate of halloumi or a dry veggie burger.
Charred is an absolute treat of a book. Each and every recipe is suitable for vegetarians, making us completely rethink what it means to be a veggie during BBQ season. From the multitude of kebabs – Moroccan spiced aubergine and tomato with minted yoghurt dressing – to the low, slow and smoked parmesan parsnips with fennel butter and hazelnuts, there wasn’t a dish we didn’t fancy trying.
Instead of one token veggie burger, there’s an entire chapter, suggesting the likes of a white bean, grilled pepper mozzarella burger with fresh tomato relish that will have your meat-eating mates wanting in on the action. There are more than 70 recipes, all of which come with a photo and a helpful key that tells you how a recipe can be cooked – barbecue, griddle pan, frying pan or in the oven – which gives this book real longevity.
‘The Barbecue’ by Alex Hamilton, published by Harper Collins: £14.99, Harper Collins
This clever little cookbook takes the BBQ foundations – think burgers, steak, chicken and ribs among others – and provides multiple marinades, salsas and salads to serve alongside them.
Veggies and fish are given their own chapters so we didn’t feel the book was too heavily weighted towards meat, which made for a refreshing change.
In place of starters, there’s a section on skewers, which we’d happily serve to our guests before the main course. There’s even a BBQ dessert section that features griddled fruits and more chocolatey options too. If you’re not sure how best to put everything together, the book finishes with a suggested combination of dishes to make the ultimate steak dinner or taco feast. In short, it really felt there was something for everyone without anything being overly complicated to prepare.
‘The Burger Book’ by Christian Stevenson aka DJ BBQ, published by Quadrille: £6.82 Amazon
This little book of burgers talks you through every element of what makes an exceptional burger. From the cuts of beef to the perfect burger bun, internal meat temperatures to the perfect grill set up, there’s not a meaty stone left unturned.
Written by Christian Stevenson aka DJ BBQ, a former radio DJ and TV presenter, showstoppers include the Sunday roast chicken burger, through to his namesake burger containing a blend of four different cuts of meat, along with a dose of bone marrow for good measure. The book predominantly features beef burgers with a handful of fish thrown in for good measure such as the grilled Indian lobster roll. However, rather helpfully, every recipe has cooking instructions for both the barbecue and an indoor option, which means this book will be useful all year round.
‘Berber & Q’ by Josh Katz, published by Ebury: £25, Waterstones
Having worked under Ottolenghi, Josh went on to open the supremely popular Berber & Q restaurant in east London, loved for its Middle Eastern-inspired dishes, cooked over charcoal. This book features a selection of some of the restaurant’s most popular dishes – such as his infamous cauliflower shawarma – with 120 recipes in total. There’s advice on choosing the right BBQ for you, how to select the best cuts of meat and a whole heap of veggie recipes to boot. We haven’t stopped making the green tahini, which is good with just about everything barbecued. Boring burgers, be gone!
‘Grillstock: The BBQ Book’ by Jon Finch and Ben Merrington, published by Little Brown Book: £14.99, WHSmith
Responsible for bringing competition barbecue to the UK, Jon and Ben dreamt up Grillstock back in 2009 and the rest is history. This book is a culmination of recipes from some of the teams that have competed over the years, as well as their own tips, tricks and recipes to turn you into a barbecuing ninja.
There’s a big emphasis on pork, from how to flavour your own bacon, to more unusual cuts like pig cheeks, as well as how to cook huge cuts of meat such as their backyard-style porchetta that will serve up to 16 people. If hanging out with your mates, cooking meat over fire and drinking beer appeals, so will this book.
‘Ray Lampe’s Big Green Egg Cookbook’ by Ray ‘Dr BBQ’ Lampe, published by Andrews McMeel: £16.99, Amazon
The Big Green Egg, a ceramic charcoal kamado grill, has become popular among Michelin star chefs or serious at-home foodies. This book explains how to get the most out of your machine with detailed instructions on lighting, cooking and temperature control.
Once you’ve mastered that, it moves onto recipes, all of which have American measurements, such as cups and pounds. Dr BBQ will take you through grilling (try the swordfish tacos), smoking (where we tried chunky chilli con carne) and even baking, where you’ll try your hand at pizzas. A good option for fans of American cuisine, looking to get the most out of their Big Green Egg.
‘Pitmaster’ by Andy Husbands and Chris Hart, published by Fair Winds Press: £16.99, Amazon
A collection of recipes shining a light on the regional specialities found across America, interspersed with “guest pitmasters” who offer their pearls of wisdom. The show-stopping Memphis-style dry rub baby back ribs are bound to impress guests, but it’s not all about huge hunks of meat. Sides include good ol’ macaroni and cheese or Jake’s cowboy beans. This is as much a book for the recipes as the competition barbecue tales told in-between.
‘Korean BBQ’ by Bill Kim, published by Ten Speed Press: £14.49, Amazon
Born in Korea but raised in the American Midwest, Bill Kim (an award-winning restaurateur), shares his journey of arriving in America and his struggles to fit in as a kid. It was this merging of cultures that shaped the delicious recipes found in this book. Starting with seven fundamental Korean sauces and rubs, the book moves onto BBQ meats, fish and all the little snacks and salads that would make up a traditional Korean table. Ingredients may be a little harder to source than most, but once you’ve got over that hurdle, you’ll be rustling up gochujang salmon with grilled romaine, feta and nuoc cham in no time thanks to the easy to follow recipes.
‘Weber’s Complete BBQ Book’ by Jamie Purviance, published by Hamlyn: £14.19, Amazon
Although this book may look a little dated, we’ve included it for the useful step-by-step how-to photo guides to all things BBQ. Chapters cover everything from “Five things you need to know about barbecuing burgers” through to “How to barbecue tofu”, with more than 150 recipes in total. The book begins with a very thorough introduction, which will explain all the barbecue basics, whether you’re cooking on coals or gas, followed by must-have tools and cooking on different heats.
The verdict: BBQ cookbooks
We love the purely vegetarian cookbook, Charred, but for something offering a good balance between meat and veggie dishes, Fire & Smoke is a simple to follow option, covering a delicious array of cuisines from around the world, complemented with beautiful photography. We’re also big fans of the Middle Eastern flavours found in Berber & Q’s cookbook.