Let Rick Stein grill! HARRY WALLOP tests outdoor grill baskets

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As temperatures rise, so do the sizzling smells from Britain’s back gardens. We’re entering BBQ season and every year home cooks get more adventurous.

No longer content with frozen burgers and limp sausages, many are now cooking spatchcock chicken, beef ribs or squid over the coals, explaining one of the hits of summer 2022: the grill box.

A number of chain restaurants, online butchers and celebrity chefs sell boxes of the essential ingredients you need for a great BBQ at home.

The cheapest start at around £30 and don’t include much more than a couple of burgers and a couple of steaks, but there are plenty of options costing upwards of £100 that come with sides, sauces, condiments, tea towels and even Spotify playlists at meals.

Harry Wallop tested some of the new outdoor grill baskets to see which ones are tasty and which ones are soggy squibs

“There’s still a lot of sausages and burgers,” says chef Jose Pizarro, who owns a number of upscale Spanish restaurants in London. “But a lot of people like to marinate their meat and cook big roasts on the grill; There’s been an explosion of people experimenting.’

He started selling meal kits during the first lockdown, but they remain popular. “It has now become a successful part of the business. If you live in the middle of Scotland you can’t go to one of my London restaurants but you can order a grill box.’

This also applies to Rick Stein. The TV chef runs a mini-empire of restaurants and shops in Padstow, Cornwall. But its food delivery boxes now account for more than 20 per cent of its business, allowing customers across the UK to get a taste of Cornwall.

“The boxes were amazing,” says Rick’s son Jack, the restaurants executive chef. “Supermarkets do a great job with pre-marinated meats, but sometimes people want the security of a box with the chef’s name on the side. This is what Rick cooks when he grills. People like this seal of approval.”

He adds that booming sales of egg-shaped grills called Kamado ovens – Big Green Egg being the most well-known brand – are proof that Brits are ready to take their grilling to the next level. “We are much more adventurous now. We have the best meat and fish in the world – why don’t you stick it on the barbie?”

Why not. But which of the many boxes are sizzling and which are wet squibs?

SPANISH SIZZLER

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

At first glance, that looks like a huge price tag for a box that doesn’t contain all that much, and chef Jose Pizarro is ridiculed. There’s 1 lb of one type of pork, 1 lb of another type, two bags of suckling pig chops – some as thin as a finger – and six cans of Estrella Damm beer.

But, my goodness, what quality meat. The lean chops were incredibly flavorful, while the Presa Iberica pork melted in your mouth. 4/5

FULL OF TASTE

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

Harry says the best thing about the provenance box is the T-bone steak - a tender cut packed with flavor

Harry says the best thing about the provenance box is the T-bone steak – a tender cut packed with flavor

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 are steaks, burgers, sausage, chicken and more.

The main attraction is the T-bone steak – a tender cut packed with flavor. The Bute burgers are great chunky quality. 5/5

FRENCH FESTIVAL

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

You certainly can’t fault Cote for the amount of food here. The French restaurant chain, which has jumped 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 with a “lovingly curated Spotify playlist” featuring Serge Gainsbourg and Francoise Hardy.

The quality of the meat was hit and miss. The cote de boeuf was juicy but the burgers were tasteless and the Toulouse sausages tasted much more like merguez. 3/5

STONE’S FINEST

Stein’s At Home luxury grill box for six to eight (£165, shop.rickstein.com)

This is less of a grill box and more of an entire dinner party hosted by Rick Stein. And you pay for the privilege.

A bit of prep is required, although there are clear directions and it’s great to have side salads, pudding – a seriously impressive strawberry cheesecake in individual portions – and even G&T cocktails (made with Cornish gin). Disappointingly, considering it’s a Rick Stein creation, fish makes only a brief appearance as an appetizer: sea bass ceviche.

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

Small drawback: The packaging still needs to be worked on. A few of the herbs and veggies arrived a bit smashed. 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 specializes in unusual cuts and meats that you often won’t find in the supermarket.

The range of grill boxes starts at just £30. This luxe version features burgers, steaks and sausages, but it’s a shame no cooking instructions or sauces are included. Most of my family members found the beef and beer sausages over seasoned, although the Flat Iron Heritage Breed Steaks were good. 3/5

ECO-FRIENDLY TARIFF

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

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

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

So you can strike without feeling guilty! My daughter found the pork sausages “yummy” and the beef koftas wonderfully rich.

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

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