The tradition of man cooking meat over the fire dates back millennia. But while barbecuing still brings out our inner caveman, the equipment has moved on, with all manner of high-tech baby gadgets for dads to help you grill, sear and sizzle to perfection.
And with the sun due to return for Father’s Day tomorrow (and restaurants still shut), it’s time to upgrade.
From a barbecue you control with your phone, to a robot that cleans the grill, TANITH CAREY tries gadgets for dads who want to be true barbecue kings…
Ready to cook in just 4 minutes
Berndes portable fan-assisted smokeless barbecue grill, £59 (This makes barbecuing in the park an absolute picnic. It is circular, with a chamber for your charcoal in the middle, which you ignite with lighter fuel.
The secret, however, is the battery-operated fan, which helps it reach the right temperature for cooking within just four minutes.
It’s big enough to cook food for four people and even comes in its own bag.
Tanith Carey is pictured with the Berndes portable fan-assisted smokeless barbecue grill. She writes: ‘This makes barbecuing in the park an absolute picnic’
Great for grill friends
King of Fire barbecue, £5,000 (
King of Fire barbecue
The barbecue was one of the last bastions of male mastery. But in these days of sexual equality, barbecues are now being designed to be more egalitarian, in a way…
The King of Fire is based on the new concept of ‘social grilling’. Instead of being the domain of one person, this barbecue is designed so everyone can stand in a circle and cook their own food on the rim around the specially ventilated fire chamber in the centre
And at 100cm tall and 100cm across, and made of 185kg of premium-grade stainless steel and brass, it’s a sleekly designed garden feature, too.
The best part is that when I tried it with my husband and some (socially distanced) guests, we could all chat while cooking our own food just the way we liked it.
All in all, this is a breakthrough that could make barbecuing a much more inclusive occasion — though at £5,000 a pop, it’s not cheap.
BHQ 932°f extreme heat-resistant BBQ gloves
Never be burnt again
BHQ 932°f extreme heat-resistant BBQ gloves, £10.98 (Whether it’s prodding the charcoal or getting food that’s fallen into the flames, tongs aren’t usually enough to save you from risking a nasty burn or a splash of fat.
That’s where these — made of heat-resistant silicone — come in useful. They promise to be so heat-resistant that my hands will be able to endure 100c for 60 to 70 seconds or 500c (932f) for up 15 seconds.
Indeed, when I put my hand right into the glowing charcoals, I felt nothing, though I could tell from my wrists — which weren’t covered — how scorching it really was.
Wand-erful to light
Looftlighter hot air barbecue lighter £55 (Getting the flames going can be frustrating. But this impressive 18in gizmo works by sending a steady 600c stream of air directly onto your charcoal.
Within a minute, sparks started to fly. A minute later, they were glowing hot. It even has a bottle opener at its base — but it does need to be plugged in.
Looftlighter hot air barbecue lighter
Robot scrubs up well
Grillbot grill cleaner, £114 (After the feast comes the pain of scrubbing burnt-on grease from the grill. This is the barbecue equivalent to the Roomba floor-cleaning robot.
Eight inches wide, the circular device has three rotating wire brushes. But it only works on barbecues with lids you can close — it will fall off the edge of an open grill.
I set it to work on my grime-encrusted grill for 20 minutes. The loud clattering as it zoomed up and down inside would put a dampener on a quiet chat.
When the alarm went off the grill was clean, though it still needed a bit of manual labour to remove bits that had fallen down the middle.
I then popped the robot’s brushes in the dish-washer for next time. Not cheap, but certainly more fun than scrubbing the grill myself.
The Grillbot grill cleaner is pictured above
Fire up the barbie, Alexa
Traeger Ironwood D2 650 pellet grill
Traeger Ironwood D2 650 pellet grill, £1,399 (One attraction of barbecuing is it feels like getting back to nature.
Ironic, then, that you can now connect your barbecue to your phone to check the temperature at which it’s cooking.
Some versions of the new Traeger can even be controlled viayour smart home device, so saying ‘Alexa, set the temperature on the grill to 175 degrees’ will be enough to get this barbecue — which runs on wood pellets — fired up.
You can also check food temperatures, set timers and shut down the grill on your phone once cooking is done.
All very efficient, but it’s a long way from the original primal experience.
Smoking gun lacks bite
The Sage Smoking Gun, £70 (The idea is to place little wood chips, flavoured with hickory or apple, in the chamber on the gun, then spray the smoke that comes out onto your food.
I’d say it was more for subtle finishing touches than adding much flavour during cooking.
Perfectly done- using a phone
Meater phone app, £79 (This wireless thermometer helps you avoid burnt offerings by telling you exactly when your food is perfectly cooked.
It’s a 5in steel probe with sensors linked to a phone app — which can estimate cooking time. It sent me an alert when my burger was perfectly cooked through.
Though the Meater is expensive, it could save money in the long-run — you’d never have to throw away a burnt-to-a-crisp steak again.
Corking way to make wine ice-cold
ChillCore wine cooler, £19.99 (The re’s not much more refreshing than an ice-cold drink at a barbecue. But traipsing in and out with bottles is a pain.
That’s where the ChillCore comes in. It’s a long narrow rod filled with a special gel that you freeze for four hours.
Then you just slip it into an opened bottle where it acts as a spout and a seal.
It can make wine ice-cold within 15 minutes and lasts for up to two hours. We tried it on a lukewarm bottle of rosé and it worked a treat.
Outdoor oven with built in disco
Napoleon Prestige Pro 500 RSIB, £2,799.99 (This has to be the Big Daddy of barbecues. With four main burners – and two more infra-red ones on the rear and side- this will cook up to 30 burgers at a time. Plus it burns on propane, so there’s no messing about.
In fact it’s more like having an outdoor oven. Don’t worry about leaving it in the rain either- this industrial looking model is made from stainless steel so it won’t corrode.
It lights up like a disco too as there’s a knob too that controls the built-in lighting to any shade you want. But give yourself plenty of time to set it up. It took us five hours and numerous viewings of instructional You Tube video to assemble.
BBQ Gun bellows, £6 (More proof that barbecues are the perfect excuse for boys’ toys. Squeeze the trigger to blow air onto your coals, like a bellows.
But the result is more of a light breeze than a cold blast, and barely creates a flicker.
PS. But if you want to get back to basics
Eco-grill disposable barbecues, £11.90 (When people headed to parks and beaches in the sunny weather as lockdown eased, many left behind so-called disposable barbecues.
Well, this biodegradable wooden eco-grill completely self-destructs. Made of hollowed-out beech tree trunk, with charcoal in it, this keeps a fire going for up to two-and-a-half hours before being reduced to ashes.
Eco-grill disposable barbecues