BIG GREEN EGG MINIMAX
Smoke-induced blindness, questionable chicken and overcooked sausages are the hallmarks of a British barbecue. Thankfully, the Big Green Egg is here to save us from all three.
The design itself is nothing new. It’s based on a traditional Japanese kamado oven. Where the Big Green Egg gets interesting is in its use of materials. It’s built out of a space-age ceramic, first developed by NASA to protect its Space Shuttle from the extreme temperatures generated punching through Earth’s atmosphere. This means two things: coals last longer since the ceramic readily retains the heat and, I’m told, you can cook when the mercury drops to -34°C, so even Inuits can have a barbie.
Ultimately, the real benefit is control. With two small vents – one at the base and one at the top – and a thermometer, the heat is easy to adjust, whether you’re after a low and slow 100°C for smoking or a furious 700°C for crisping up a pizza. Tinkering with the vents and getting the right amount of coal, takes time at first, but once you’ve reached your target temperature it stays there – which is why so many top chefs favour the Big Green Egg.
Inside, you can cook on a ‘plate-setter’ platform or directly on the grill. The former safeguards your food from the direct heat from the coals, allowing hot air to infuse the meat and veg with smoke while cooking it evenly. If you do want a bit of charring, meat can be finished on the grill. The results are hard to fault, which is a relief given the huge outlay. But considering the sturdy build, we’d venture to say that the Big Green Egg could last a lifetime.
Don’t be fooled by the Minimax moniker, this Big Green Egg is back-strainingly heavy and voluminous enough to fit a whole chicken. Meanwhile, the largest model comes in at 213kg, and can fit a whole suckling pig for when you presumably have a medieval banquet to prepare for.
Admittedly not many barbecues end up with you needing to drink water from a pond, but this water bottle is so smart we couldn’t resist. The LifeStraw Go has a two-stage filtration process for your water. The first is a porous fibre membrane with holes so small that bugs and bacteria can’t get through, which is 99.9999 per cent effective. Then, a carbon capsule absorbs any compounds that might make the water taste or smell a bit funky.
€42.95 (£36 approx), lifestraw.com
The ghetto blaster is back, bigger and badder than ever before, and now with Bluetooth and a 14-hour battery life. The Braven BRV-XXL’s tough casing means it can withstand falls, sand and even the rain that will almost inevitably ruin your barbecue. Compared to other outdoor Bluetooth speakers at this price, it offers some of the best audio quality we’ve heard, with a thumping bass. Not a surprise given how much of a workout it was to lug around.
$349.99 (£270 approx), braven.com
Although the Looftlighter sounds like a product you might use in the loo, this piece of kit will kindle your inner pyromaniac. It blasts out a jet of air at 650°C, so when you place it by a pile of coal, it’ll glow and crackle in under 60 seconds. We were sceptical, but it’s the only way we know of to heat a barbecue to cooking temperature in under five minutes.
PRAKTI ROCKET STOVE
This humble charcoal burner has been dotted along the kerbs of India’s bustling cities for years, powering their love of street food. Now it’s selling out in the UK. It might look low-tech compared to some of the other gadgets we see on sciencefocus.com, but its pared-down design is a masterclass in efficiency.
We used the ‘rocket stove’ version that burns charcoal, but it also comes as a woodburner. Simply pop a handful of coals in the top and a firelighter on the shelf below, and within 15 minutes you’ll have a workable stove/barbecue, regardless of how much bluster the British summer throws at you. The top supports a grill, a pan or a kettle if you’re camping, and it’s so efficient that a shopping bag of coal will last a week.
PELI 20Q COOLER CASE
A veteran of American summer barbecues – where it’s certified as bear resistant – the Peli Cooler is coming to the UK. With a raised floor to allow airflow beneath and 5cm-thick polyurethane insulation, the cooler will keep ice frozen for 10 days. And after a two-week-long meat fest, there’s a valve in the base for pouring out water.
GRILLBOT ROBOTIC CLEANER
There are few tasks in life that aren’t made more fun by involving a robot. This small, noisy bot has three wire brushes that spin furiously as it runs laps around your grill, using the lid as a guide. Before shutting the Grillbot in – it will just fall off if you don’t – you tap a button to set it to clean for 10, 20 or 30 minutes. The clean was usable but not sparkling – the emphasis here on novelty over utility.
$129.95 (£99 approx), grillbots.com
LUMIFY 100 LEDS
Most British barbecues end up in the dark, so these solar-powered lights are perfect for sprucing up the backyard without too many wires. While most solar-powered lights struggle to compete with anything plugged in to the mains, these LEDs stand out. Plus, there’s the option to charge via USB for when the weather doesn’t play ball.
SOLSOURCE SOLAR STOVE
If all this fire and ash is a bit Stone Age for your liking, then here’s a more fitting device for the future. The SolSource harnesses the Sun’s rays with a reflective dish that focuses beams onto the underside of a grill. It’ll provide 300°C of heat, which is adjusted by moving the mirrors. One for the eternal optimist.
$499 (£384 approx), oneearthdesigns.com
UUNI 2S WOOD-FIRE OVEN
For the hungry individual, the sight and smell of a wood-fired pizza oven on a dusky summer evening is a magical thing – but who’s got the time to build one from scratch? Uuni’s lightweight, portable oven took just 20 minutes to put together, even with our notorious sausage fingers.
Uuni’s own wood pellets feed into the back and a blowtorch or some lighter fluid will get the temperature in the oven climbing to 500°C within 10 minutes. The fuel is topped up via a hopper at the back, so it’s easy to keep the oven running all evening.
The blistering heat takes just two minutes to transform a pale and doughy base into a crispy, golden pizza, though you’ll need to turn it after 60 seconds for an even cook. The Uuni comes with a ‘peel’ for sliding the pizza in and out without singeing your fingers. Clean up and packing is a breeze too, since the pellets burn cleanly and the legs fold neatly away.