Which portable BBQ lights your fire for the May bank holiday?

Great grills on the go: It’s the May bank holiday. It’s sunny (ish). Time to break out the portable BBQ. So which one lights your fire?

  • Disposable BBQs cannot be recycled and take half a millennium to decompose
  • Because they often sit directly on the ground, they can cause fires too
  • There are a range of lightweight grills you can chuck in the boot of your car 
  • Not only do they limit waste, but they will also be stylish addition to your set-up 

Should you need a sign that lockdown is ending, then, like the first swallows of summer, the small rectangles of burnt grass provide proof.

Further evidence is to be found in and around the overflowing bins at beaches and beauty spots. The culprits? Disposable barbecues, of course.

Sold for as little as £2 at supermarkets and garages, they are fast becoming the scourge of the modern British summer.

Wrapped in a plastic film, the foil trays are filled with charcoal saturated in flammable liquid. Once used they cannot be recycled, and they can take half a millennium to decompose in landfill.

Exactly how many are sold is unclear, but with one supermarket chain offloading 300,000 in a year alone, the figure likely runs to the millions.

As well as blighting tourist attractions across the UK, they also pose a safety risk. On beaches some people are too lazy to dispose of them, instead leaving them buried in the sand, where children can step on them and damage their feet.

Tom Rawstorne (pictured) has shared six of the best portable BBQs for the May bank holiday, as disposable onestake half a millennium to decompose in landfill 

And because they often sit directly on the ground, they can cause fires, too. Last May, more than 150 firefighters tackled a devastating blaze at Wareham Forest in Dorset, which is believed to have been sparked by single-use barbecues. It destroyed some 550 acres of land and cost around £80,000 of taxpayers’ money.

As a result, councillors at Dorset Council are seeking approval to ban disposable barbecues in high-risk fire areas.

Brighton and Hove City Council is also consulting with residents about a ban. ‘There are some real problems with disposable barbecues that are used once and then thrown away,’ a council spokesman said.

‘Not only do they end up left as litter on our beautiful seafront, but they have also in the past caused fires in our waste-sorting site, and are often a serious hazard when thrown into general waste.’

This is a point echoed by Keep Britain Tidy which, with the support of the Daily Mail, is encouraging people to take part in the Great British Spring Clean 2021. The litter-picking event runs from May 28 to June 13 this year.

‘Disposable barbecues pose a significant risk to people and animals when they are thoughtlessly abandoned in our parks and on our beaches, as well as being a fire risk,’ said Richard McIlwain, the charity’s deputy chief executive.

‘They are difficult to dispose of safely as they can’t be put in a bin while they’re still hot, but they must never simply be left on the grass or in the sand.

‘Anyone choosing to have a barbecue must think about what they are going to do with it when they have finished. Simply walking away from it or even burying it in the sand is dangerous and selfish.

‘We would like to see people avoid these single-use items and look for alternatives that do not pose such a threat to us and our environment.’

And the truth is that there are plenty of alternatives to disposable barbecues. In fact, the range of lightweight grills that you can chuck in the boot of your car or easily carry is growing by the year. And not only do they limit waste, but they will also be a stylish addition to your picnic set-up.

As we prepare for a mild Bank Holiday Monday lounging in parks and gardens, we fire up six of the best . . .

LotusGrill Smokeless Charcoal BBQ, £150, lotusgrill.co.uk Weight: 3.7kg

NO SMOKE? I’M A FAN

LotusGrill Smokeless Charcoal BBQ, £150, lotusgrill.co.uk

Weight: 3.7kg

IT’S not just the litter that’s a black mark against beach barbecues — the cloud of smoke they give off is unlikely to endear you to your neighbours, either. But thanks to the award-winning LotusGrill’s built-in battery-powered fan, that’s one problem you won’t have to worry about any more.

Forcing air over a mesh cartridge of coals, the fan ensures this barbie reaches cooking temperature in less than five minutes. Then you simply turn the dial up or down to control the heat.

The double-skinned bowl stays cool on the outside, allowing you to manoeuvre the grill even when it’s hot. It’s an impressive bit of kit, and comes with a carry bag and USB cable, which you can use to power it.

And, rather than burning off on the coals, dripping fat from the cooked meat gathers in the inner bowl, which will require a thorough wipe down after every use.

Verdict: Speedy and stylish. 5/5

Valiant Portable Folding BBQ, £49.99, amazon.co.uk Weight: 3.3kg

BBQ MEANS BUSINESS

Valiant Portable Folding BBQ, £49.99, amazon.co.uk

Weight: 3.3kg

There Is something quite James Bond about setting up this little gadget which, when packed down, looks like a mini briefcase.

Upon arriving at your destination, you swing out its stand, open it up, fit the charcoal tray and then place the cooking grill on top.

It takes a bit of time to get going — you’ll need half an hour before the coals turn white — and then, as is the case with all these small barbecues, you have to keep the sausages and burgers moving around the grill to ensure they emerge cooked, not charred.

To clean, simply empty out the cooled coals and wipe any residue off the grill.

Verdict: Easy to both carry and set up. 3/5

Outwell Cazal Fire Pit, £50, cotswold outdoor.com Weight: 3kg

COSY UP BY THE COALS

Outwell Cazal Fire Pit, £50, cotswold outdoor.com

Weight: 3kg

The Cazal Fire Pit is, in essence, a table-top fire bowl. It’s something you could stick on an outside table to create the cosiness of an open fire — making it an ideal addition to all of those chilly outdoor reunions.

But it also comes with a grill that sits on top of the coals and turns it in to a barbecue. It lights easily enough and has a decent-sized cooking area.

While its three legs are hinged so that they can be folded away when not in use, it would be awkward to carry any distance.

But the upside is that once you’ve finished cooking, you can simply load it up with kindling and have a toasty campfire for the rest of the night.

Verdict: Versatile but cumbersome. I think it’s better for the garden than the beach. 2/5

Everdure Cube by Heston Blumenthal, £159, kettler.co.uk Weight: 7kg

ONE FOR PICNIC PROS

Everdure Cube by Heston Blumenthal, £159, kettler.co.uk

Weight: 7kg

With its sleek lines and mix of materials — the firebox is enamel and the lid is made of bamboo — this barbecue would be an aesthetically pleasing addition to any picnic.

But it is heavier than the rest, weighing in at 7kg, while the price of its equally stylish carry bag — £109 — is eye-watering.

Its relative heftiness is in part explained by a couple of useful chef-esque touches, including a removable storage box that clips on top of the grill. This could be used to transport your marinating meat, or plates and cutlery. Its lid doubles as a chopping board, too.

As for cooking on the Cube, the vented base ensures the charcoal lights quickly and evenly and the sturdy grill is surprisingly spacious.

The instructions suggest lining the base with silver foil for easy cleaning.

Verdict: Great for car-boot picnics, not mountain hikes. 3.5/5

Cobb Premier Air, £158.50, lakeland.co.uk Weight: 3.6kg

ECO PICK DOES IT ALL

Cobb Premier Air, £158.50, lakeland.co.uk

Weight: 3.6kg

Invented in Africa as an inexpensive, fuel-efficient cooking system that could be distributed as part of aid programmes across the globe, this ingenious barbecue can grill, fry, bake and even roast a whole chicken.

Easy to light, its controlled ventilation system keeps the small basket of charcoal in its base emitting heat for up to three hours. It comes with a carry bag, too.

The version I try has a non-stick griddle. Put on the domed lid and you can slow-cook larger joints of meat.

The fat from your cooked meat gathers in a moat below. This is fine, and better than burning off the coals, but a bit of a yucky faff to clean up.

Verdict: Eco-friendly option that delivers. 4.5/5

Uco Grilliput Flatpack Grill, £40.93, amazon.co.uk Weight: 1.5kg

BACKPACK BARBIE

Uco Grilliput Flatpack Grill, £40.93, amazon.co.uk

Weight: 1.5kg

The smallest, lightest and by far the most portable of all the barbecues I tried — in its carry bag this grill is the size and weight of a laptop.

Made of stainless steel, it unfolds easily, creating a V-shaped trough into which the charcoal is placed. The grill slots over the top, adding rigidity to the structure. Its legs raise it from the ground preventing grass scorch.

It’s easy to use, though I found it slow to light — but it was a very still day and the coals probably would have benefited from more air blowing through the ventilation holes. It’s also not difficult to clean.

Verdict: A simple grill that is perfect for backpacks. 3.5/5

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