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Andy Richardson: Time to pour water on the thought of another BBQ

Fancy it? A nice hot burger, smothered in relish and pickles, covered in melted cheese. A cold beer in one hand, a triple-stacked cheeseburger in the other. What’s not to like?

I have barbecued twice. Both times it has ended in disaster.
I have barbecued twice. Both times it has ended in disaster.

The papers say it’s going to be hotter than the Med though the papers are probably exaggerating.

Their confident prediction of 23C is, on closer inspection, a just-about-mild-enough-for-a-sweatshirt 18C – and if the Med’s only 18C you may as well cancel your Spanish holiday, stay in the UK and spend your money on central heating.

Then again, perhaps spending £30 on a flight to Spain is now really cheaper than turning on the gas in post-price-cap Blighty.

The way things have been going, it may well be true that it’s cheaper to fly somewhere warm than it is to turn on the heating.

We’re halfway between spring and summer – does that make it sprummer? – and those who ought to know better are locking into some deep-seated need to revert to hunter-gatherer mode.

And in the case of fellas who have got a two-day pass from the office/factory/warehouse, that means buying a load of fuel-soaked coal and sparking the instant barbecue. Because there’s nothing better than a burned burger that tastes of super unleaded and is uncooked in the middle.

You know the sort of thing. It’s the burger that’s likely to lead to a late-night trip to the bathroom or, more likely, two phone calls on Monday morning: one to the boss to apologise for your absence from work and another to the doctor to see if they’ve got anything that will restore your stomach.

As we head towards barbecue season I like to remind myself of my own, personal, golden rule of barbecue. It is this. Don’t do it. I have barbecued twice. Both times it has ended in disaster.

The only sane way to barbecue if you’re a bloke with zero skill of cooking over fire is to buy the damn stuff.

Disaster One involved a bloke called Steve. We were mates at sixth form and we’d bumped into one another after an absence of 10 years.

We reminisced about drinking our bodyweight in bitter during our late teens and early twenties before agreeing to hook up at mine for a barbecue. I bought the obligatory supermarket cook-and-throw version, rather than spending a few quid on something that might a) work, and b) not season the food with eau de petrol.

We opened a few beers – or, rather, Steve did – as his wife and two kids expressed their joy at meeting one of his old school friends.

Tall tales were told as the obligatory meat-based treats were thrown on the barbecue.

None of us were expecting the barbecue to blow up. So when Steve’s kids were showered with ash – and, if I remember it correctly, three sausages and an overcooked burger – we were equally surprised. I can’t remember whether there were tears, though thankfully there were no hospital visits.

But we all learned a lesson that day, which is this: placing a barbecue directly onto garden slabs causes the slabs to blow up. It’s something to do with superheat and the escape of pressure from cement. Who knew?

I waited around 20 years to resume my barbecue career – and did so indoors at the next time of asking.

I know; barbecue and indoors are two words that don’t belong in the same sentence or, indeed, same language. But where there’s an idiot, there’s a way.

You see, I’d seen my chef mates barbecuing meat before sending it out in their swanky Michelin starred restaurants.

And as a subscriber to the philosophy ‘monkey see, monkey do’ I’d taken it upon myself to light my swanky, no-supermarket-tat-here barbecue and give it a go.

Now, here’s the thing. My swanky mates who cook for a living have something called extraction. All the smoke and odours go through a pipe into the great outdoors. What I found when lighting a barbecue without extraction is this: it fills the room with smoke.

So, after nearly destroying an old mate’s kids and then treating She Who Must Be Obeyed to an evening of smoke inhalation, rather than well-cooked nosh, I’ve decided to give this year’s barbecue season a miss. I understand the fire service and ambulance service are equally thrilled.

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