All the best barbecue recipes including traditional burgers and oven-baked fish from MasterChef star Gregg Wallace

THE sun is almost here and with guests allowed in our gardens it can mean only one thing – barbecue season.

We love nothing more than standing around a smoky grill, charred burger in one hand and beer in the other.

But MasterChef judge Gregg Wallace reckons we are doing it all wrong.

He says: “It’s just the worst meal experience ever, that’s how I feel anyway.

"I’m not denying there are some good barbecuers out there, all I’m saying is, in my 56 years on this planet, I haven’t found one.

“I love the South African braai (pronounced bry), they work brilliantly. Over here, they are hideous. It’s not just about the food, it’s the whole concept.”

But there are ways to improve, says Gregg.

Here, exclusively for The Sun, he tells us where we are going wrong and what to do about it in his guide to a better BBQ, plus he provides some of his favourite al fresco recipes and salads.


“YEARS ago you’d get invited round to someone’s house for a meal and the worst you had to face was a buffet. Now it’s a barbecue.

“Picture the scene: You’re given a piece of meat on a paper plate and a plastic knife that would break if a steak landed on it.

“You need to cut your meat but you’re standing up. The ketchup starts dripping off the plate but you’ve only got a thin paper napkin to mop it up. Then someone hands you a drink.

“I’m sorry, I’m not an octopus. I love dining al fresco, on a table, sitting down, when my meal has been prepared in the kitchen and cooked in the oven.

“If you are going to have a barbecue, you need enough table space for everybody, with chairs and plates and proper cutlery.

"And if you are expected to pick it up and eat it with your finger, you need proper napkins. Not one sheet, five sheets or a cloth napkin.”

PLUS: “It’s all about the setting so don’t forget the music.

“In my house — or garden — that means only playing music from dead artists. Except for Abba, you have to have a bit of Abba.”


“THE easiest way is to buy one of those bags of charcoal where you light the whole bag. It’s so convenient.

“Otherwise, you light a barbecue in much the same way you would light a fire in your living room. You scrunch up pieces of paper and put them between the charcoals and light them.

“Then you wait until the fire has died down and the charcoals have turned white, which usually takes about 15 to 20 minutes.

“Keep a bucket of water beside you for safety, just in case it gets out of control. There you go.”


“COOKING on a barbecue is incredibly difficult.

“Even someone who cooks all the time may not know how to handle a barbecue, so the idea that you do it three weekends a year and you are an expert is ridiculous.

“When you are cooking steaks, for instance, or any big pieces of meat like pork chops, you start with your grill quite high above the flame then you move it down gradually.

“You don’t start off right at the bottom, near the coals, because the classic thing will happen, it will be burnt on the outside and raw in the middle.

“Ideally, have a spare one of everything. That way you can take your spare burger off the grill, cut into it and see if it’s cooked and keep repeating until it is.

“Then you won’t have to cut into the ones you are serving your guests but you will know they are done.”

  • Gregg’s Italian Family Cookbook, by Gregg and Anna Wallace (Mitchell Beazley) £20, Photography: James Murphy

The best way to do…

STEAKS: “Mix some olive oil, herbs and garlic and brush your meat as it is cooking. I prefer to cook my meat in the oven in the kitchen, then put it on the barbecue for the last few minutes, just to get that charring and smokiness. Don’t marinate your meat as it will dry out. Brush it with flavours while it is on the grill instead.”

CHICKEN: “Absolutely has to be cooked through. There is nothing wrong with cooking all your food in the kitchen so you know it is cooked and bringing it out for a quick flash on the barbie.
“My wife, Anna, has a great tip for softening your chicken breasts. Sprinkle them with bicarbonate of soda, leave for about 20 minutes then rinse off. It makes the chicken so tender.”

BURGERS: “If you are making your own burgers out of minced meat, make sure they are all the same size so they cook at the same time. Make them as flat as you can so it is easier for the heat to get to the middle. They will cook in around 10 to 15 minutes.

SAUSAGES: “Cut them in half lengthwise so they are flat. They will cook quicker and you can guarantee they won’t be raw in the middle. They should take five to ten minutes depending on the thickness of the sausages and BBQ temperature.”

FISH: “Place the fish on foil. Add some vegetables, a knob of butter and some olive oil, then wrap the foil up into a loose envelope and put it on the grill. Depending on the size of your fish and how hot your barbecue is, it should only take around ten minutes. Sardines can go straight on the barbecue for two to three minutes each side.”

BURGER RELISH: “Take a mango and chop it into small pieces or pulp using a blender. Add sweetcorn, pepper and chilli and you have got yourself a really good burger relish.”

FLATBREADS: “Use equal quantities of plain natural yoghurt and self-raising flour. Mix until you have a dough, then roll it out as thin as you can into small rounds. Cook them in a dry pan and serve with your salads.”

Mozzarella and tomato salad

(Serves 4)

You need:

  • 4 x 150g buffalo mozzarella cheese, drained
  • 600g tomatoes (any mixture you like)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, for drizzling
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Large handful of fresh basil leaves, to serve


  1. Tear the mozzarella into pieces – there’s something very satisfying about this and it gives the salad a lovely rustic look, but you can use a knife if you prefer.
  2. Place on a large serving plate.
  3. Chop the tomatoes into chunks and scatter them over the mozzarella.
  4. Drizzle with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Tear the basil into pieces and scatter over the salad.

Yes, it’s really that easy!

Grilled vegetables

(Serves 4)

You need:

  • 2 aubergines
  • 3 courgettes
  • 4 Portobello mushrooms
  • 8 spring onions
  • Sunflower oil, for drizzling
  • Salt


  1. Using a mandoline or a knife, cut the aubergines and courgettes lengthways into slices about 1cm thick.
  2. Cut your mushrooms into slices 2cm thick, this is thicker than usual because mushrooms shrink slightly during cooking.
  3. Give your spring onions a haircut by trimming off their wavy roots and dark green bits, then use the back of a knife to press down and slightly flatten them.
  4. Place all the veg on a large plate and drizzle with enough oil to coat them nicely.
  5. Heat a griddle pan or barbecue until very hot (if cooking indoors, your kitchen will become rather smoky during this step, but please don’t worry).
  6. If you don’t have a griddle pan, a frying pan is OK, but you won’t get nice chargrilled lines across your vegetables. Line a large plate with kitchen paper.
  7. Place your aubergines in the griddle pan or on the barbecue and leave to cook for 2 minutes without moving them. After that, press them down with a fork to create the chargrilled lines. Flip them over and repeat the cooking and pressing. Transfer them to paper-lined plate. Repeat for all the other vegetables.
  8. Once everything is cooked, sprinkle with salt and enjoy.

Oven-baked fish

(Serves 4)

You need:

  • 8 fillets of firm white fish
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
  • ½ head of fennel, thinly sliced
  • 8 small sprigs of flat leaf parsley
  • 20 pitted black olives
  • 20 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.
  2. Place 4 pieces of baking parchment, each about the size of a dinner plate, on a work surface. Sit 2 fillets of fish on each piece of parchment, drizzle with olive oil, then arrange the fennel, parsley, olives and cherry tomatoes on top. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Bring the edges of the baking parchment up around the fish and crimp together to seal tightly.
  4. Transfer the parcels to a baking tray and place in the oven for 12 minutes, until cooked. The aroma when you open them is wonderful.

Bread and tomato salad

(Serves 4-6)

You need:

  • 650g day-old ciabatta or sourdough bread
  • 6 large tomatoes, chopped into chunks
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tsp red or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Handful of fresh basil leaves, to serve


  1. Lightly wet the bread under your cold water tap so that it is moistened all the way through. If it’s too wet, gently squeeze out the excess water. You don’t want it to turn into clumps.
  2. Tear the bread into a large salad bowl. You can keep some of the pieces quite large but the bread can be crumbled if you would prefer it to look like breadcrumbs.
  3. Add the tomatoes and shallot and mix well with your hands. Pour in the olive oil and vinegar, add the salt and mix again.
  4. To finish, tear the fresh basil and scatter it over the salad. The smell will be amazing.
  5. You can eat the salad straight away, but if left at room temperature for about an hour (before you scatter over the basil), the bread will soak up all the lovely tomato juices.

Grilled sardines

(Serves 4)

You need:

  • 20 fresh sardines, cleaned and scaled with heads left on
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Lemon wedges, to serve

For the dressing:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, very finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp chopped capers
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tsp salt


  • Soak 20 bamboo skewers in cold water for 30 minutes. This will prevent them from burning when the fish are cooked. Preheat a grill or barbecue to a medium-high heat.
  • Meanwhile, pierce each sardine from head to tail with a skewer. Drizzle them with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place under the grill or on the barbecue and cook for 3 minutes on each side, or until cooked through.
  • While the fish are cooking, combine all the dressing ingredients in a jug and mix well.
  • Arrange the sardines on a large plate and pour the herby dressing all over.
  • Add the lemon wedges then tuck in.

Grilled peaches with whipped cream

(Serves 4)

You need:

  • 200g mascarpone cream cheese
  • 2 tsp vanilla paste
  • 4 large ripe but firm peaches, halved and stones removed
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 8 amaretti biscuits, crushed


  1. Put the mascarpone and vanilla paste into a bowl and mix until smooth. Place in the fridge.
  2. Place a griddle pan over a high heat. Meanwhile, brush the cut side of the peaches with the melted butter.
  3. When the pan is hot, place the peaches on it, cut-side down, and griddle for 3 minutes. They are ready when the flesh is golden brown and chargrilled lines have formed.
  4. Transfer the peaches to a serving plate. Place a spoonful of the chillled cream in the middle of each half. Sprinkle with the amaretti and serve.

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