The origins of the term barbecue are somewhat obscure. The more commonly held view among etymologists is that it derives from the Spanish ‘barbacoa’ which in turn comes from a Tainu (Caribbean) phrase meaning ‘sacred fire pit’. I think this demonstrates that most etymologists aren’t getting out enough.
Anyway, origins aside, how to build one?
I started with a vague idea and some bricks left over from a demolished wall.
The most important thing to consider, as with all building projects, is location, location, location.
It won’t make you popular with your neighbours if smoke ends up in the house. I’d like to say that I built the whole thing from scratch but as a modern caveman I shop in Homebase where they sell a kit and ready mix mortar.
Then it was a bit of trial and error. Mixing the mortar can be tricky depending on the purpose: pointing or coursing and outside temperature. It needs to just drop off the trowel.
Put the mortar down first and the bricks on top – save the buttering for the burgers and the experts. Lastly wiggle the trowel through the cement so that the surface is not completely smooth and place your brick on top.
A spirit level is not just handy but essential to keep the courses level – otherwise your sausages will roll off.
I built mine against a wall which meant that I had to only build two piers but I did use some metal pins to tie it into the wall. You don’t want your barbecue collapsing with hot coals and greasy food.
The kit comes with metal supports which you put between the brick courses to support the charcoal pan and grill. Build up to about 10-14 courses depending how tall you are.
The most traditional approach to lighting the barbecue is to use firelighters or a charcoal chimney. Both are pretty straightforward. With firelighters, put a couple in the centre of the barbecue, pile the charcoal up in a pyramid and light. The coals should be ready for cooking in 20-30 mins. A charcoal chimney or charcoal starter is even easier. Pour the charcoal in the chimney, filling almost to the top. Crumple 2-3 sheets of newspaper and insert into the base, light the paper in several places and again wait 20-30 mins. Once the charcoal is lit, pour into the barbecue.
The one remaining critical step is selecting your apron. Women won’t admit this of course, but ‘apron sex-appeal’ is hard-wired at a genetic level. Nothing says this bloke will keep bears away from the cave more than a fire and a good apron.
Lastly, don’t overlook your fluid balance. Barbecuing is strenuous work and can easily lead to dehydration. The simplest way around this is to keep a bottle of beer in hand at all times. Other drinks can work of course, but everyone knows bears are much more frightened of beer.
What would you like to see DIY Dad build next? Leave a comment below.