Whilst we all have an inkling on what makes the perfect BBQ, none of us really know for sure. Well, as the BBQ season is well and truly here and with EURO 2016 just around the corner, we have some pretty cast iron facts on what actually does make the perfect BBQ – well, a better BBQ at the very least!

Sciencing your way to the perfect BBQ

We sat down with Oxford University Professor Charles Spence, a man who knows his stuff when it comes to food and the senses. Having studied psychology for some 20 years, he has recently helped launch the latest Hellmann’s BBQ sauces and wants us all to find ‘Grilltopia‘ with the first ever research into the ‘Gastrophysics‘ of barbecuing. So let’s find out how you can create the best BBQ ever!


Whilst the temptation is there to offer a variety of meats, studies suggest that keeping things simple proves more effective. Sides are also increasingly important, and selecting the correct ones for your meat may not as obvious as you might think. The most popular BBQ sides in the study were actually Corn on the Cob and a good ole fashioned slaw. A brightly coloured salad also polled high, especially with a female audience. Surprisingly a potato based side (such as chips or fries) was also in the top 5 – not your standard BBQ side I am sure you will agree..

As well as the main meat for any BBQ, you will need a vegetarian option; something that is not cardboard sausages. We are thinking Halloumi and mushrooms or even a sweet potato fritter would work incredibly well – you could tie this in by making a few hot appetisers to pass around before the main food starts rolling out. Cubes of breaded Halloumi or mini sweet potato fritters have us foaming at the mouth already.

Whilst we have already mentioned about keeping meat options simple (burgers, sausage and perhaps a beer can chicken), what you can do is add a level of ‘customisation’ – such as asking people how they would like their burger cooked (medium-rare or well done), for example. Don’t worry, you will be forgiven for not quite getting it nailed.


Or as Professor Spence calls it, Sonic Seasoning. While you may want to turn up to your stereo to the very highest level, the environment must be taken into consideration! Part of what makes a successful BBQ is actually nature. The wind blowing through the trees and birds chirping as they watch the chicken turn golden brown. As such, don’t feel the need to whack up your favourite tracks full volume. Of course, if you live in a major city and you need to drown out road noise that is less conducive, then you may need to!

When it comes to choosing your music, don’t think like everyone else. Music that brings out smokey flavours and a more authentic BBQ feel tend to be American Blues. Even though that may not be to everyone’s cup of tea, if it makes the burger taste better it must be worth a try, right? According to the research, one of the most popular seasoned tracks was “Feeling Good” by Nina Simone, so make sure that appears in your playlist more than once. Next up you will need something that will appeal to the masses and make people smile. Perhaps try some blues for the cooking and classic indie and brit-pop for dessert?

How to make a better BBQ


So what to match your wonderfully cooked food with? Current trends seems to go for mini cans of beer – the 330ml style. Again, it harps back to old American BBQs and something you can easily carry and drink. Obviously you need to get in something which is going to appeal and hit the right spot with most people. So we suggest a couple of different types of beer and, of course, make sure they are chilled.

You now need the surprise. Something refreshing that you can make on mass. Oh, and if it happens to be laced with alcohol so potent you can use it as fire lighter if needed, then all the better. Something like a rum punch will give a great summer vibe and get people tapping their feet without even knowing.

People will (should) bring something as well. So just supply some essentials and if they want wine and something a bit different that desperately then they will end up bringing it themselves. Try and keep people away from the fridge, get some ice buckets and place them outside for holding the drink goodness!


The way you set-up and people eat your barbecued food is paramount to it being a success. It may seem a good idea for everyone to be seated, studies show that people will mingle much more if they stand. Our suggestion is no seats and then just a couple of blankets on the grass if you have some with perhaps some cushions (just ask a Jane, they have millions).

One of the biggest mistakes is placing your BBQ away from the people. Did you know that the smell of the smoke and the sound of the ‘sizzle’ are two of the biggest drivers for a successful BBQ? The ‘smell of anticipation’ (what the scientists call orthonasal olfaction) from cooking meat is something you can’t miss out on. As such, make sure your BBQ is close enough the party to make the most of it’s non-tasting goodness.

Leading Gastrophysicist, Professor Charles Spence also noted that eating with hands is vitally important, as is the right tableware. The standard white paper plates shouldn’t be in sight. Did you know a black plate makes food look more appetising and even a red plate makes food taste spicier?

Lastly, don’t leave anything in the house. The outdoors is where it’s at and will again leave a most lasting impression on your guests. Our suggestion is move your table outdoors and place everything on it in a more sharing / tapas style where people can graze and take food at will.

The Story

Charles also notes (with a story), that everything in life gets that little bit better with a little heritage and a good story behind it. Getting locally sourced meat from a great butchers will allow you to tell wild tales of how the animals used to graze behind your uncles farm and you even used to milk them as a child (or something equally impressive).

Oh, and don’t forget that rum punch in which the recipe has been passed down generations after your great grandfather was in the Caribbean and was told a family secret by a group of friendly pirates..

Charcoal or Gas

Of course. We had to ask. Charcoal

Perfect Summer BBQ

It’s all in the Sauce

Of course, no BBQ would ever be complete without a range of sauces. The latest Hellmann’s range has 7 in total, each individually chosen and created for their flavour and inspired from the world over – so there is no excuse to finding one you want. They are:


  • American Smokey BBQ Sauce
  • Brazilian Spicy Churrasco BBQ Sauce
  • Japanese Sticky BBQ Sauce
  • Australian Sweet BBQ Sauce

Hot and Spicey ~

  • Mexican Chipotle Sauce (Medium)
  • Jamaican Habanero Sauce (Hot)
  • Moroccan Harissa Sauce (Mild)

And the best thing about these sauces (apart from the taste!)? They all come in premium glass bottles, making them look rather swanky and even homemade.


Conclusion to the Perfect BBQ

Above all, remember to have fun. It’s a social kind of thing and to be honest, it could well be the most fun you have all summer. So if the weather looks dodgy, just re-schedule and make it god damn perfect.

The Perfect BBQ - Chicken



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