The spark of the flame, the sizzle of the meat, a beer in hand and the sun shining on your back. There is nothing quite like a barbecue on a sunny day and barbecue boxes are bringing the experience to a whole new level.
No longer do you need to battle your way around the supermarket and the local butchers because everything can now be delivered to your door.
But how much are you paying for this convenience?
Over the course of the summer, we’ve tried three very different barbecue boxes, all of which deliver nationwide.
The Smokin’ Bones box definitely offered excellent value for money. Five of us shared it, meaning it cost €12.99 per head. There was plenty of food with some leftovers and more than enough for six people.
It consisted of four types of meat. There was baby back ribs and St Louis pork belly – both of which were smoked for four hours over hickory wood and finished with a light barbecue sauce – Texas brisket cooked over wood for 14 hours and North Carolina pulled pork, cooked for eight hours. It also came with decent sides such as corn on the cobs, pit beans made from pinto beans (these were soaked overnight and finished with an in-house BBQ sauce to give a smoky flavour), American red coleslaw finished with an Asian dressing, a selection of sauces and 12 small slider buns. Everything was ready to cook, no prep required .
Sadly with our delivery one of the ice packs thawed on top of the buns so they were soggy. When we spoke to the company they informed us they are in the process of changing their ice packs.
The only purchase we made (apart from new buns) was a few potatoes to make some fries but arguably these weren’t even needed.
This is no ordinary barbecue box and there is a real southern American style to it – lots of powerful Memphis barbecue flavours means sticky hands and plenty of paper towels. This isn’t a polite feed but the smokiness of the marinades had us licking our fingers.
Initially when you look at the portions of the meat, especially the brisket, you may consider them small. However, the experience is that you taste lots of different flavours and by the end, we were all very full.
The cuts of meat in this box are not expensive so the ingredients could be bought for less than €64.95. The added value here is in the amount of time that is put into the smoking and slow cooking to develop the flavours. There would be a lot of work to assemble a barbecue like this from scratch and you’d probably end up buying bigger portions of one type of meat to make it worth your while instead of having the selection that was in this box.
Given that all work is done for you, at €12 a head it offered very good value. If you are a master barbecuer though you might not get much enjoyment from this as it’s all pre-cooked and you’re really just reheating it on the barbecue.
Rating: 8/10 – points deducted because we had to buy new buns.
James Whelan Butchers provides a more traditional barbecue box. A big box of meat arrives at your door, saving you a trip to the butcher. What you’re paying for here is quality. Essentially, a box full of meat arrives at your door which saves you a trip to the butcher. What you’re paying for here is quality. James Whelan Butcher’s has built a reputation as one of the best butcher’s in the country and if a store isn’t located near you it means you can get this excellent meat delivered to your door. The box costs €100 and delivery is included.
The box consists of eight Jamie burgers, 2lbs Iberico pork ribs in a BBQ marinade, 10 chicken wings in spicy sauce, five BBQ sausages, four spring lamb grillsticks and five BBQ pork chops. However, it is the four salt-aged striploin steaks that are the piece de resistance in this box. Aged in Peter Hannan’s Himalayan salt chambers in Moira in Co Down, these are some of the best steaks you can buy and are exclusive to James Whelan Butcher’s. Apart from the steaks, this was a whopper box of meat and fed four adults for three nights. Of course, because there are no sides included in this box, unlike the other two, you do need to factor that into the price.
For €100, you could easily freeze the majority of the meat to BBQ in the coming weeks. We’ve done the maths and priced everything individually and you’re saving about €1.70 compared to buying all the items separately which isn’t a lot. Your value for money is that it saves you the hassle of shopping, especially as delivery is free. All the portion sizes were decent and the flavours from this quality range of meat is extremely impressive.
Rating: 8/10 – Points deducted because while the box is convenient, you’re not making any significant saving and there were no sides included.
Drop Chef was delivering boxes of food to consumers long before the pandemic. The concept is that all the ingredients you need to cook a healthy, delicious meal at home are delivered in a box along with instructions.
The box contains ingredients for four FX burgers topped with artisanal Irish cheddar, baby gem lettuce and fiery relish or siracha mayo on brioche buns. Honey and lemon-glazed vegetable and chicken skewers are also on the menu, as is chilli and lime corn on the cobs. There was a side of feta and flat-leaf parsley-topped bulgar tabbouleh with cucumber and cherry tomato and an after dinner treat of stuffed bananas with walnuts and chocolate.
Unlike the Smokin’ Bones box though, it’s not just a case of heating up the prepped food. You must make everything up yourself from scratch so you’re really just paying for the delivery of the ingredients rather than the convenience of having the food prepped for you.
This is the cheapest box, working out at €11.17 per person – which is reasonable. However, when we got out the calculators to do our maths, it’s likely you could buy the ingredients cheaper yourself in the supermarket. It’s impossible to know for sure as some of the ingredients were weighed out specifically for the recipes.
The FX Buckley burgers are priced at €1.35 each (€5.40) while the chicken, which was cut into bite-sized pieces for the skewers, would cost approximately €9. Then there were the vegetables (spring onions, cherry tomatoes, a cucumber, a lemon and lime, corn on the cob, a red and yellow pepper, a courgette, red onion, a chilli, bananas and gem lettuce), four brioche buns, Bride Valley cheese and a full jar of Ballymaloe mayonnaise. We totted up the cost of these to be approximately €21, so when you add your meat in you’re looking at spending about €34 in a shop.
Everything else was weighted out to the recipe portions. These included feta cheese, bulgur wheat, chocolate pieces, walnuts, honey and relish. It would be a stretch to assume these items amounted to the remaining €13 so there is certainly money added into the cost for the service, as well there should be.
Essentially, DropChef is doing your food shopping for you. In its favour, you could taste the quality and freshness of the ingredients, the recipes were easy to follow and the result was a very healthy and delicious barbecue. Unlike the other two boxes, we didn’t need to leave the house to buy anything extra.
Ratings: 7/10 – There was a fair amount of work involved in prepping this barbecue and, potentially, you could have bought the ingredients cheaper yourself.