Public BBQ with a view

Since living in Australia we’ve particularly enjoyed cooking brunch at public BBQs by the beach. During our first winter here we enjoyed our sausages by the sea most weekends.

The ease of cooking and eating around a public BBQ is what makes it so appealing. We cook the sausages whilst the kids play on the grass or in the nearby playground. We often meet friends on the same weekend routine, so a chat around the BBQ is common.

We cooked brunch less frequently last summer because it was too warm to be standing around a hot plate, but we still made use of this free council service by organising early evening barbies. It’s also common to hold birthday parties around a BBQ. Picnic tables are decorated with balloons and streamers, and guests throw down a rug in the surrounding area.

We feel Aussies champion a laid back, outdoor life style, and public BBQs fit this perfectly. We also think there is spontaneity about socialising in Australia that is different to the UK, or elsewhere in the world.

Before moving down under, our socialising was done by appointment and our social calendar was booked months in advance. In Aus it’s far more laid back. We might pop out for a walk in the morning, bump into friends, agree to hook up at a BBQ later, and before we know it we’re having a party.

Another benefit of socialising and cooking outdoors is that the post-party clear up doesn’t fall on one person. Clearing up after using a public BBQ is easy using the council bins provided, and unlike socialising at home with the kids, you won’t find toys everywhere and crayon up the wall!

How do public BBQs in Australia work?

Public BBQs are situated in city parks, nature reserves, national parks, and beach fronts throughout Australia. They are commonly accompanied by picnic tables and shelters. The BBQs are usually managed and maintained by the local council.

The public BBQs we have used are electric hot plates. They have a push button start and stay on for a limited length of time (about fifteen minutes). If you’re caught in conversation remember to keep pressing the button if you want to eat any time before sunset!

You might be wondering about the cleanliness and hygiene of using a public BBQ. Most public BBQs are cleaned daily (at least) by the local council. This is often done in the morning so if you’re really worried about hygiene, a breakfast BBQ might be best, then you’ll be the first people to use the BBQ that day. In our experience people are very good about washing the BBQ down once they’ve finished. Note: You’re not allowed to use aluminium foil on public BBQs as it gets stuck to the plate.

How to use a public BBQ like a local

Because the BBQs switch off automatically, and because it’s as much about the social event as the cooking experience, this probably isn’t the place to cook a thick steak or chicken thigh. Chefs are likely to be distracted, and cooking meat right through takes time. Favourite public BBQ fodder is sausages (snags), bacon and eggs, and marinated chicken skewers.

There are a few things we’ve learnt since using public BBQs in Australia. The first is that however health conscious you’re hoping to be, you will need to use oil on the hot plate. Following a very smoky experience we learnt that olive oil is not recommended; spray cooking oil such as canola works well.

Using public BBQs in Australia is a way of life, that we’ve enjoyed getting used to. If we’re going out for the day, and are exploring a new area, we always take note of the facilities available, and it’s the first thing we think of when socialising with friends or organising a party for a special occasion.

In some cities and national parks you can reserve public BBQs and picnic shelters but in our experience this is the exception rather than the norm. It’s usually a polite free for all when it comes to securing your spot; public holidays are particularly busy.

There are a number of websites that help locate public BBQs in Australia: Meat in the Park is great if you’re moving to or visiting Australian Capital Territory (ACT), it’s starting to list BBQs in other states. For all  states \ territories local council and park websites provide details.

Other the next few weeks we’ll be writing about some of the best public BBQ spots we have visited or been told about in Australia. If you’d like to add a favourite spot to the list do let us know. If you’d like to share public BBQ usage tips and suggestions we’d also love to read your comments. Thank you.

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