Jamie Oliver has lent his name to this portable kettle-style charcoal barbecue. We put the Big Boy through our usual barbecue tests, cooking steak and sausages to see:

  • how it performs
  • how easy it is to use.

The Big Boy's grill surface is 34cm across, enough to handle several steaks and sausages, and has a curved design that's intended to prevent food falling through. The barbecue is quick and easy to assemble (though a screw was missing from the one we bought).

Hardwood charcoal is recommended for fuel, and the instructions suggest using lighter fluid to light it; that didn't work well for us so we used lighter gel. Also, lighter fluid can be dangerous and can leave an unpleasant residue on the food, so we recommend you avoid it. 

Charcoal cooking takes some practice, especially lighting the charcoal, and it can make more smoke than a gas barbecue, but the cooked food can be very flavoursome.

Performance

Fiona Mair, home economist from CHOICE's test kitchen, grilled sausages and steaks on the barbecue and had good results with both. They were quite evenly cooked and had a nice smoky flavour. As with any charcoal cooking, you need to preheat the barbecue beforehand (30 minutes or until the charcoal is almost grey) which makes overall cooking time slower than a gas barbecue.

Ease of use

The barbecue is easy to use, and allows good access to the food. Vents in the bottom and in the hood regulate the heat. A lack of side panels makes it susceptible to wind and draughts when you cook without the hood – the coals are unlikely to go out but cooking may be slower. 

Position the barbecue in a safe, level place before lighting it and be careful around it as the exterior gets hot.

The Big Boy is easy to clean, but as with any barbecue, scrubbing off baked-on fat and charcoal may need some elbow grease.

The verdict

The Jamie Oliver Big Boy barbecue is a good, inexpensive option for picnics, camping, and backyard cooking, if you like a smoky barbecue flavour and don't mind waiting the extra time that charcoal cooking requires.

Cost

$60