Meal Box Review: Smoky barbecue for lazy days and holidays
A foolproof kit that’s perfect for an easy dinner, at home or away
Barbecue in a box from Smokin Bones.
Outdoors is the theme for this summer, and whether or not the weather plays ball, it will be food trucks, terraces, picnics and barbecues all the way. What we won’t be doing quite so much of is staying at home, cooking from scratch, or trying out new recipes. And we’ll be seeing less of those meal kits, with their colour-coded dots and pages of instructions.
But some kits are still knocking around. And as American-style slow-cooked barbecue is something I most certainly cannot do at home, the Smokin Bones kit was ready for a try out. Maybe sometime in the future, when a culinary arts student is studying pandemic eating, a taxonomy for meal kits will be developed, ranging from “arrange rows of micro-fronds of fennel with your tweezers” to “dead bleedin’ simple”. This black cardboard box with the Smokin Bones logo emblazoned on the outside will definitely be the benchmark for the latter.
That is not a bad thing. One of the great things about this kit is that it can go straight into the fridge. I don’t need to talk to any of the more sensitive ingredients, reassure them that their provenance has been noted and promise to eat them within 8½ seconds. It will just sit there and wait till I’m ready to deal with it. Which basically involves putting vac-packed bags of meat and other things into a tray with a cupful of water and doing a sous vide style reheat in a 170-degree oven. The only downside is, there’s no mention of the pork being free range, which is a big minus.
North Carolina pulled pork, Texas beef brisket, baby back ribs, smoked pit beans and corn on the cob all emerge from the oven steaming hot and ready to be devoured. Brioche slider buns, red coleslaw and three different sauces are on hand to add to the smoky pit flavours. The pulled pork, piled on to the buns, is falling apart in a reassuring way, and the Memphis sauce adds a tangy sweetness with a spicy edge.
The ribs are sweet, with a hint of hickory smoke, and the mildly flavoured brisket, which has been “dry rubbed with secret spices” is firm but succulent. The vac-pack cooking has ensured that it hasn’t got stringy or dried out. The vinegar-based South Carolina-style sauce is the suggested accompaniment for the brisket, but I find that my old pal, the Memphis, works better. I may be incurring the wrath of some die-hard pit master by swapping my sauces around, but it’s actually a bit of fun to mix and match, each mouthful can be different.
Pinto beans in a barbecue sauce of smoky meat ends has been slightly bullied by the level of star anise in the “house seasoning”, but I suppose this sort of robust food is well able to stand up for itself; and the obligatory corn on the cob has weathered the waterbath admirably, a bit of char from its previous incarnation on the barbecue adding some flavour. The red cabbage slaw is a bit bland, the barely evident sweet Asian dressing could do with a bit of acidity, but I’m guessing its role here is more texture and colour.
This food is meant to be eaten outdoors with beer and smoke rising from the barbecue. And while it is unlikely to provoke discussions of the merits of hickory versus mesquite, it is the sort of dinner that is a comfort to have in the fridge. Sometimes all you want is something that is mind-numbingly simple that delivers a disproportionate reward for little effort. It certainly is a kit worth slinging into a chill bag as you head off for a week in a cottage rental to explore the great outdoors. Dinner for night one will be sorted, and there’ll be hardly any washing up.
Dinner for two to three people was €44.95.
Where does it come from: Smokin Bones, 34 Essex Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2; bbqinabox.ie
Difficulty factor: Nothing to it, just reheat and eat
Food provenance: 100 per cent Irish meat, no mention of free range
Vegetarian options: No
Delivery: Click and collect, or delivery for €4.95, from Thursday to Saturday in Dublin, Kildare and Meath
The verdict: 7.5/10, Smoky barbecue flavours delivered to your door
Three to Try
Dublin 4; click and collect daily; €7 delivery nationwide, Friday;bujo.ie
Using whole cuts of meat that have a good fat-to-lean ratio mean that the meat in these burgers is basted as it cooks and doesn’t dry out. The home kits, for €40, have 12 patties, brioche buns, sauce, dill pickles and instructions. Vegetarian and vegan options from Beyond Meat are also available.
Dublin 6; click and collect daily, €3-€10 delivery nationwide, Tuesday to Friday;unopizza.com
These Neapolitan pizza at home kits range from the Margherita for two for €18, to the family kit for four at €36. Instructions are clear, and each of the kits include dough balls and topping ingredients such as fior di latte mozzarella, San Marzano tomato sauce, Parmigiano-Reggiano, fresh basil and virgin olive oil.
Dublin 6; click and collect, and €9 delivery within M50 on Friday, thebutchergrill.ie
A cook-it-yourself cote de bœuf for two, €50, and everything else in this kit is prepared and just needs to be reheated. The steak is coated in a secret rub, naturally, and comes with sides of smoky black-eyed beans with bacon, mashed potato and red wine jus.