Australian barbecue: Behind the world-renowned barbies

Posted by Steven Tuckey on

The land down under is known for numerous things but if there’s one thing we’re famous for, it’s our barbecue culture! While other countries simply barbecue when they feel like it or they have a celebration, in Australia, it’s the most common way for families and friends to spend time together.

Considering it’s a big part of their culture and has become tradition to hold barbecue feasts often, it’s not surprising that a phrase about this became renowned in the world: “shrimp on the barbie”. Most people who hear it automatically think of the country and while it’s true that Aussies love to cook prawns, there are many kinds of food cooked at these parties.

Besides that, Aussie barbecues are more than just cooking and dining together with your friends and family. It’s a full-blown experience that ensures by the end of the party, you’ve formed closer bonds with the people in your life. To know more about the world renowned barbies from the land down under and see what makes it different from other cultures, continue reading below here at Big Red Knives!

The history of Aussie barbies

The origin of barbecue has been widely discussed among numerous countries, so determining where exactly it came from is difficult. However, while the term “barbecue” has only been officially recognised in Australia around 1900s,  historians have dated that barbecuing in the country has existed 40,000 years ago.

Cooking outdoors and sharing food between loved ones, or barbecues, is ingrained in Australia’s culture due to its location in the southern hemisphere. Considering that a large part of the country sees little to no rain, open-air cooking has become the norm.

Prior to the word barbecue being cemented within the country, Australia has had massive feasts where they roasted cattle, also known as bullocks, and shared the meat with the group. This was known to be a bullock roast, which was often done in public and as a celebration for one thing or another. For example, it’s said that the former President of the New South Wales Legislative Council William Wentworth prepared a bullock roast to celebrate the departure of known tyrant General Sir Ralph Darling from his position as then Governor of New South Wales in 1831.

Around this time, the term barbecues were already known in America as an event, often funded by politicians for their campaigns. However, Australians largely associated the term barbecue more with coffee, especially since the coffee industry then in the country was only starting. Moreover, barbecues were then known as the drying rack for coffee berries, so it’s understandable that most Aussies were confused.

It was only when popular newspaper company The Tasmanian published a definition of barbecues in 1887 that the term became widely known within the country. Considering that barbecues were popular in America as a large animal like a hog being cooked as a whole and people in the gathering eat it all, that’s all that Australians came to know about it at the time. 

Only in 1915 did the term barbecue become more known in the country, especially after a BBQ event was held in 1903, which was the Waverley Bowls Club’s Leg o’Mutton Barbecue.

Around the 1950s, BBQ events were now private gatherings between relatives and friends, and the meat cooked there were steak chops, sausages, chicken, and more. It was by this time, in 1953, where instructions on how to create your own brick barbecue were published in the outdoor living feature of the Australian Women’s Weekly magazine. Then around the 1960s did brick barbecues arrive in Australia, further making it easier for Aussies to hold their weekly BBQs.

Most popular food at Aussie barbecues

Unlike common belief that the main food served at Aussie BBQs are prawns, this couldn’t be further from the truth since a wide array of food is always prepared here. Australian barbecues are culturally diverse with the food they share at these events, primarily because of its proximity to Asian countries. Moreover, the resources available in the country are diverse so you can expect a variety of food served at barbecues. However, here are the most common food you can expect:

Sausage sizzle

A classic and must-have food at any Australian BBQ is the sausage sizzle. It’s commonly known as 'snag' and it’s often served in between bread (either sliced bread or a hot dog bun), sprinkled with grilled onions and drizzled with condiments like tomato sauce. For the sausage itself, beef or pork are often cooked at these BBQ parties.

Moreover, the sausage sizzle is one of the few foods served at Aussie BBQs that you don’t need to use your handy BBQ knives.


One of the most popular foods served in Australian barbecue parties is steak, especially since it’s the go-to red meat for most people. There are many ways to prepare your steak at a BBQ but a common method is to serve it with green sauce, especially if you have a beef skirt or rump with you.

Make sure to have the Great White Shark knife with you to help cut the meat once you’re ready to eat it. Since it’s an all purpose knife, you can also use this knife to cut the ginger, mint leaves, red onion, and the other ingredients of the green sauce that will coat your steak, guaranteeing a delicious meal!


While the term “shrimp on the barbie” is popular, Australians actually refer to them as prawns, and it’s a primary food you can find in most BBQs. There are numerous ways you can barbecue your prawn but one of the most popular methods is marinating it in coconut and lime. Make sure before you marinate it to use the Koala Knife, which is a mini chopper that will make it easy for you to clean the prawns.

Once you’re done marinating it, put them on a skewer, brush the prawns with a coconut mixture and then cook it! 

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