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The iconic Australian ‘barbie’. Where does it come from and why is it SO good?

Snags (and Vegemite) are as close to classically Australian food as it gets. “Shrimp on the barbie” is another parochial, ockerish phrase thrown around when foreigners meet Aussies. The Australian barbeque isn’t just food; it’s an experience that’s ingrained into the fabric of the land down under, mate! 

We have big backyards, an enviable summer and an outdoor spirit that exudes a lifestyle-first philosophy. No wonder the ‘barbie’ is so popular. You only have to visit the supermarket before Australia Day, or outside any Bunnings store, to see how popular snags are. 

There’s no denying it. Aussies do barbeques right. But when did the Aussie BBQ become a thing? 

A climate that lends itself to eating outdoors 

Australia’s Indigenous people have historically cooked their food outside. While, of course, we’re not the only country to master the art of the barbeque, there’s something comforting about the simplicity of the Aussie barbie. In fact, it was a focus of a national 1984 advert with Paul Hogan that cemented that famous line: “throw another shrimp on the barbie.” 

While there are certainly prawns, gourmet sausages, steaks and skewers, nothing quite compares to the humble Aussie snag in bread and butter, doused in tomato sauce – where even adding onion is an extravagance. 

The history of the Australian BBQ 

It’s said that the Aussie barbeque dates back 40,000 years. This style of eating is important to our culture for three reasons: cultural immigration, our geography, and our instincts. Australia’s climate strongly influences our love for open-air cooking. 

The Aussie BBQ has been described as ‘an affair where you smack your lips over grub that you’d turn your nose up at in the home.’ 

It’s rumoured that the first use of the term in Australia happened at the Waverley Bowls Club’s Leg o’ Mutton Barbeque in 1903. The barbeque was associated with political campaigns and public feasts. In 1920, Sydney newspapers promoted a public barbeque and butchers got involved. It took decades for the backyard barbeques to start, and then, the group consumption of a whole beast evolved into chops and sausages for individual servings. By 1950, Australians were cooking up barbies for themselves – but the part of bringing people together lived on. 

It wasn’t until the mid 1960s that the gas barbeque arrived. And the sausage sizzle revolution began… in the home, at parks, schools, community events, and outside certain hardware stores. 

It’s about more than just food. What exactly is the Australian barbeque? 

The Australian barbie is particularly special, in that guests bring a plate of something to add to the shared spread of food. This makes the barbie hard to define, as it mirrors the mixed, multicultural diners that call Australia home. People graze, linger, socialise, share and bask in the sun and fresh air, with the barbeque as the centrepiece. 

There are no hard rules when it comes to an Aussie barbeque and that’s just how we like it. With food, anything is welcome. The ‘bring what you want to grill up’ rule prevails and keep things interesting. Any host who has leftovers the day after a barbeque party knows this. 

There’s something about our connection to nature that protects this beautiful pastime. While the add-on dishes might keep evolving, the snags, prawns, beers, mates and music will live on. Standing in front of a fired-up barbie with friends, flipping a charred piece of meat with tongs, while the other hand nurses a cold drink… it’s primal, timeless and a ritual that’s connected so deeply with the Australian ‘living off the land’ way of life. Yes, even in 2020 and beyond. 

Aussie barbie. The best mate for summertime. 

Today, the history of the Aussie barbie is as applicable as ever. While modern diets, like veganism, have grown in popularity, the iconic snag with bread and butter is still the star of the barbeque show. As we look towards spring and onto summer, you’re probably starting to think about warmer days. 

So, what else do you cook at a barbeque? What sides should you serve or bring to an Aussie barbeque? 

All of the above are good foods to include in your BBQ spread (whether it’s pre-sizzle or to accompany the main cook-up). You can buy some of the foods from our online shop.

Throw the best Aussie BBQ party, with the help of our Wholesale bakery in Melbourne 

Got your sausages sorted? Good on ya. We’re a wholesale food supplier in Melbourne, supplying to cafes, schools, hospitals, and the broader, food-loving public. From meat pies and sausage rolls, to pizzas, quiches and finger food, you can buy awesome bakery food in bulk with us. 

Freshly baked pies and pizzas from Glenroy Bakery
Freshly baked pies and pizzas at Glenroy Bakery Melbourne

You can use our general public sales online shop or speak with our team for wholesale orders. Talk to us about any dietary limitations, particularly for vegetarians or people with gluten intolerance. 

If you’d like to speak with one of our friendly staff about your specific needs, call us on (03) 9312 8600. To enquire, you can also email info@glenroybakery.com.au or use this contact form

Your people will LOVE our grub!

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