The sun is finally shining, summer has officially sprung, and temperatures have risen above 15 degrees, which means it’s officially time to barbecue in the Netherlands! But how do the Dutch actually barbecue?
Coming from the Caribbean, I consider myself quite the expert at barbecuing. So, when my significant other and I invited our friends over for a BBQ a few years ago, I immediately got busy.
I thought of making my mom’s good old-fashioned potato salad, putting together a nice tossed salad, and quickly went on to make my shopping list for the first BBQ of the season.
The list included chicken legs and ribs — the obvious BBQ staples — as well as some ground beef for my homemade hamburgers, buns, and a few steaks to round up the menu. I was ready to shop.
But alas, as we pulled into the grocery store, my partner started talking about speklap and worstjes, and I gave him a sideward glance as I made a beeline for the meat department, eager to get my BBQ on.
What to buy for a Dutch barbecue?
I began to stock the cart with my meats of choice and was disappointed to see that the selection of ribs was minimal at best. I also noticed several foreign-looking meat products slowly filling the cart.
The likes of which I would have NEVER put on my grill back in the Caribbean.
I mean, pork chops? Really? Well, apparently, karbonade (pork chops) is a common grilling delicacy here in tulip land. Pre-made kebabs also made their way into the BBQ cart, and although shashlik tends to be a common BBQ item, meatballs on a stick are not.
Finally done raiding the meat department, I noticed an alarming amount of meat products and very little of anything else in our cart. Besides my salads and rice, I began to wonder what the Dutch actually eat besides meat.
Luckily enough, I didn’t have to wonder for long, as my significant other then deposited a massive tub of satésaus into the cart and happily proclaimed he was “done” shopping.
Wearily, I left the Jumbo and pondered how I would balance out the meat assortment we were about to grill up, as a salad would only go so far.
And what was I going to do with that much peanut sauce? I mean, we were having an Indonesian night! Of course, I asked all these questions out loud, and my Dutch partner reassured me that we had everything we needed.
Needless to say, it all turned out well…ok. We enjoyed a nice BBQ, and I spent the next week following a vegetarian diet to balance out all the meat we consumed. I also had leftover potato salad and plenty of rice and beans to last for days. It seems they really do just consume meat at BBQs.
What are the rules of barbecuing in the Netherlands?
I think it goes without saying that you’re not allowed to light up a grill inside your apartment. So if you don’t have a balcony or a garden, head to your nearest park. But before you get all excited, you need to know a couple of things.
Firstly, there are designated places for you to barbecue. Some other rules you need to follow include:
- Your grill must be at least two metres away from trees and bushes.
- You need to remove the hot coals in the provided metal containers and not on the grass.
- The grill must be placed on a stable surface.
- The barbecue must in no way come in direct contact with the grass.
- You’re not allowed to have an open fire.
- You have to take all your waste and rubbish with you.
Where to barbecue in the Netherlands?
In principle, you can barbecue pretty much anywhere in the Netherlands as long as you’re not a nuisance. But, of course, there are rules for you to follow and keep in mind. Make sure you always check whether it’s allowed to barbecue at your chosen spot.
Where can you barbecue in Amsterdam?
You’re not allowed to barbecue anywhere in the city centre. However, in the other neighbourhoods, there are specially designated areas for you to get your grill on!
The city of Amsterdam has an interactive map set up for you to find the best spot for your BBQ, and you’ll see that it includes heaps of parks.
Where can you barbecue in The Hague?
The Hague has a couple of nice BBQ spots, specifically in Westbroekpark in the Scheveningen district, and Zuiderpark and the Uithof in the Escamp district.
Where can you barbecue in Rotterdam?
You can barbecue in most open-air spaces in Rotterdam. Particularly nice areas to enjoy a BBQ are the Kralingse Bos, Het Park, Vroesenpark, and Zuiderpark — the main parks in the city.
But the above rules apply here as well! So be sure to follow them so that everyone can enjoy their day out.
Tips to make your Dutch BBQ a hit
Since my first Dutch BBQ, I have learned several things. With these tips, you too can enjoy a barbecue in the Netherlands without having to wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into.
Firstly, check out your local butcher. They tend to have a bigger and better selection of ribs than your local supermarket. Local markets can also conjure up fresh corn on the cob if you ask in advance and it’s the right time of year.
Secondly, the Dutch don’t simply grill and eat. They grill one type of meat, serve that up, and then grill the next and so on (I believe this method of grilling stems from the fact that most Dutch buy teeny tiny charcoal grills that allow for minimal grilling space).
Since the entire BBQ is centred around the meat, this leads to a very long and relaxed grilling experience — be prepared to spend the afternoon/evening slowly enjoying a wide variety of meat products.
Finally, peanut sauce (satésaus) is considered a condiment! So make sure you always have some on hand, in addition to your mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard.
And the last one: the Dutch don’t eat their burgers with buns! Knife, fork, and beef patty are the way it’s done here, so save yourself the hassle and skip the buns, you will be the only one eating them!
What are your best tips for the perfect barbecue in the Netherlands? Tell us in the comments below!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in April 2016, and was fully updated in June 2023 for your reading pleasure.