The warmer, drier weather means it’s time to dust off the BBQ, clean up the garden furniture, mow the lawn and start thinking about all those lazy summer days and planning lots of fun filled garden parties. Us Brits love a barbecue, so much so that there’s now a whole week dedicated to it – yep National Barbecue Week (27th May – 2nd June) is a thing and of course it ties in nicely with a Bank Holiday weekend – hooray!
Whether you prefer to keep it casual and relaxed or go all out and create a banger of a barbecue, one thing’s for sure and that is if you want your guests to enjoy themselves as well as being able to enjoy it yourself it’s ALL about the planning.
We’ve put together our top tips to help you host a brilliant BBQ this summer:
Get Your Guest List Right
Most of us have friends that fall into different categories: work friends, old school friends, neighbours, parent friends, gym friends, running friends, cycling friends, the list goes on. Then of course there’s family too: your side, his side, immediate, extended. And just because you are friends with these people, does not mean that they will all get on with one another. Unless you’re planning a barbecue to mark a very special occasion, like a big birthday for example, we would strongly recommend that instead of having one large gathering, you think about hosting several smaller ones instead. That way you don’t need to worry quite so much about everyone getting on as chances are they’ll know each other already and you can enjoy quality conversation rather than making small talk with strangers. Another benefit of hosting smaller gatherings is that it makes it easier to fit everyone comfortably in your garden without having to ask people to bring chairs with them and it also reduces the cost of feeding them all!
People are usually very busy over the summer months so it is worth giving plenty of notice. However, sometimes the spontaneous barbecues can be the most memorable, just ask people to bring some food and drink with them so that it takes the pressure off of you to arrange everything at such short notice.
Work Out Your Menu
Few burgers, pack of sausages, simple right? Well yeah you’d think, but come on you can do better than that, plus what if any of your guests are vegetarian!?!?
To host a brilliant barbecue you need memorable food and that involves a little bit of preparation beforehand. With so many of us being time poor these days, online shopping is the perfect solution. However, you can’t always guarantee the quality of the meat you’re buying and it’s even harder if you’re looking for organic, ethically and sustainably produced meat. Tailor-made meat boxes, like the Graig Farm meat box, select the best cuts on the farm and deliver straight to your door, making your life a whole lot easier.
So that’s the meat sorted… what about the vegetarians?
Don’t fob your vegetarian guests off with some limp lettuce leaves and a cardboard veggie burger in a bun. There are tonnes of vegetarian products in the shops these days and if you’re really not sure what to get, then simply ask them. Halloumi and feta can be wrapped in foil and placed on the barbie alongside the meat, which makes the chef’s job a bit easier. Or what about some chunky vegetable kebabs or some pulled jackfruit burgers, both of which are suitable for vegans too.
Aim for approximately 2 – 3 barbecued items per head and make sure you have plenty of salads and sides too. Things like coleslaw, potato salad, pasta salad, dips, corn on the cob and garlic bread always go down well and don’t forget the crisps…. you can never have too many crisps!
As for dessert, keep it simple. You can’t go wrong with ice creams for the kids (homemade if you can be bothered, but there is no shame in scooping from a tub of Tesco’s finest 😉 ) and a fruit salad or pavlova for the adults.
Timing Is Everything
The beauty of a barbecue is that you can be sociable while you cook, but the last thing you want is for your guests to get narky because the food’s taking ages to cook. Remember it takes at least 10-15 minutes to get a barbecue warmed up properly and then you may have to cook in batches depending on what you’re cooking and how much you can fit on the grill at any one time. It’s always a good idea to get the kids fed first and then the adults can relax with their own food once the kids have cleared their plates and run off to play. While your guests are waiting make sure there are plenty of crisps and veggie sticks etc. for them to nibble on and of course always make sure they’ve got a drink. Some food can be prepared in advance, for example salads can be made the night before and stored in the fridge until you need them. Trickier meats like chicken, which needs to be completely cooked through to avoid the unwanted food poisoning of your guests, can be cooked in your main oven inside and then brought out to ‘finish’ on the barbecue to get that authentic smoky taste. If it makes it easier for you, sit down the night before and work out the timings of everything so you will be less stressed on the day of the barbecue.
Whatever The Weather
If there’s one thing you can’t guarantee it’s good weather so make sure you have a plan B or a very good gazebo to hand! Check the forecast in advance and prepare for whatever weather might be heading your way.
Sunny? Perfect, however make sure you’ve got areas of shade and think about setting up the paddling pool if there are going to be any children.
Rainy? Allow time to put up a gazebo. It’s not ideal admittedly but as long as it’s warm it will still be nice to sit outside undercover. And remember to make sure the barbecue area has cover too, otherwise no one’s gong to be eating anything!
Windy? Depending on how sheltered your garden is this may still work, but it’s probably best to avoid putting a gazebo up. If there’s a bit of a chilly breeze, place a few blankets on people’s seats so that they can wrap themselves up and keep warm.
Windy and rainy? Give it up already. Bring it all inside, cook it on the grill and eat around the table. You want to enjoy yourselves, and it is definitely not fun sitting in a garden eating soggy sausages and looking like a drowned rat!
To be a true hostess with the mostess you need to make sure everything is all set up prior to your guests arriving. A brilliant barbecue is more than just the food. Make sure the table has been set, that you have enough seats and they are arranged properly. Check that all the plates, cutlery, napkins and glasses are set up on a serving table, ready for guests to grab as they line up at the barbecue. Have blankets on hand for those early evening chills and have plenty of seat cushions to make people as comfortable as possible.
Here are some key barbecue essentials you should make sure you have to ensure your barbecue runs smoothly:
Bottle opener/corkscrew – it’s really annoying when you go to open a bottle of beer and there’s nothing to open it with!
Sauces – ketchup, BBQ, relish, brown, whatever your flavour a barbecue just ain’t a barbecue without ALL the sauces.
Tin foil – essential for keeping food warm if other stuff still needs a bit longer on the grill.
Bin bags – makes it a whole lot easier if you keep a bin bag secured to a fence post so that everyone can tidy up as you go.
Keep The Food Hot And The Drinks Cold
This is important not just because of the simple fact that no one likes warm beer, but also from a food safety point of view. Raw meat needs to be kept in the fridge until it is ready to be put on the barbecue otherwise there is a definite risk of bacteria growth and that means food poisoning! The same rules apply for any meat that has been cooked and not eaten, but has spent the afternoon sat on a plate in the sunshine. It may seem like a waste but it is definitely better to bin it than to risk being ill. Remember also to use different utensils and chopping boards for raw and cooked meat so that bacteria cannot be transferred between the two. Beef and lamb and some fish can be left pink in the middle, however chicken, pork and sausages should be cooked fully with no pink whatsoever.
There aren’t many people who have enough space in their fridge for all the extra drink consumed at a barbecue, especially when it’s already chockablock with meat and salads. But at the same time warm wine and boiling beer just isn’t on. Unless you’re fortunate enough to have a spare fridge, the next best solution is to fill a large container with ice (you can buy bags of it quite cheaply from most supermarkets) and place it in a shady area. Leave a table next to it with a bottle opener, cups, garnishes like lemon slices etc. and that way people can help themselves whenever they need a top up.
The Big Clear Up
Obviously you don’t want a tonne of washing up at the end of what’s been a blinkin’ brilliant barbecue, but with the war on plastic raging it’s way better to do your bit for the planet and opt for the environmentally friendly option. If you haven’t got enough glasses and crockery some supermarkets, like Waitrose, will rent them out to you for a small fee. You do need to return them washed and clean, but hey surely that’s why we have kids right 😉 Don’t leave the tidying up until the next day as no one enjoys doing jobs with a hangover. Plus if everyone mucks in you’ll have the rubbish cleared up in no time.
The very best barbecues involve a mix of great effortless food, an endless supply of ice cold drinks, beautiful sunny days, fabulous friends and plenty of full to the brim belly laughs. Here’s to a summer filled with brilliant BBQs!
Strictly Necessary Cookies
Strictly Necessary Cookie should be enabled at all times so that we can save your preferences for cookie settings.
If you disable this cookie, we will not be able to save your preferences. This means that every time you visit this website you will need to enable or disable cookies again.