With the summer season already here and the temperatures expected to rise even more over the next few days, many have plans to fire up the barbeque this weekend. All it takes is a glowing sun (even if it is only for 5 minutes), bags full of charcoal and a quick reaction; phone calls should be made immediately and everyone should hastily put on their best shorts and t-shirt… before the sun leaves the U.K. for another year.
So, how can you host the “perfect” BBQ party, especially when you don’t have the time to organise everything in advance? Instead of serving your guests a few frazzled sausages we have complied some hints and tips on how to make your parties an experience that everyone will remember for a long time.
Going all out for a traditional barbeque means serving ribs, chicken, burgers and sausages, but don’t forget those who don’t eat meat and include things such as veggie burgers. Also make sure there is something for people with food allergies to eat. People attend BBQ’s with high expectations for the food, so it’s important that you get it right. Everything should be cooked on a low heat to get the best out of the meat. If you have the time and really want to go for it, marinate or season the meat the night before. The classic sauces to serve are BBQ sauce, tomato ketchup and mayonnaise. People will always remember if there wasn’t enough food and choice on offer and nobody wants a reputation of throwing a poor party.
Snacks like crisps should be on offer to starve off hunger, while you guests are waiting for the meat to cook, and to prevent them from getting too drunk too quickly. You may also consider getting some ice-cream for those who can’t resist a sweet treat for dessert and to keep people cool.
Make sure there are plenty of cool drinks on the table. You could even get your guests’ favourite drinks in for extra brownie points (and to be in with a chance of winning the “Host of the Year” award). Include a mix of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks; while you won’t be driving some guests will be and some may be tee-total. Pimm’s and lemonade in jugs with chopped strawberries, oranges, cucumber and mint leaves is a summery choice while beer is essential.
To mix things up, you could try something different, like orange or limed tinted flavoured beers. To keep drinks cool you could use a large container filled with ice, so you don’t have to run in and out of the house every time someone wants a drink. Just because it‘s summer it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have tea and coffee in your cupboard; these will always be the “die hard” drinks that fans refuse to live without, no matter the weather.
It’s highly doubtfully you’ll want guests in your back garden eating off your finest china plates, so make sure you have enough paper plates, napkins, plastic cutlery and cups. They aren’t the most attractive things in the world, so chose bright colours to add to the summer vibe. The real beauty in them is that they are easy to dispose of. Have a bin easily accessible for your guests to use, each time they want to dispose of their old plate or napkin, but not too close to the food as you want to avoid attracting unwanted guests such as flies.
Remember that all this means nothing if you don’t have a reliable BBQ; taking too long to prepare a few steaks, or being able to serve literally “a few” steaks due to its size, will leave your guests starving and stuffing their mouths with the nibbles – which is fine, unless it lasts too long. Light the barbecue before your guests arrive to create a welcoming aroma and to raise their appetite. If you do not belong to the BBQ Experts pantheon, then make sure that you choose a BBQ grill that will make your life easy.
I doubt you’ll meet anyone who doesn’t like a BBQ since having a barbeque party is a great occasion to relax with friends and family while men compete to be the alpha in charge of cooking the meat. If you have too many “chefs” attending your BBQ party, then why not adopt the Australian BBQ customs? Every time the head-chef needs to refill his drink the next in line takes over – and by “next in line” we mean literally the person that is seated closest to him. This way anyone who wishes to be in charge of the grilling can get a chance to do it.
Make sure your garden is in top condition. A BBQ needs to set level and guests don’t want to feel like they have to wade through the grass because it is long and unkempt. If you haven’t got your hands around it for a while, hire a Lawn Scarifier and spend a few hours in the morning to tidy up your lawn!
While your guests are waiting for their main meal, be sure you have enough chairs for them to sit on as not everyone will want to stand and eat. You need enough tables for guests to put their plates and drinks on, but you also need a table by the BBQ to put cooking utensils on when they are not being used.
If you’re hosting a large party all your guests may not know each other. Break the silence with music, as this will help people feel more relaxed and help them to mingle. You can either have the radio on or a CD if you know what your guests like. If they are into dance music putting rock on probably isn’t your best bet. Make sure what you decide to play the music on will be loud enough, if you are playing the music from inside your home. As guests start to get tipsy and the night draws on, you could always check if anyone is up for the Macarena. If there are children attending, make sure there are activities for them to engage in or toys to play with. A bored child doesn’t exactly help create a relaxing party atmosphere.
The best way not to make an enemy of your neighbours is to be considerate towards them, especially if they work unsocial hours, weekends or have small children. If they aren’t going to be at your BBQ party let them know beforehand you are hosting one, with a rough idea of how many people will be there and what time it will end.
The British summer is infamous for being unpredictable. Make sure you have all weather conditions covered. Spending a few minutes inside the house if it’s a scorcher of a day can help your guests stay cool with an air conditioner or fan. On the other hand, if you party lasts into the night an outdoor heater will keep guests warm long after the BBQ flames have died down. If your garden is big enough you could also hire a party tent to make sure your BBQ party can be held despite of what Mother Nature throws at you.
While a BBQ is about relaxing, eating, drinking and generally having fun you must be safe while you are doing so. Raw meat is one of the most common sources of contamination, so here is some useful piece of advice from the NHS:
Raw meat is a nesting paradise for germs; these germs can easily move from raw meat onto anything that might get in contact with it, such as cutlery or even your hands, and then onto anything else you touch, including food that is cooked and ready to eat; that is called “cross-contamination”.
Here are a few tips to help prevent cross-contamination:
- Wear a pair of disposable gloves when you are about to touch or chop raw meat; if that’s not possible, then remember to always wash your hands after touching raw meat.
- Use separate sets of utensils and chopping boards to manage or chop cooked and raw meat.
- Don’t use the same plate that has (or previously had) raw meat on to place cooked food.
- Keep raw meat in a sealed container away from foods that are ready to eat, such as salads and buns.
- Never put sauce or marinade on cooked food, if it has already been used with raw meat.
Food poisoning cases double during the summer, so if you aren’t cooking your meat in the oven before putting it on the BBQ you need to be extremely careful.
Here is a checklist from the NHS that will help you know when your meat is ready to serve:
- Before you start cooking make sure the coals have a glowing red colour and a powdery grey surface.
- Frozen meat has to be properly thawed before cooking it.
- Make sure the meat is cooked evenly by turning it regularly; when it is piping hot in the centre, there are no pink parts visible and it is drowned of all its juices then it’s ready to eat.
Finally, here is a checklist regarding fire safety:
- Stabilise the barbecue so that there is no danger of reversal, away from any flammable furniture or plants.
- The coal layer at the bottom of the barbecue should not exceed a 5cm (2in) depth.
- Opt for recognised firelighters or starter fuel and use them only on cold coals.
- Never use petrol on a barbecue.
- Keep children away from the barbeque.
Now your BBQ party is planned and everything is prepared you are ready to go. Relax, sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labour, as well as the company of your guests and family.
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