There’s no greater British tradition than getting your friends and family round for a BBQ the second the sun appears. Summertime can be short and sweet in the UK so who can blame us for making the most of it with beers and burgers in the back garden while we can?
This year, step it up a notch and ensure any BBQ’s you host are ones to remember. Don’t worry if you’re cooking skills are more microwave than gourmet – these simple hacks don’t require you to learn to cook, instead you can just pour a drink and whack on the factor 30 and enjoy the heatwave.
Know your guests and their diets
It seems everyone has a certain dietary requirements these days. It’s not enough to just bulk buy some burgers and buns and hope everyone is a meat eater who can handle their gluten. Make sure you prepare for any vegan or veggie guests and have enough to offer everyone and ensure no one leaves hungry. This needn’t be seen as a hassle – in the process you may learn to cook something delicious that you would have maybe never tried before. You never know, even the carnivores amongst your guest list may find themselves queuing for the meat free options you have to offer.
Remember to wash everything that handles raw meat and never reuse a plate that has held uncooked meat on it. No one wants their guests leaving with some food poisoning they didn’t order! Also, remove your burgers and sausages etc from the fridge around 15 minutes before you throw them on the Barbie – this allows them chance to come down to room temperature and means it stands a better chance of cooking evenly.
Although of course, the focus is on the meat cooking away, ensure you wow your guests with a great selection of side dishes and vegetables. Classic potato salads, corn on the cobs, flatbreads, couscous, halloumi – the list of potential extras are endless. Don’t just serve up a bowl of soggy salad and a few burger buns.
For many people, nothing beats a hot summer’s day eating and drinking and rounding it off with a cigarette in the sun. However, for those that don’t indulge, they’re not exactly going to be thrilled to be basking in the smell of smoke that isn’t coming from the BBQ. If you have the space, section off a small part of the garden for the nicotine addicts so no one’s experience is ruined and everyone is happy.
A spatula or tongs is the way to go when flipping your food if you don’t want the juices escaping, making the meat less flavourful.
Decide who will be in charge of the cooking and stick to it. Have a couple of designated roles for those hosting before the party starts then everything will run smoothly. Preferably, don’t have someone manning the BBQ if their skills mean they had to use google in order to learn to cook some toast one time. Play people to their strengths.
Don’t just rely on good old BBQ sauce to marinate the meats, and have more than classic ketchup and brown as the condiments on offer. Experiment with different types of marinades, seasonings and rubs to give your food unique and delicious tastes.
Barbecuing takes patience and concentration. You need to know just when the right time to throw the shrimp on is. Jamie Oliver’s website suggests the best way to test the heat is with your hand – the DJ BBQ method. Hold your hand about 12cm/5inches above the grill and see how long you can hold it there comfortably (ie. without screaming).
6 seconds = low heat
4 seconds = medium heat
2 seconds = in DJ’s words “hotter than a goat’s butt in a chilli pepper patch”
0 seconds = Hospital. Now.
You also need to control the temperature across the grill. The easiest technique is the half and half – put all the coals to one side, so you have a mega-hot side and one with no direct heat.
In a tip that was made for pinterest, get people to write how they’d like their meat cooked via sauce on their burger bun. EG; WD for Well Done, M for Medium etc etc.
The only thing that disappears faster than the sun at a UK BBQ is the one bottle of red sauce doing the rounds. Ensure your guests aren’t pacing around to see who’s had off with the bottle of Heinz by creating little platters of sauces in muffin trays and having a few placed around the garden.
Most of all remember to have fun and enjoy the BBQ!