There’s nothing more quintessential to a British summer than the smell of meat sizzling over fire. So, delight your guests with these 10 top tips for the ultimate summer BBQ.
1. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
The first step for any BBQ is to make sure you’re prepared with everything you need to please your guests.
Work out how much food you need for the number of people you’re cooking for, and make sure everyone is catered for – there’s no point preparing chicken wings for guests who prefer meat that’s not on the bone.
Make sure you’ve got all your buns and hot dog rolls, as well as ketchup, mustard, horseradish, and any other condiments you like.
2. Be ready for adverse weather
British summers are never complete without the constant threat of rain driving everyone inside.
Even if the weather forecast is predicting hot sun all day, make sure you have griddle pans and oven trays ready to go at a moment’s notice. You could even preheat the oven if it looks like the clouds are looming.
3. Use the right tools for the job
A BBQ chef is only as good as the tools they have available. Stock up on the right tools and make sure you have them all to hand.
Have a good set of tongs to the ready, as well as a spatula, meat thermometer and brushes for any marinades you’ve used.
It’s always good to have some extra plates to hand when you’re cooking so you have somewhere to keep cooked and uncooked meat.
4. Use charcoal rather than gas – and NEVER disposable!
If you had any concerns over whether charcoal or gas is the right way to go, look no further: the answer is charcoal.
Gas is good for creating consistent heat, but it just can’t replicate that smoky flavour charcoal provides.
Buy high-quality charcoal from a garden centre, rather than cheap supermarket or petrol station briquettes.
And don’t even consider disposable BBQs; they may be cheap, but you very much get what you pay for.
5. Marinate your meat
The best way to add the “wow” factor to your BBQ is by adding mouth-watering marinades to your meats.
Put your meat in your marinades and give them plenty of time to soak, ideally overnight. Then, when you come to cook your meat, shake off any excess oil before you start cooking. This helps to stop the marinades from burning.
Remember to lightly reapply some of the sauce with a brush as you cook, as this helps seal in the flavour and the moisture.
There are hundreds of marinade recipes available online, such as teriyaki, Piri Piri, BBQ sauce or lemon and garlic. Find some flavours you like the sound of and prepare in advance.
6. Don’t forget the vegetarians and vegans
BBQs are largely all about the meat but check whether you have any vegetarians or vegans among your guests.
Even if you have a party of carnivores, classic vegetarian BBQ dishes such as chargrilled peppers and halloumi are still welcome additions to any plate.
There are plenty of meat alternatives available that you’d have trouble separating from the real thing, too. Beyond Meat burgers and Moving Mountains hot dogs are so close in taste and texture that you might even mistake them for meat.
7. Make some killer sides
Your side dishes can make or break your BBQ as, without them, your plates lose both colour and variety.
A crunchy, leafy salad is a must, as is potato salad and coleslaw. You could include couscous, quinoa or bulgur wheat to add a bit of substance to your salads.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, take a leaf out of the recipe book from the American south, and serve up some mac and cheese, black-eyed peas, and fried greens to accompany the meat.
8. Avoid fridge chill
Fridge chill can ruin a BBQ entirely, especially as it can lead to food poisoning.
This happens because your meat is too cold on the inside, meaning the outside burns before the inside is properly cooked.
You can avoid fridge chill easily by getting raw meat up to room temperature before it goes on the heat. To do this, simply take your meat out of the fridge twenty minutes before you want to cook it.
9. Start and stop cooking at the right moment
Getting your timings spot-on is key for both keeping your guests satisfied and getting your meat to the right level.
Light the BBQ at least half an hour before your guests arrive. This gives it enough time to burn the coals properly, calming the flames and achieving optimal cooking temperature.
When your meat is cooking, don’t be afraid to give it time to cook gently. Typically, the more time your meat has, the greater the flavour.
Remember: slow and low is the way to go.
10. Rest the meat
Once your meat is off the heat, you might think your work is done and it’s time to tuck in. But, if you can hold off for just a few more minutes, your meat will reabsorb the juices and become even more tender and succulent.
Wrap meat in foil once it’s cooked and take it off the direct heat. The larger the piece of meat, the longer it will take to reabsorb those juices.
Give it a little bit of time, maybe even up to a quarter of an hour before it’s ready. Then you can finally pile your plate high with meat, veggies and sides, and get stuck in.