If there’s one thing us Brits are good at apart from complaining about the weather it’s justifying a BBQ the minute the sun comes out. It could be 4°C with gale-force winds but, if there’s a whisper of sunshine, you can guarantee an apocalyptic-type surge will descend on the supermarkets for bread buns and burgers.
But as national BBQ week is upon us, and, with the weather set to reach fore-head burning temperatures, I feel it necessary to map out the essentials you’ll be needing to make sure you put on a show-stopping BBQ!
BBQs have come a long way since the days where you’d shove a couple of sausages on a disposable BBQ and wait until they were suitably scorched. Nowadays, even the disposable BBQs are like inexpensive mini-ovens so it’s easier to get your own alfresco grill on the go! Generally, what you pay for is what you get but for those of us not willing to take out a second mortgage for a piece of equipment that, realistically, might only be used a couple of times a year, you can pick up a decent portable BBQ and get change from a tenner!
Stock your Toolbox!
Secondly, it’s important to remember the essential equipment to optimise your cooking experience whilst minimising any unnecessary hiccups. The last thing you want is singed fingers because you picked up your Rib-Eye directly off the grill with your bare hands. Be prepared! And get your Barbi toolkit stocked with prongs, tongues and a spatula. You can thank me later when your chicken breasts are evenly cooked and your fingerprints are still in-tact.
Condiments and Sides
They say behind every great man, there’s a great woman supporting him and the same applies to a BBQ. It’s not all about the BBQ. To be successful, a BBQ cannot stand alone— no BBQ’s an island. It’s almost become its own culture— a state of mind, an art-form.
When you go to a BBQ, you know you’re not going to be sticking to that beach-ready body diet you’ve been miserably following all week. It’s the weekend! Those two beautiful days where Sauvignon flows at lunch time and nibbling becomes a national sport.
The bits on the side.
Make sure you kit the tables out with the basics; nuts, cucumber batons, egg mayo, spring rolls, samosas, battered mushrooms, sausage rolls, pork pies! Then, if you’ve got space; crispy sweet potato fries and cheesy nachos, pasta salads and coleslaw are all strong contenders to add to the grazing table too!
Get on the sauce…
But no BBQ would be complete without an army of condiments ; mayos, mustards, ketchup, BBQ sauces, home-made salsa and guacamole, tangy salad dressings and creamy Hummus. Get ‘on the sauce’ this BBQ season and embrace the benefits of a good Saturday afternoon snacking session!
So, give your guests something proper to go with their chicken wings. Long gone are the days when a block of cheddar and a family-sized jar of pickled onions would’ve sufficed. You’re playing with the big [hot]dogs now so make sure you take your spread seriously!
Remember: This isn’t the charity bingo at your local town hall.
This… Is… BBQ’ing.
The Main Event
Once upon a time, a British BBQ would typically have involved the cheapest of minced beef burgers and possibly a 60p pack of sausages thrown on to be cremated for an added treat. How times have changed!
So make sure you don’t get a ‘grill’ing from your guests and get creative with what you’re putting between your baps this season!
Get your guests chomping at the ‘spit’.
If you have the time, marinating is a good way to go. Toss a few prawns in with some garlic, chilli and a squeeze of lime for a fiery Thai-style starter. Or maybe give your guests a taste of the exotic with some middle-eastern Lamb Kebabs? If you want to keep it simple yet delicious, tin foil a seasoned Sea Bass fillet with a lemon wedge nestled in there for zest or why not go the whole hog and get sizzling some Sirloins?
The world, as they say, is your oven.
And for the foragers…
BBQ’s are not just about catering for the carnivores anymore. No longer do the vegetarians of the group have to sit in the corner, sadly crunching through blackened bean burgers and bread sticks whilst everybody else gnashes at chicken drumsticks with a Henry VIII - type vigour.
Set to overtake Prosecco in terms of trendiness this summer: the dawn of Halloumi. Get those skewers piercing through peppers and courgettes and fire up some ‘squeaky cheese’ for a tasty veggie alternative to chicken! Mushrooms, aubergine, beef tomatoes- with the right herbs and spices, you can finally make your veggie mates’ mouths water because, after all, they deserve to enjoy a BBQ too!
The final act.
Obviously when it comes to desserts, it’s up to you how you do it. Everyone loves the great British summer classics; Eton Mess, Victoria sponge and, of course, the illustrious tinned fruit trifle. But if you’re looking for scrumptiousness with minimal effort, then BBQ’ing a banana in foil with some chocolate works a treat! Obviously you can improvise with your choice of chocolate- anything from Lindt to a chopped up Crème Egg, and when it’s ready, you’ll have a delicious gooey treat to demolish. A guaranteed crowd pleaser!
It’s messy but it is so worth it.
Revive your refreshments!
For many connoisseurs of the 'Bar-Be-Cue' realm, the food is the main event but if your drinks station isn’t properly prepped, you may end up with a small rebellion to mediate. Having a crate strewn in the corner with a couple of bottles of warm pop for the drivers just won’t cut it anymore.
People are a lot harder to impress nowadays. So, don’t fall short of the order and give your guests something to fizz about! In recent years, this retro-quirky-chic style has become immensely popular but can sometimes be pricey to replicate.
Getting some fun glasses, though, can be a cheap way to create a ‘wow’ factor. Drinking your Orange juice out of a cute mason jar with a straw or an old-fashioned style milk bottle would definitely put a smile on your face- even if you are the designated driver. And from 49p a glass, you can plug a cork in your spending.
And if you want to be really impressive, get your hands on a fabulous drinks dispenser for the table. Whether your style is vintage or quirky, a dispenser is an incredibly easy way to tart-up that homemade fruit punch you probably should’ve followed a recipe to make…
Jazz up your drinks and make your guests feel special — it's a party, after all!
Give your garden a spring clean.
Nobody’s expecting a ‘Mrs Bucket’ type approach when it comes to tidying up your garden after the grotty winter months, but there are a few economical and simple ways to inject some life back into your garden.
Firstly, make sure you’ve got enough furniture.
Although most people tend to end up milling around the garden lazily, chatting, nibbling and slurping their Pimms, you want to give your guests the option of a comfy seat. But you don’t have to spend a fortune to get some nice chairs. Outdoor furniture has come on leaps and bounds since those abominable plastic white yard chairs that your Grandma always brought out for garden parties.
Pick up a few panama chairs – they come in loads of bright colours and actually make you want to sit down— not like their predecessors. But if they don’t take your fancy, there are loads to choose from, varying in colour, material and comfort, so you can give your guests a proper place to curl up when the sun sets and everyone’s eaten their fill!
Twinkle under the stars…
And for when the sun goes down, sprinkle some solar onto your garden. With gorgeous fairy lights, hanging bulbs and stake lights from as little as 75p, it’s easy to give your garden a sparkling make-over without blowing your budget!
So, there you have it —
—a guide to not getting a ‘roast’ing this summer by bettering your neighbours’ BBQs and making sure yours is the best BBQ your street has ever seen!