bbqThere is nothing more precious than spending quality time with our loved ones and what better excuse than a barbecue?  With the summer now in tow, a sizzling barbecue, cool drinks and the loving company of our family and friends are the obvious choices to enjoy the longer days.

Sounds great doesn’t it? But for the likes of me, barbecue cooking can be daunting for endless reasons.  For a great barbecue; though it is not about flash grills and endless food, the key is simplicity, planning ahead and just having fun.  If you can tick off these three fundamentals, then you will surely breeze through your summer barbecue party and most importantly have a fabulous time.

To get you off to the right start, we have put together them simple pointers for you to help you make your party the best it could be.

Set the Scene

Simple lighting and pretty garlands can help set the mood and ambience of a party.  Try sticking to one theme or colour scheme for simple summer elegance in your own back garden. If you do opt for a theme, this could also guide you with the plan for the menu. Citronella candles may also be a great investment, whilst they look great they will also help keep the bugs away from your delicious food.

What’s on the Menu?

It is very easy to be that tad optimistic about what you will be able to manage on the day, so this is where you may need to be careful.  Whilst it is great to have a whole range of food for your guests to choose from, when it comes to the crunch, quality always outdoes quantity.  Investing in fresh, quality produce will make all the difference when it comes to taste.  So pick a select range of fresh seasonal products and make up fresh salsas and salads the night before so you have less fuss on the day.  

Marinating your meat overnight is great, it not only tenderises your meat for speedy cooking, but also injects optimum flavour.  Just ensure you take your food out of the fridge about half an hour before cooking to ensure it is at room temperature for even cooking throughout.

A point to note though, salt and citrus marinades can toughen meat making it more difficult to cook.  If you are marinating with salt and citrus juices leave for no longer than two hours or just season at the point of cooking.

Heat up the Barbecue

Whilst some may think themselves to be a pro when it comes to barbecuing, it is important to be honest and consider where your true strengths lie.  Are you patient and attentive enough for coal barbecuing or would you be better off with gas barbecue instead?  Whilst the conventional coal fuelled barbecue is great for authentic smoky tasting food it is a task trying to control the temperature for evenly cooked food.   A barbecue with grill, on the other hand, allows you to maintain the temperature you require for different foods so can be easier to cook with.

If you do opt for a charcoal barbecue, you may need to plan a little beforehand.  Be mindful that the barbecue will take some time to heat up so it may be worth lighting it up about 20 mins before your guests arrive so it is ready for cooking with.  Different foods will require different temperatures so maybe have less coal on one-half for slower cooking or use foil when cooking that particular food to help slow the cooking process down.

Whilst using a mallet is great way to tenderise meat for barbecue cooking, it will also thin out the meat, which in turn will take up less cooking time.

Get the Show on the Road – Safely!

With the barbecue heated, guests arriving and food at hand, you are ready to get the show on the road.  But do you really have everything you need?  Leaving a barbecue unattended can be risky for numerous reasons so it is important to plan ahead to prevent any accidents from happening.

Have all your cooking equipment nearby the barbecue, so you can ensure it is at hand when required and you do not need to wander off later.  It will also make the process quicker and less stressful so you can enjoy being ‘Chef’ and relax with your guests.

It is tempting to drink when everyone else is, but do be careful – drinking and playing with fire can be a dangerous combination!

Adding sage to a fire pit or warm grill (after you’re done cooking) is just one way to kick bugs out of your backyard party.

gardenThe Aftermath

With everyone now gone, it is likely that all you are left with is endless plates, recycling and a bit of a mess.  This is the last thing you want to do at the end of a party, so why not opt for easy to dispose of cutlery and plates.  Be creative or even inventive when thinking of plating and serving ideas, for example using coffee filters to hold burger rolls in or a wheelbarrow full of ice to hold all the drinks  or edible skewers such as bread sticks or even lemongrass for cooking kebabs, they will infuse flavour, look great and are easy to dispose of later.

Label large colourful buckets for your guests to accurately dispose of their food themselves throughout the party.  For example a blue bucket for glass bottles, green for recyclables and so on, this will look inventive and ensure you have less mess at the end of the party.

So there you have it, you can now relax and enjoy yourselves!