Although the traditional ‘BBQ’ might appear to be more of an American pastime, enthusiasm for expertly smoked meats, cold beer and good conversation is catching worldwide. Whilst there isn’t as much of a mainstream BBQ ‘culture’ in the UK as there is in Australia or the states, almost every home owns one and it can’t be denied that the summer BBQ is perhaps one of the seasons most illustrious pleasures.
Although it might seem like summer will never arrive (this year at least), when it finally does decide to grace us with its presence you’ll want to be prepared and of course the first step is taking care of the unit itself. There are literally hundreds of models available, fit for all budgets and levels of interest, from mufti-tiered behemoths to more subtle, traditional designs. Before you make your decision though, be sure to shop around and remember to not neglect online retailers.
Of course it’s not all about the BBQ itself. The barbecue atmosphere is almost impossible to contrive as the best BBQ’s are less about the grill, the meat and the booze and more about the people. But with that being said, you really can’t host a decent BBQ without the right ingredients (and I’m not just talking about the food) so in this guide we’ll take you through all the preparations you should be making before holding your inaugural 2013 summer Barbecue, how you should compose yourself during the main event and how to make sure everything goes smoothly.
The Lead up
You need to start planning your ‘big day’ at least a week beforehand. Make sure your home is spotless as your guests may go wandering once there’s a lull in conversation and that you have enough chairs and dining places for all of your confirmed guests. Next, start to think about the food you’ll be serving and how many of your guests will be bringing their own food. Very rarely will the guests expect their host (or hosts) to supply all of the food, but it would certainly be a little naive to not supply any.
Converse with your guests beforehand and make sure everyone is bringing something different. For example you could ask one couple to bring the salad, ask another to bring the desserts, ask another to bring the breads and supply the meat yourself. Vegetarians should also be considered. There might be hundreds of possible jokes to make about vegetarians at BBQ’s but the truth is a BBQ cooked mushroom or zucchini can be just as tasty as a juicy, smoked burger.
The Day Before
Make sure you do all of your shopping beforehand as you don’t want to be caught out on the day itself. It’s also a good idea to buy a little bit more than you think you’ll need as you can’t possibly predict how hungry your guests will be. Prepare your meat the night before with some simple marinades that you can leave to settle in overnight and prepare any of the more complicated menu items (kebabs for example) so you won’t have to rush them the next morning.
The Big Day
Dips, bread and assorted appetizers should be sorted first and foremost so guests have something to nibble on as soon as they arrive. Everything should be prepared early on in the day so that when everybody finally arrives you will appear calm, collected and ready to enjoy the night. If you’re providing the drinks, make sure you have a wide selection of beers, wines, spirits and soft drinks and (if you plan on going the extra mile) be sure to create a special ‘BBQ Playlist’ for your guests that will create the right atmosphere for your party. As far as the grill itself goes, make sure it’s clean and that you have enough fresh charcoal. You might also want to rub the grill surface with a thin layer of olive oil to prevent your meat from sticking.
Prepare for the Worst
With any BBQ, you need to plan for bad weather. Even if the forecast for the day is nothing but blue skies and sunshine be sure to keep the gazebo on stand-by just in case. You should also plan to move the party inside if needs be, as if the BBQ is already in full swing by the time the rain descends, people will already have had a few drinks and will not feel like leaving right away. Keeping some form of potential cover at hand for the grill itself is also recommended so that the cooking can continue whatever the weather. It would also be wise to prepare for the possibility of your BBQ failing on you. Be sure to have a caterers number on stand-by just in case (using a hog roast hire firm is always a popular replacement option for a rogue BBQ).
Hosting a BBQ can be challenging work, but it should also be fun and if you’re not having fun then either you invited the wrong people or you just need to learn how to do it better next time! Don’t be ashamed as nobody is a ‘pit master’ after their first BBQ; it takes practice. Once you’ve got the basics down though, the rest should come naturally and you’ll be the toast of your friendship group come summer next year!