There is nothing quite like having a party at home where you spend time with your favourite friends or loved ones, relax and have a great time. As we sit down to prepare a list it tends to involve, food, drink and a BBQ. In this guide, we'll give you our top 10 tips on how to host the ultimate BBQ party.
Inviting friends or family around to your house can create stress as you feel there is just so much to do in advance. The best way of avoiding stress is to be prepared as much as you can. Now this doesn't mean you've got to spend weeks in the garden, weeding, jet washing the patio and repainting or staining fences. What this really means is, you need to focus on getting the main areas of your home or garden ready and the BBQ. Once people have had a few glasses of chilled wine or beer, they will not be focused on the fact your fence panels could do with a new stain or that there are weeds in the flower beds. What they'll be thinking is, "when is the food coming out", "where abouts is another drink" or "I need somewhere to sit down pronto as my feet are killing me already".
So, with that in mind, get the basics right and everything else will fall into place. If you've got some garden furniture, then clear a space where this is going to be, get the cushions out from the shed and make sure there are no cobwebs on them and give the table a good clean so that you would actually feel comfortable about eating food off it. Next, make a list of the food you would actually want to eat yourself if you were to go to a friends house and decide where you are buying it from. Plan the drinks and make sure you have enough in for everyone. A cost effective way of keeping your drinks cool and easily accessible is to purchase a builders mixing bucket from a DIY store. These large flexible plastic buckets can be filled with cold water, add some party ice to them and then fill with bottles or cans of your favourite drink and leave them outside with a bottle opener near by. This avoids people forever coming back into the house for a fresh drink and leaves the fridge free to store your food.
And finally, the barbecue itself. If you've got a grill already, then get it out of the shed and make sure it's clean and ready to use. Give those grill bars a thorough clean with a BBQ cleaning brush and warm soapy water and make sure that the grease tray has been emptied and cleaned before you start. Don't forget, if you are using a gas barbecue make sure there is plenty of gas in the bottle, if in doubt get a spare to hand. And if it's charcoal, make sure you have plenty of it as your party can rumble on for a good few hours and you will need to keep the grill topped up with fuel.
Guests these days are going to be expecting more than just your usual burgers and sausage. Over the last 5 years we Brits have become more adventurous at outdoor cooking, trying new recipes that we have seen either on TV, Online or in a Magazine. So, there are points to be scored here with your guests if you are prepared to offer something a little more adventurous than a well done quarter pound burger with a slice of cheese melted on it. The secret to success, especially if you are not an adventurous cook, is marinade and BBQ rubs. Making your own marinade or buying one prepared and pouring over your choice of meat the night before will have an amazing effect to not only the texture of the meat itself but the flavour too. Same too for using BBQ dry rubs. Simply pouring over a rub of spices onto a piece of meat takes as much time as putting salt and vinegar on your chips and will make all the difference in terms of taste.
3) Fire Up the Grill
If you are using a charcoal BBQ the best thing to do is get this lit before your guests arrive. Firstly, for some, lighting charcoal becomes a time consuming, panic stricken, stressful and very messy task and therefore attempting to do this with an audience watching is only going to add to the tension. Plus, you are sure to get some of your friends coming over and standing around offering advice. Secondly, if you've got the BBQ fired up you can be preparing your nibbles or finger food ready for your guests.
Lighting a charcoal BBQ is quick and pain free. It really is as easy as filling up a Starter Chimney, lighting two small natural firelighters and waiting 15 minutes. No stress, no mess, just fire!
If you are using a gas bbq and you've already got it clean as in step 1, then turn on the gas, close the lid and bring up to temperature at around 200 degrees C. Then look to get some nibble foods on there ready for your guests to arrive.
4) Cooking Techniques
We have mentioned about offering your guests more than just the traditional burgers and sausage, but whatever you decide to cook you want to make sure the food is cooked through and not burnt. The simple and stress free way of doing this is cooking to temperature and not time and most importantly cooking with the lid down. You've been to the butcher or supermarket, spent good money on food, then therefore let's make the best effort to make it taste good too.
Whether you use gas or charcoal, you need to create an area of direct heat and an area on the grill where there is no heat. So spread the hot coals on one side of the tray and leave the other empty and if using gas, leave burners unlit for a cooler area. So, on a 3 burner model you could light the outer burners and not the middle one, or burners 1 and 2 and leave the end burner not lit. Close the lid and bring the temperature up to around 200 degrees C.
Once you have done this you then have control over your cooking space. You can sear meats like steaks, burgers, chicken etc over the heat and then move to the area where there is no direct heat and, with the lid down, this food will no longer burn but continue to cook all the way through.
To avoid any doubt, get yourself a temperature probe so that you can pop into the food and check what the core temperature is. If it reads to the right temp, such as 75 degrees C for chicken, then you know your food is safe to eat.
5) Centre Piece
Guests these days expect more than just the basic fayre. You can make your life much easier by having a centre piece to your cooking and then add smaller items to go with it. It is easy enough to cook a large piece of meat such as a Beef Joint, Leg of Lamb or large piece of fish, like Salmon, on your grill, especially if you have got it well under way before your guests arrive. This means you have then taken the pressure off feeding hungry mouths with a large item which once cut up will go a long way. You also get the kudos from your guests when they are tucking into something they were not expecting especially when it has been done on the barbecue. Complimenting this with some salad and potatoes also avoids people filling up on large quantities of bread too.
6) More than Just Meat!
People tend to associate a BBQ with a meat fest. Huge quantities of meat being grilled over flame and devoured by guests. But what about if some of your guests are not meat eaters at all, or they prefer something a little lighter then a hefty quarter pound weight of beef patty in between some bread? By using a flat, solid cooking surface on your grill, you are instantly opening yourself up to being able to cook more delicate items like fish and vegetables. There is nothing which tastes quite like some fresh fish over an open flame, so grilling up some pieces of fish such as Salmon, Seabass, Tuna, Mackeral is quick, super easy and offers a great alternative to piles of meat. It also scores you points on the fact that you are being a bit more adventurous with your BBQ. Cheeses such as Halloumi grill really well on a BBQ and offer something that little bit different too and of course there is always the favourite of a stone baked pizza.
Keeping your guests hydrated is always a good idea. So to avoid going backwards and forwards to the fridge, why not look to make a homemade punch or cocktail as a centre piece to the table or drinks area. You can put together one of your favourite drinks by following an easy recipe and having a large jug of it for people to help themselves.
If you know some of your guests are going to be driving then why not make the effort to offer them something tasty too which is non alcoholic. A fruit punch or flavoured drink makes them feel involved and is also much better then offering the designated driver a coke or a lemonade.
8) Keeping the Flow
If you were invited around to a friends home for dinner you would usually expect to sit down and food to be brought out at the same time and everyone ate together.
The same principle does not need to apply to a barbecue party. So many people feel the need to have to get all the food ready together so that you can put it on a table and then let people fill their plates up at once. What this does it cause two problems. Firstly, stress for the chef or chefs as you are frantically trying to think how long is this food going to take, how to keep cooked food warm. And in all the panic and malaise you take your eye off some food cooking on the grill or hob and something burns which then tends to lead to tension. Secondly, you have guests who have arrived at your home on an empty stomach and especially if the wait for food goes on for a long time, can lead to people being taken over by a massive sense of starvation and panic on where the next meal is going to come from so that when you finally put out the food and shout "help yourselves" they literally go for the food table and set upon it like a herd of locusts.
Keep a steady flow of food coming out all of the time. This leads to a much more relaxed atmosphere and less hungry people. Get some finger foods prepared on the grill for when people arrive so that they can be tucking into food from the beginning. Having nibbles on the table and little snacks takes the pressure off.
If you've gone for the centre piece as mentioned before, then you already know you've an ace up your sleeve and there is something large and tasty which will soon be ready for your guests and will handle most of the damage done at the food table. Keeping the food coming out in small amounts keep the guests interested and gives you the plaudits for putting on such a great tasting spread.
Creating a good atmosphere at your BBQ party can be easily achieved and you can set the tone or mood by choosing some killer tracks to play. With the various music devices and streaming services on offer in the market today, your life could not be easier in this department. You can either plan ahead and create a playlist in advance and play all the tunes you think your guests will enjoy listening too or simply choose a playlist which will fall in line with the mood at the time. Having music on in the background before your guests arrive will help you to relax and get into the party spirit so that when your first guest knocks on the door you are greeting them with a smile instead of a face of fluster and angst.
There is nothing like having a party at home and spending time with friends or family. It really is one of life's pleasures. Therefore, if you are putting the time, effort and money into hosting an event, the most important ingredient in it all is that you, the hosts, enjoy it and enjoy yourselves.
Removing the stress out of your event leads to a much happier environment, a more enjoyable experience for you preparing it and this in turn is therefore reflected in the quality of the event you put on and its success. If you are happy, then your guests are happy and not the other way around.