So far it’s been a summer of Barbecues; the weather’s been so beautiful here in Wales (I mean who’d have thunk it?) that we’ve had or been to one practically every weekend. I’m not complaining! I LOVE a good barbecue, and over the weekend we hosted yet another one in our back garden, thanks to the lovely people at Marks and Spencer who recently sent me an email asking if I’d like to try some of their goodies for the grill.
So, having put a few successful barbecues under my belt this summer (literally, you should see my waist line…), here are my top ten tips for hosting the best ever barbecue. 🙂
1. Fire up the Grill at 3pm
There’s nothing better than banging barbecue weather, but standing next to the grill at midday – when the sun is blazing overhead – will have you melting faster than that slice of Monterey Jack crowning your burgers. Spare a thought for your grill jockey and get the grill going at 3pm instead when it’s cooler and shadier. It’ll also give you plenty of time in the morning to prepare the food and set up. 🙂
2. Keep your set up simple
The last thing you want to be doing when the whole neighbourhood is squeezed into your back garden is rushing around making sure everyone’s got plates, ketchup, napkins etc… The best way to host a stress-free barbecue is to make sure people can help themselves to whatever they need, whenever they need it. Create a “Pimp Your Hotdog” stand where all the sauces, buns and garnishes can be found, and set up another space for plates, forks (no one uses knives at barbecues!) and napkins.
When it comes to decorating, keep it simple! Brightly-coloured streamers and pom poms will look great when there’s a breeze, while fairy or pontoon lights will keep the party going when the sun goes down. Oh, and don’t forget a couple of citronella candles and wasp traps to keep those stinging party poopers at bay.
3. Serve Pitcher-friendly Drinks
Aside from bottled beers and cans shoved in a massive ice bucket, pitcher-friendly drinks are a great way to serve up some fancier drinks that everyone can help themselves to. Plus, they’re easy to prep and make up beforehand. I served up these Peach, Apricot and Raspberry Floats over the weekend and they went down a treat! Just smear some glasses with raspberry coulis and pop them in the fridge or freezer, then make up a jug of the Peach and Apricot Fizz. Serve up with a hefty blob of frozen yoghurt and garnish with some raspberries and mint. Yum!
4. Something to Keep Pets Entertained
Bungle is an absolute nightmare when he’s out in the garden. He digs holes, chews on the plants and just generally likes to cause trouble. So, when we’re having a barbecue making sure there’s plenty to keep him (and his friends!) entertained is a must. First things first, make sure there’s fresh water handy and somewhere for furry guests to cool down – whether that’s a shady area or a massive paddling pool is up to you, but be warned, if you pick the paddling pool then you’re going to get showered with shake off! Make sure there are plenty of toys out, as well as a few treats handy. I like to make Bungle his very own cup of frozen yoghurt with chopped up bits of cheese and sausage. They’re super easy to make and he goes absolutely mad for them (…plus they keep him out of trouble for a good half hour…).
5. Serve up the *Best Ever Burgers
I mean, can you even call a barbecue a barbecue if you don’t serve up some show-stopping burgers? Especially here in Wales; according to statistics we consumed 180,000 M&S burgers in the last 12 months – that’s enough to fill the Principality Stadium to capacity twice over! You all know how much I love Marks and Spencer when it comes to barbecue food; their Posh Dogs make the best hot dogs (and you all know how fussy I am when it comes to Hot Dogs, right?). Well, now they’ve taken the Grill Crown once again with their Best Ever Burgers. Apparently, the M&S boeffins (see what I did there?) spent a whole year creating the recipe, playing around with different cuts until they came up with a juicy patty that’s got a little bit of added bone marrow for an extra hit of flavour. (M&S is also the only national retailer in the UK that can trace every single bit of beef it sells in store, right down the exact cow that provided it.) We served them up on the weekend with fresh salad, fried red onion rings, beef tomatoes, bacon (phwoar…), some Cheddar and Balsamic Burger Melts and a hefty smudge of Smoky Onion Relish and they were a huge hit. Sunny grilled them to perfection on the BBQ and when he asked my brother and I how they were, we just nodded and mmmmm’d with warm juice drizzling down our wrists. Oh yes. We may have sneaked a few before everyone arrived… 👌
6. Something for the Veggies
But why should us rampant carnivores have all the fun, eh? Veggies like my Mum love a barbecue too. There are plenty of great vegetarian dishes you can cook up on the grill, from stuffed peppers and mushrooms, to these spicy halloumi kebabs drizzled with hot mango salsa. Just remember to make extra because you can bet everyone else is going to want to have a couple too. And remember, depending on how strict your veggies are, you might want to have a separate grill or disposable barbecue handy to prevent cross contamination.
7. Pick Simple Sides
No one wants to faff around cooking up fancy sides in the middle of a barbecue, so pick a handful of recipes that you can make ahead of time. Plenty of salad, grilled sweet corn and chips are always easy to make up and go down well. I like making these baked new potato wedges with my Chilli and Red Pepper Jam and chopped chives.
8. Don’t forget to serve up something sweet!
But make sure it’s not going to sweat in the heat! Ice lollies and ice cream are great if you’ve got somewhere to store them where guests can come and go as they please, but there are lots of other options too. Why not whip up a very messy Eaton Mess, or serve up some cake with plenty of fresh berries and ice cold cream? 🙂
9. Evening Games
I went to a barbecue recently where we played musical chairs, no kidding! We’d all had a bit to drink by that point, and what started off as a game to entertain the kids turned into an adults only duel to the death. It was hilarious! Once everyone’s had their fill of food, it’s great to have some after dinner games to entertain everyone while the grill cools and the sun goes down.
10. Make the Cleanup a Doddle
“Let’s host a barbecue, it’ll be great!” And it is, until everyone goes home and you’re left to scrub grease off the grill and clear up all those bottles (and the mud and grass that the dog’s trodden in through the kitchen…). Make life easier for yourself and clean up as you go along or consider serving food up on paper plates to cut down on the late night washing up. Also close doors to rooms indoors that you want to keep clean and tidy; that way guests won’t get lost and leave you with extra spots to scrub up at the end of the day.
How many Barbecues have you had or been to this summer? I think we’re up to about ten and honestly, I could easy go for at least ten more 😉 Massive thanks to Marks and Spencer for all the glorious food! 🍔