How To Put On An Actually Decent BBQ, Whatever Your Garden Situation
The Debrief: It's all in the execution, guys
It’s June, it’s sunny and we are now entering what people like to refer to as ‘barbeque weather’. It’s now socially appropriate to gather around a bowl of fire and watch in wonder as it sears some otherwise very uninteresting food. Excited? Yeah, us too!
Truth be told, it’s always way more fun to rock up at someone else’s BBQ with a pack of cans and a couple of sausages in tow rather than hosting your own. Or, even better, if you find yourself at a family barbie where they have all of those fancy flavoured meat skewers that only real grown-ups can afford.
But the time will inevitably come for you to take on the responsibility of feeding a group of people out of doors. And now that it's actually hot outside that time will probably be sooner than you think. Why? Because I’m afraid there really isn’t an excuse. Whether you have a legitimate garden space with a deck, fairy lights and all the trimmings or your flat came with a communal patch of brown 'grass' by the side of the road, it's totally possible to pull off a banging BBQ. Just remember these few things...
You don’t need a garden
Don’t be fooled. Sure the ideal BBQ situ will involve an abundance of outdoor space with wild flowers swaying in the warm breeze and picnic tables with at red and white chequered cloths draped all over the place, but that is by no means a prerequisite. The trick is to use the space you have efficiently. A teeny tiny garden means you need to give people a reason to want to be inside. So that might be where you keep the snacks and sides, for example. Or maybe that’s where the drinks can live – people always gather around the drinks – and use the fact that it's hot and you simply couldn’t allow people to drink warm beers and they're better kept out of the sun as an excuse. Or, if you have absolutely no outdoor space at all, take it to the park around the corner - BBQs are not for indoors guys.
People will want to sit down
Don’t be that idiot who assumes that people will be fine standing and milling about. A BBQ is not a house party. People will be boozing but not in a way that lends itself to being on your feet for hours out of sheer determination to keep dancing. If you’re giving people food, give ‘em a seat to go with it. Again, if you’re short of chairs pop a few blankets and pillows down on the floor in designated indoor and outdoor areas and turn it into some sort of cute boho theme.
Don’t under-estimate the disposable trays
BBQs tend to bring out the best and the worst in us. The worst normally falling to the two people who spend most of the afternoon faffing over lighting the coals and how often to turn the food. And as great as it would be to have a Big Bad Grill 3000 to cook your burgers on, disposable BBQs do just as good a job as long as you're patient. My advice is to always get one more than you think you're going to need and having multiple small ones allows the organisational nerd within you to arrange the food by category as it's cooking.
Have a backup plan for when it rains/the bbq won’t light
That said, something will always go wrong. And you can't exactly refill a disposable BBQ tray with that spare coal you've got lying around. That's why they're disposable. So make sure you've already got a plan if it all goes wrong. And it doesn't have to be 'everyone run inside and pretend to be just as content with oven baked sausages'. If you're worried about rain, set yourself up with a little sheltered area - be it a patio or a strategically placed umbrella or two. If you know people are going to get antsy when the lighting of the bbq ceremony takes too long, have some of the food pre-cooked so it takes less time when the flames have eventually settled (normally works best for things like sausages).
Address the drink situation early
Gone are the days of having to explicitly put BYOB in the heading of your Facebook event. We all kind of assume that any occasion that involves being invited to someone else's house also involves the etiquette of bringing a bottle or two with you. But as host, remember that as soon as people arrive they're going to start asking for vessels to drink their drinks from. And as lolz at it was at uni, it's never really fun to be the one stuck drinking prosecco out of a mug. Get some plastic glasses ready in advance and please don't forget to buy or make ice. Lots of it. All of the ice. You will want ice. If you're after extra points make a punch. People always stick their noses up at punches until they run out of their own drinks and dive into yours.
Don’t be a dick about sides
I get it. For the carnivores among us, the meat is always the main event. And if we're being honest, nine times out of ten its hard enough to get the ratio of buns to burgers and sausages right let alone thing about anything else that might not even need to go on the BBQ at all. But a good spread involves having plenty of other options going on and quite frankly takes some pressure away from the success of your grilling skills. Pop some chips in the oven, buy crisps and dip, and for the love of god put some veg on! Just because its a BBQ doesn't mean the kitchen is out of bounds, people.
A soundtrack is just as important here as it was at your house party
Putting playlists together is really stressful, but I'm afraid you're going to need one. Particularly if you don't have much going for you in the outdoor space department. Remember what we said about giving people a reason to be inside? Put the music in a room that faces wherever the BBQing will be happening so that you can still hear it outside, but what you're trying to do is create an atmosphere that travels through the house, if you catch my drift. We're all familiar with that feeling of going inside to the loo in the middle of an outdoor event and being a little bit too disorientated by the silence and then walk-running back to the garden a bit too eagerly. Let's avoid that.
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