There's nothing like tentatively dabbing the fresh ketchup stain on your white linen dress in your friend's back garden. Nothing beats pretending to be comfortable perched on the edge of a flower bed when all other seating options, even the heavy dining room chairs that were ceremoniously dragged from inside, are taken in the first ten minutes. There isn't anything quite as rousing as the smell of charred, smokey meat wafting through the summer air...
Yep, it's peak time for the great British BBQ and your diary is about to be heavily booked up with them. While the whole process would be wildly inconvenient in any other circumstances (did you miss the bit about the ketchup stain?) this might just be the only year that you won't have to take the party indoors to shelter from the usual rain interruption. So, it's time to get good at them.
The rules don't stray too far from general party hosting - plan ahead, don't run out and make sure there's enough space for everyone - but with a few extra considerations, you might just look forward to the Saturday afternoon when it's you turn to fire up the grill.
We've merged the fun, the practical and the plain old essentials to bring you the Grazia Guide to hosting a grown-up barbecue to be proud of. No disposable coal trays here, though. We're talking legitimate, bona fide, Instagram-able garden party vibes. Read through to find out how to pull it off without a (heatwave induced) sweat.
Spare us the eye roll, because the value of planning ahead couldn't be any higher. BBQ's are probably the most high pressure, dinner-orientated gathering you'll have because for a significant part of food service, you'll be cooking on demand with an audience. Lessen the stress by getting everything, and we mean everything, ready the day before. Marinate your meats, chop your veg, assemble any skewers, assemble the grill and write yourself a little note with the order and duration of the (few) things you'll need to cook on the day.
The main event. Contrary to TV, films and dodgy stereotypes about men and BBQs, the only thing to remember while at the helm of the grill is to be confident in what goes where, which cooks when, and how much you've already cooked. Save yourself the hassle and eliminate any whispers of 'cooking to order' immediately. We're buffet only and guests can help themselves to hot food once batches are done.
The biggest frustration is arriving at a barbecue and having to wait hours before actually eating anything. While I'm sure the ambient music will be delightful and the company even more so, people come to barbecues to eat, so set that as high priority and the rest will fall into place. Make sure the grill is lit and ready at a medium heat (you can hold your hand over it from a few inches for a couple of seconds before pulling away) as people arrive. Save the exhibitionism that normally comes with barbecue bravado for the food. Family favourites like sausages and burgers are a must, but take the opportunity to show (or fake) some culinary flare with some fish or interestingly flavored chicken pieces. Vegetarians will be hoping for something hot too, so don't skimp on the halloumi, corn and stuffed mushrooms.
Despite your best efforts, food will not be ready as quickly as hungry guests hope for, so be sure to put out an array of snacks ready for as soon as people start to arrive. Trusty faithfuls like crisps, dips, veg sticks and hummus will do the trick, but also try to have as many side dishes set up at your buffet station from the outset too.
Forget what you've heard, because side dishes can be just as exciting as whatever's coming off of the grill too. Opt for a colourful and inviting salad like this watermelon, goats cheese one by Shared Apetite. Give the classic potato salad a twist and opt for the sweet variety instead. Spice things up with a jalapeno coleslaw. So many options, only so much table space, but if there's one thing you really commit to, make it a full and comprehensive condiment offering.
Here's where you can up your prep game once more. Make sure that as many beers, wines and soft drinks as you plan to offer are in the fridge as early as possible. Then roughly 15 minutes before your first guest is expected, fill a bucket with ice and decant your makeshift bar into there. Make sure that a bottle opener and a selection of glassware is nearby and your guest will take care of the rest. The best of them will remember to bring a bottle, so anticipate a few extra additions when you're allocating space.
If you want to go the extra mile (and trust us, you should) prepare a generous amount of punch to offer guests as they arrive to keep them occupied before you start barbecuing. Other than that, just make sure there is plenty of ice available throughout the day.
An adequate amount of seating is always going to be a challenge, even in the most generous of garden spaces, but do your best to make sure that the area is as open as possible to allow (and encourage) mingling. If you're inviting neighbors, it'd be sensible to ask if they can bring over a couple of their garden chairs to throw into the mix. If not, a few cushions tactfully placed around will invite people to make themselves comfortable wherever.
If you're going for an early evening barbecue, anticipate a transition indoors, or to adapt the outdoor space to be just as accomodating. Set up fairy lights ahead of time that are easy to switch on should the party continue into the night time, have a couple of blankets on hand and anticipate another wave of hunger a little later on.
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