Planning a BBQ
For most of us, barbecues with friends and family in the summertime are one of the things we look forward to the most. However, the majority of the world is still under lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning any social visits are not possible.
It’s really tough, especially as most of us may not have seen loved ones for over two months now and we still have a little way to go.
We can still enjoy our beloved barbecues though and we may just have to get a little more creative to make them even more fun.
We’ve thought of everything in this helpful guide. From food hygiene preparation tips to virtual socialising – the following BBQ checklist covers everything you need to consider when organising and catering for a BBQ event in the current climate.
Theme and Decorations
We all need some cheering up at the moment so getting creative around the house might just help. It will even occupy the little ones for a couple of hours and could be a fun learning activity involving crafts. Some great themes include:
- Garden tea party.
- Tropical; think floral shirts & flower garlands.
- Decades: 70s, 80s and 90s are crowd pleasers.
- A fiesta.
- Beach theme.
- A favourite film.
Preparation is key to ensuring your BBQ goes smoothly. Let’s take a look…
BBQ Shopping List
Need some ideas about what to cook? Here are your essential BBQ items:
- Burgers (…and don’t just think beef! Chicken, lamb and veggie are great options)
- Hot dog rolls and burger buns (why not try brioche buns for a street-food feel?)
- Chicken wings and thighs
- Burger garnish: lettuce, tomato and red onion (cut into rings)
- Cheese slices
- Mixed Salads – basic salad, cous cous, potato salad etc
- Meat / Fish Skewers: make them with prawns, chicken or chorizo chunks
- Veggie Skewers: halloumi, red pepper, onion, courgette
- Portobello mushrooms
- Corn on the cob – could get messy so make sure you’ve got some holders handy!
- Baking potatoes
- Mustard, Ketchup, Mayo, BBQ sauce or burger relish
- Bananas wrapped in foil or marshmallows on sticks for dessert!
Depending on the dietary requirements of your household, you may want to have a separate vegetarian and vegan grill and another for meat-eaters.
Try and get your BBQ food with your weekly shop to minimise your outdoor trips at the moment.
Pre-BBQ Food Prep
Prepare the BBQ foods that you can in the morning. This will give you more time to sit back and relax in the evening. The following prep ideas will save you loads of time:
- Create and toss salads (add dressing before serving)
- Chop onions, meat, peppers and fruit ahead of time and get it all ready in bowls.
- Glaze and marinate joints, breasts, fillets and other portions of meat the night before.
- Pre-cut bread for hot dogs and burgers.
- Get your skewers ready for the grill.
If you’re cooking, wear clothing that’s suitable for grilling. Don’t forget your mitts for handling anything hot and perhaps use gloves if you’re going to be handling a lot of raw meat. You can change your gloves more easily than you can wash your hands in the great outdoors.
And do avoid wearing clothing with long sleeves, as they might be a fire hazard.
Cooking Equipment & Utensils
What equipment do you need to make sure you can cook safely?
Now, think tongs, spatulas, knives, etc. Lay these out in front of you so you can use different utensils for raw meat, cooked meat, and non-meat food for hygiene purposes.
Another handy tip is to get a meat thermometer – then you know if your meat is cooked through.
Invest in cool bags – forgetting to store meat safely is dangerous. You can’t store meat in the danger zone (5°C-60°C) for a prolonged period. Use ice packs in combination with a cool bag to chill your food.
You also can’t go wrong with plenty of Tupperware and kitchen foil for preserving freshness, reducing contamination risks, and storing unwanted rubbish.
If you’re mostly just using disposable materials, then you’ll need refuse sacks for your rubbish, and of course, the all important provisions for cleaning your hands.
Make sure you have hand sanitiser close by and other hygiene provisions. And wash your hands after handling different types of food especially raw meat.
However, if you aren’t using disposable materials, it will save you so much time later on if you bring a few bits and pieces. Some of the following materials are more applicable if you’re arranging a large barbecue event. However, it will still be helpful to have these to hand at home. Think about the following cleaning materials:
- A gas stove and pan for boiling water
- Large bottles of water
- A washing up bowl
- Sponges and washing up cloths
- Washing up liquid
- Large picnic blankets
- Anti-bacterial wipes
- Drying towels
You can use the above for giving your equipment a quick clean and soak. You’ll be thankful when you come to do the washing up or put them in the dishwasher later!
Entertainment and Activities
Your barbecues this summer will be very different to the ones we’re all used to but that doesn’t mean they can’t still be social. Lots of people are turning to virtual meeting apps to still make sure they connect with friends.
Think about the sort of entertainment that you and your family and friends usually enjoy.
Would you play quiz games? Do one virtually. Take it in turns to host the barbecue and the quiz.
Would one friend usually bring the side dishes and another desert? Why don’t you each choose a dish to cook and share the recipe- this way you can still all enjoy the same food.
Of course, if you’re having a barbecue with just your household, there are many sporting activities, board games and quizzes you can enjoy together.
BBQ Food Hygiene
A barbecue is a big deal. So no one wants to see a chef with a questionable attitude to food safety by the grill.
Here are a few key tips to grill with food hygiene in mind:
- Thaw frozen meat and food fully before cooking. Proper thawing will prevent dangerous cold spots.
- If you’re using a charcoal barbecue, don’t start cooking until the coals are glowing red with a powdery grey coloured surface. This is when the heat is evenly distributed. It’ll stop your meat being over-charring on the outside and raw inside.
- Cook meat to a minimum core temperature of 70°C for at least 2 minutes.
- Cut into meat to check whether it is cooked; if you have the slightest doubt, use your thermometer – if you don’t have one, cook further until you are sure, just to be safe.
- Hold hot food at a minimum temperature of 63°C until served.
- Be wary if you lean across the barbecue to turn meat – flame grilled sleeves are for rookies.
- Use a coolbox filled with ice packs to minimise bacterial growth on raw or chilled food outside the fridge.
- Don’t leave food out of the refrigerator for longer than half an hour, and don’t leave food in the sun. Hot weather encourages bacteria growth.
- Use separate utensils for raw and cooked meats and ready to eat food, like salads and bread.
- Only eat meat and fish when they are safe to eat. Try stabbing meat, if clear juices come out: you’re safe! Watch out for pink meat and make sure food is piping hot.
These good practice guidelines may seem obvious but they are easy to forget in the heat of the moment.
Taking a second to plan ahead, prepare early and make sure the items you need are within reach are all measures you can take to make sure your barbecue is still enjoyable and relaxing.