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We’ll make your garden BBQ bloom this summer

The recent clouds of apprehension are starting to disperse as positive rays of light illuminate life once more. Ah yes, all the signs seem to point towards society waking up from its microbial organism induced slumber. The taps at the pubs are starting to feel the familiar touch of their trusty barkeeps, footballs are airborne after months of inertia and zoom chats are being replaced by face-to-face interaction. Positivity breeds positivity, so send some good vibes out into the universe and enjoy a garden BBQ with your nearest and dearest. We’re sure your grill is dying for a little fresh air and hot coal action.

Yes indeed you lovely lot, life is starting to get back on track. Freedom after almost a year of de-facto house arrest is great, but you know what’s better than that? Freedom – with a hearty helping of sizzling delights straight off the grill, out in the open where the winds of change can gently dawdle through your flannel shirt.

 

Can I have a BBQ in my garden?

For everyone yearning for a semblance of the familiar, look no further than the garden BBQ. There’s something intrinsically warm and reassuring about this culturally engrained activity. In fact for us, it would be at the top of the normality checklist – we are BBQ obsessed after all. Whether you’ve been grilling throughout the lockdown, or perhaps masterminding the perfect garden BBQ to usher in a return to normality, it’s always helpful to replenish and refresh your BBQ knowledge.  So helpful that should also check out our previous blog on the great garden BBQ

We’re betting that it’s been so long for some of you out there, that you might even be asking the question “Can I have a BBQ in my London garden?” or any other garden for that matter. Plus it’s understandable if the lockdown-induced stagnancy has given your brain a little fog to clear off. So let us give you an A to Z Big K breakdown that will clear the air on how you can make a garden BBQ come alive. Grab your tongs and do a celebratory ‘click’ because we’re going to give you the skills to add the thrills to your garden grills.

There may be some of you who trust in your instincts of winging it at your garden BBQ (pun pat on the back imminent). So if you’re a freestyle star, just keep on shining. The world is a more beautiful place with you in it doing your thing. However, the Big K BBQ boffins would like to give a tiny reminder to everyone that a little planning goes a long way, so let’s not roast more time and sink our incisors into the meat and bones of how to get yourself prepared to host a pandemic-busting garden BBQ.

 

Two men at a garden BBQ stand by a grill with some sausages wrapped in bacon grilling on the grill.

 

The Weather

We’re sorry to burst your BBQ bubble but Mother Nature’s omnipotence supersedes all – including the most intricate of party plans. We’d suggest scoping out the weather forecast through a reliable forecasting source, as well as maybe summoning your own inner weatherman’s instincts, before you even think about planning anything. Choose the best time with clear skies to have a great garden BBQ. But it’s always helpful to have a backup plan for shelter, for both your guests and your grill, in case the weather gods are in a nefarious mood.

 

Planning Essentials

Good planning is at the heart of making a BBQ party sizzle with merriment and lip-smacking relish. Behind every noteworthy garden BBQ is a well thought out plan of attack on the alfresco. Here are the things you need to tick off your checklist at least a week before you begin lighting up the coals.

 

1) Finalise the guest list

If you’re like any normal sociable person, you want your garden BBQ to be bringing together a hodgepodge of familiar faces with the express intention of stuffing them with some delectable victuals. Make creating and finalising your guest list a top priority, that way you’ll know who is coming, how many people to feed and what quantities of food you’ll need. There’s nothing quite like the site of 20 voracious carnivores fighting over five filets of beef to bring on the heart palpitations.

Get a general idea of how many people you want attending your garden BBQ. It’s also important to keep a note of how many adults and children will be coming to sink their teeth into your tasty spread. Pick a date that works for most of the people on your list (tip: Mondays aren’t popular among most people on earth) and mail out invitations with RSVP information to plan for the number of guests on the day.

 

2) Dietary restrictions

If you’re the host of a garden BBQ, you have an obligation to make sure nobody is haplessly staring into a grill with nothing they can – or want to – stuff down the gullet. Once you have the confirmations of your guests lined up, make sure you inquire if they have any dietary conditions like gluten intolerance or food allergies. Also keep a track of people’s dietary restrictions like halal, vegetarian or vegan diets so that you can make sure no plate is left empty and nobody is left behind.

 

3) Give your garden some bop

Company and conversation are truly the life of the party, but what about its soul? That’s where your mood-setting savvy has to make an appearance and give your space a touch of soul that will bring your garden BBQ to life.

Mowing your lawn and giving it some sprinkling is usually a good place for every garden BBQ host to start. Fetch some outdoor lights to add a little sparkle to your evening garden BBQ and set a welcoming ambience. Don’t forget to have enough outdoor furniture, picnic tables, and seating to make sure everyone has a seat to take when they want to give standing around a break. Marking out the designated areas for the BBQ grill, cocktails and drinks, snacks, portable coolers, and garbage cans will give your guests a very good impression of an orderly and cultured garden BBQ top-dog.

Shakespeare mused on music being the food of love, we’d tweak the idea to say that tunes are the food of mood when it comes to your garden BBQ. A simple bluetooth speaker will give your party the sonics to match the sizzle. We’re talking wavy vibes here peeps! Having some fun outdoor games is always a great idea to entertain the kids and the young at heart. Here are some games you can easily plan and set up on the day.

  • Beer pong
  • Darts
  • Board games
  • Cornhole
  • Twister
  • Hacky sack

 

Decorative lights sparkle at a garden BBQ setting the scene for the meat and veg grilling on a barbecue in the foreground.

 

Planning the Menu 

The piece de resistance of your garden BBQ checklist is finally here, and this is where the real fun starts. Feast your eyes on these tips to ensure you satiate appetites with a reliable inventory of char-grilled gorgeousness. You can never have too much of a good thing so up your strategic BBQ IQ with this menu planning blog as well.

 

Proteins

A garden BBQ’s greatest enemy is a poor selection of nom nomage. Having 3 to 5 choices of meat and 2 to 3 choices of seafood is recommended if you want to cover your bases. A survey of social media mentions concluded that most BBQ enthusiasts in the UK prefer pork and pork ribs as their choice of meat. Also chicken thighs and legs are a standard in any garden BBQ. If you have kids attending your garden BBQ, it’s a great idea to put some sausages and burgers on the grill.

Salmon, tuna steaks, and prawns are high on the summer garden BBQ favorites list. If you want to get fancy, and don’t have tight strings on your wallet, you could include lobster tails for an instant upgrade of your garden BBQ street credit. Preparing 100g – 150g of seafood per person is generally considered an ample ration to keep everyone happy. Our blog on surf and turf tips is the perfect catch for your curiosity to learn more about grilling with seafood.

The rule of thumb when buying meat is that a hungry adult would eat 2 smaller pieces such as chicken thighs, ribs, sausages, and burger patties. The general principle for the larger cuts, like pork chops or steaks, is to have 1 per person. It’s always better to have a few extra cuts to back up your supply in case you outdo yourself and get people clamouring for more. Remember it’s always better to have leftovers rather than running out of food – trust us on this.

 

Vegetarian and Vegan options

Your vegetarian and vegan friends don’t need to be sidelined by the shadow of piled up meat. Allocating 150g – 200g per vegetarian portion and preparing some items like these veggie delights can satisfy any herbivore:

–        Whole sweet corn on the cob

–        Vegetable skewers (halloumi, red pepper, onion, courgette)

–        Cauliflower steaks

–        Sweet peppers

–        Halloumi cheese

–        Baked potatoes

–        Portobello mushrooms

You can win the admiration of all plant eaters if you set up a separate grill, or at least a designated section of your grill, for the vegetarian and vegan dishes to avoid cross contamination with the meat. Expand your veggie repertoire with these delights.

 

Essential BBQ condiments

Every modern day garden BBQ should have some accompaniments that will make your guests swoon in adoration of your BBQ prowess and culinary vision. No matter what style of BBQ you plan to execute, here are some exciting condiment ideas you can add to your garden BBQ arsenal with some simple research on the internet.

  • Bacon jam \
  • Avocado cilantro sauce
  • Pebre
  • Bleu cheese aioli
  • Salsa
  • French onion / Ranch dressing
  • Hummus
  • Guacamole
  • Chimichurri

 

BBQ Sauces 

We at BIG K are big on BBQ sauce, and you’d know why if you read our enlightening exposition on the subject. You can also find out everything you want to know about BBQ seasoning in a helpful Big K guide to the art form. Your garden BBQ is going to be like an eskimo without an igloo if you don’t have a good selection of sauces, and preparing 2 to 4 saucy concoctions from these 4 broad families of sauces can cover all bases of the garden BBQ spectrum of tastes.

  • Vinegar based BBQ sauce
  • Mustard based BBQ sauce
  • Sweet BBQ sauce
  • White BBQ sauce

 

The Sides

We suggest that you don’t overdo it with the sides because you don’t want the sideshow to overshadow the meat parade. But a selection of 3 to 4 sides like the ones below should be plenty to compliment the main attraction.

  • Coleslaw
  • Potato Salad
  • Pasta Salad
  • Corn on the Cob
  • Dinner rolls, pita bread, or tortillas

 

Decorative bunting blows in the breeze at a graden BBQ

 

Drinks Checklist

A festive feed-off under the open sky needs to be well lubricated. Yes, you need to have some water handy for everybody, but water would not be smashing the popularity charts at a garden BBQ. Having a fridge or cooler amply stocked with a choice of sodas, juice, and chilled alcoholic drinks is as fundamental to a good time as a Kit Kat is to a break. Having a choice of some thirst quenchers, like our suggestions below, can keep your guests well oiled up throughout the evening’s proceedings.

  • Bottles of water
  • Soda / soft drink cans
  • Juice cartons
  • A big punch bowl (alcoholic / non alcoholic)
  • Homemade lemonade
  • Alcoholic beverages – beer, wine, pre mixed cocktails

 

Cleaning Your Grill

Don’t let your enthusiasm to fire up your barbecue get ahead of attending to the basics. Before cooking anything, a thorough cleanup of your grill is essential. This due diligence delivers deliciousness. How? If your barbecue is performing at its optimal level, your charcoal will too. And if your charcoal is going all guns blazing, the fusion of flavours will flourish in your food.

Here’s an easy way to keep your kit spick and span. First light up your grill and let the grate heat up for about 15 minutes. Then simply scrub it thoroughly with a wire brush. Finally give the entire grill a good hose down and scrub it until it’s got that shine of pride. You know what we’re talking about right? A gleam that shows you’re the apex predator sitting atop the BBQ party food chain

 

BBQ tools checklist

You’ve come a long way and it’s just a few steps more before you are ready to slap those cuts on the grill. Before you twirl on your apron, here’s a checklist of items you’re going to need when you assume the role of grill master.

  • Metal tongs (click, click)
  • Grill fork
  • Metal spatula
  • Oil
  • Oil brush
  • Aluminum foil
  • Apron (if you haven’t already put it on!)
  • Heat resistant gloves
  • Charcoal
  • Clean towels

 

On the day of the Garden BBQ

Whether you’re having your garden BBQ during the afternoon, evening, or night, getting ready ahead of time on the day is the penultimate act of every legendary garden BBQ. Tying up all the odds and ends, making courtesy calls, setting up your seating, and doing your preparation all requires time, so keep in mind that whichever time of day you’re going to be grooving at the grill, organising your shindig should start a few hours before your guests start showing up.

If your meat is frozen, give it ample time to defrost. You can save some sweat and anxiety by switching the meat from the freezer to the refrigerator the day before.

Prep your vegetables early so they too will be ready to face their fate. Make sure you have ample ice to fill your cool boxes as they will act as a portable fridge in the garden, eliminating the trip back and forth to the kitchen fridge inside the house.

Don’t forget to marinate your meats ahead of time. The purpose of the marinade is not only to infuse flavour, but also to tenderise the meat, making your BBQ degustation experience much more pleasurable than simply adding salt and pepper and throwing it on the grill. We suggest you read our blog about how to marinade your meat before your BBQ for some tasty insight into this process.

We encourage you to make your after-party chores easier by reverting to eco-friendly paper plates, cups and straws as much as possible. You will thank yourself when there is no pile of dishes to do after a long day hosting a garden BBQ party.

 

A beautiful mound of charcoal burns red hot in a barbecue at a garden BBQ

 

Charcoal

Charcoal is to BBQ what vocal chords are to a voice, so choosing the correct charcoal can make the difference between palate pleasing perfection, and food with the texture of the insole of a worn out hiking boot. Big K charcoal gives your BBQ meats a smoky flavour foundation and the perfect burn. Plus your dishes will look good enough to appear on the cover of TIME. If you want to learn more and get from A to Z of all things charcoal, look no further than our one-stop charcoal guide.

 

Table settling checklist

The table setting for your garden BBQ should be simple, practical, and convenient to your guests. If you have these basic items organised in a clear and simple way, you’ve covered 95% of your checklist of garden BBQ prerequisites.

  • Glasses, paper cups, paper straws
  • Knives, forks and spoons
  • Paper plates
  • Cutting boards
  • Placemats

 

Safety First

Being a good host also means you are capable of putting on the thinking cap of an extreme pessimist for a hot second and preparing yourself for worst-case scenarios. Here are a few items that could be picked up before your guests start making their entrances.

  • First aid kit
  • Insect spray
  • Fire extinguisher
  • A spray bottle for unwanted grill flare ups
  • Aspirin and anti-allergy tablets

 

Endgame

Careful planning is at the center of any quality garden BBQ party. From setting the right ambience to ensuring all your guests are relaxed, to most importantly – getting your food right, takes some doing. But don’t worry about it too much. BBQing is all about having fun so just try your best and follow these steps. The effort will be worth it when the compliments start flooding your ear canals! Spreading happiness is easy at a garden BBQ, and now you should know how to break out your grill and make your mark on the moment.