Top Tips for Barbecue Hosts and Guests
- Ensure that the barbecue is lit and ready before guests arrive. Panic-stricken recourse to paraffin can be discouraging, especially when guests are hungry.
- Keep all the food you're going to barbecue in the fridge until it's time to start cooking - in hot weather food will soon deteriorate, and you don't want to poison your guests.
- Make sure that everything is prepared before the guests arrive: you should have arranged the seating, serving table, cutlery and so on.
- Make sure there is plenty of shade - the sun can be hazardous.
- Ensure that you have plenty of ice, and that drinks are well refrigerated. Hot sun and spicy food will make your guests thirsty.
- Provide plentiful supplies of ice-cold water; it will keep your guests hydrated, and may prolong the supply of chilled beer and wine.
- Inform your neighbours of the upcoming event or, better still, invite them.
- Barbecues are highly aromatic and, depending on wind direction and cooking ability, neighbours may find themselves suffocated by acrid black smoke or tantalising smells. Try and site your barbecue as far away from the house as possible.
- Find out if any of your guests are vegetarian. If they are, make sure you have plenty of salads, and perhaps dips such as hummus or tzatziki.
- Make sure that all your guests are comfortable and have a drink in hand before you start barbecuing.
- Don't make an exhibition of the cooking. Comedy aprons, chef's hats and swaggering machismo as the meat hits the grill are obtrusive and self-centred. Your guests have come to eat and socialise, and should not feel coerced into applauding a one-man show.
- Ensure that all your guests have somewhere comfortable to eat - ideally a place at a table, adequate cutlery, and napkins. Barbecues are about the pleasures of al fresco eating, not discomfort. Juggling food and drink while standing will diminish your guests' enjoyment.
- Don't leave your guests waiting around for food. Make sure that you have prepared thoroughly beforehand - marinading meat and fish, threading kebabs on skewers and so on - so that you can keep a steady flow of food from grill to plate.
- Barbecues don't need to be a one-man show. Accept offers of help from your guests - either with cooking, serving drinks or handing food round.
- If the weather is disappointing, don't force your guests to tough it out in a cold, windswept garden. Always make contingency plans to move indoors - if necessary use the grill to cook your barbecue food.
- Barbecues are informal gatherings, but you should respond to invitations promptly, and arrive punctually.
- Ask if you can bring anything - a salad or pudding perhaps.
- Bring a bottle.
- Don't insult your hosts by dressing too casually - unless you're on the beach, bare chests are a no-no.
- Make sure that you have plenty of sun lotion, a hat and something warm in case the evening cools down.
- Barbecues generally involve meat and fish. If you're a vegetarian, don't make a big fuss, and stick to the salads.
- Offer to help if your host looks overwhelmed by flaming grills, sizzling chops and clouds of smoke.