If you’re a long time reader of The Purple Pumpkin Blog, you’ll know that we love a BBQ! As it’s National BBQ Week, it would be rude not to celebrate, so we’re having a family barbecue this weekend…I just hope the weather sorts itself out and stops raining!
Back in February I had already started thinking about summer barbecues (yes, I’m bonkers!) and I shared 7 Tips for Throwing a Great BBQ. Homebase have kindly sent me lots of goodies to throw a barbecue to put all my tips into practise…I’ll now be able to show you that they really are awesome tips!
Tip 1. Get Out The Barbecue
Our trusty barbecue has sadly seen better days, but we’ve got a fab new Lovo Oil Drum Charcoal BBQ to grill on now. I chose this one for a couple of reasons. 1) It’s size – the cooking dimensions are 36 cm x 63 cm, and you get this TWICE because the lid acts as a second grill! Perfect for when grilling for lots of people (like we do) and also, as a space for vegetarian options – keeping those veggie foods away from the cooking meat. 2) Storage – there is a shelf underneath, as well as two shelves on either side, which means you can keep everything close to hand.
Having read the reviews on the Homebase website, the barbecue has a 4.6/5 star rating, which tells me that it doesn’t disappoint and does a good job. We’ve yet to set it up (rain has held off play) but it would seem it takes about an hour and it is very sturdy. Looking forward to seeing how it performs at the weekend!
We also have a huge 10kg bag of charcoal briquettes, which burn longer and hotter than lumpwood charcoal, so are perfect for large barbecues. We also have some firelighters and a long lighter to get the fire going. In addition to this oil drum barbecue, we also have a small smoker, so have got a bag of hickory wood chips to use in that.
For cleaning up the grill when the party is over, we’ve got a bottle of barbecue cleaner and a 3 in 1 brush to make the job a little less taxing!
Tip 2. Plan A Menu
Menu planning for any party or family gathering is definitely my domain! I’ve shared lots of barbecue recipes here on my blog over the years, and I try and do new things each time so that I’ve got more recipes to share with you guys. I also tend to give food for parties a bit of theme, so the theme for this weekends barbecue is American!
This is my planned menu for our All American BBQ!
Hamburgers + Hotdogs with all the fixins’
Barbecue Ribs & Chicken Wings
Chilli Corn Bread Muffins
Roasted Corn Salad
…and here are some of my previous recipes to whet your appetite until I can share the new ones next week!
Tip 3. Prepare Food in Advance
We generally have a barbecue in the late afternoon, which gives me the morning to prepare dishes. If meat needs marinating, then I’ll do that the night before, so that means the chicken wings and ribs for this barbecue. Hubs is in charge of making the hamburgers, which he does a few hours in advance and stacks with greaseproof paper between each one.
I buy large foil take-away containers to prepare and serve the salads in – this means they can stack easily in the fridge and can be tossed at the end of the day – saving on washing up!
I do cook things like chicken wings and ribs in advance in the oven to ensure they’re cooked through, and finish them off on the grill.
Tip 4. Avoid Cross Contamination
I’ve got different chopping boards for meat, fish, fruit and vegetables. I also make sure that raw meat is stored in sealed containers, on the bottom shelf of the fridge so as not to worry about it the juices dripping (which they shouldn’t if in sealed containers, but best be safe than sorry) onto other foods.
I wash fruit and vegetables, to get rid of nasties, and also wash my hands between preparing raw meat/fish and other foods. I always tie my hair back and take my rings off. As a publican’s daughter, I’m a stickler for food and kitchen hygiene.
Tip 5. Set-Up the Dining Area
Since we can’t ever rely on the weather in the UK, even in summer, we have got a pop-up gazebo which will go up to provide shelter from the rain; and if by some sort of sorcery we have scorching sun, it’ll protect us from that too!
We have got a long trestle table that I use to serve all the salads and sides from. The photo below from our previous barbecue, and you can see the takeaway containers that I talked about in Tip 3. At the top left of the photo you can see a bucket which I put the bundled up cutlery into – knife, fork and spoon wrapped up in a napkin and tied off. I tend to use paper plates too, again, it saves on washing up.
I do also have serving trays and platters, which I use if I’ve run out of throw-away containers!! I do love a good platter ^_^
I also like to decorate, so have some pretty, colourful tea-lights and some gorgeous stones that I can put into vases.
Tip 6. Get Your Grill On!
I was so pleased to see that Homebase sell a BBQ chimney starter, and we actually bought one a little while ago – it makes starting the coals so much easier! We now have two which means we can get both sides of the oil drum barbecue going with minimum fuss!
I’m not planning on cooking fish at our All American Barbecue this weekend, but a BBQ fish holder is a really handy utensil to have. Fish cooked over coals tastes amazing, and having the holder makes it a lot easier to handle and turn over.
Since we have a vegetarian in the family, it’s good to have two sets of utensils – tongs, fork and turner so to avoid cross contamination.
Tip 7. Don’t Forget Dessert!
I’m making a peach cobbler for dessert, and will have some slices of watermelon too, but, a tradition at American cook-outs are S’Mores, which are toasted marshmallows, squished between two Graham Crackers with a piece of chocolate. We’ve got some of the crackers that we bought in Florida, so they’re getting used this weekend! To make toasting marshmallows a lot easier, we have a set of toasting forks – I was so excited when I saw them for sale in Homebase, it means you don’t have to have the heat beating down in your face to toast them like we usually do on the ends of skewers!
I can’t wait to prepare my All American Barbecue this weekend and will be sharing the recipes with you next week. In the mean time, I hope you’ve found my tips useful (again!) now that I’ve explained how I’ll be putting them into action!
And why not check out the BBQ infographic below – which side do you fall on? We’re definitely charcoal and wood barbecuers!
Grilling BBQ Debate Divides Britain – an infographic by the team at Homebase.