How to host the perfect BBQ

A third of us have admitted to using a barbecue in the winter, according to a recent survey. We clearly love a BBQ so much we’re not even particularly bothered if the weather’s not up to it.

But Mother Nature finally looks about ready to strike spring off her to-do list, which means no more wind-swept, rain-lashed cook-outs. We’ve two Bank Holiday weekends ahead of us, so why not take this opportunity to prepare the perfect* BBQ?

*Good weather not guaranteed.

Buy or build?

If you’re going to put on the perfect BBQ then you’re going to need the right tools, starting with your actual grill.

If you’re buying a new barbecue there are probably three main things to consider: gas or charcoal, how many people you’ll be cooking for, and how much you want to spend.

The gas or charcoal debate is as divisive as that of the Beatles or the Stones, with good arguments to be made for either side. Gas gives you instant heat, which means no waiting around before cooking. But charcoal gives you that genuine BBQ taste which, purists argue, can’t be replicated any other way.

Gas barbecues can be more expensive, but are far easier to clean as you’re not left with a container full of ashes. Charcoal barbecues are generally cheaper, but offer less control of temperature and timing.

Whichever you choose, you’ll also pay more as the size of the grill increases. You can pick up a small charcoal barbecue for less than £15 for example, but I’ve seen huge, all-singing, all-dancing gas barbecues online for as much as £2,999. That said, you can pick up a more than capable gas barbecue for around £60, or less.

In an emergency, you can even get an instant-lighting disposable BBQ (essentially a silver foil tray with some coals in it and a mesh top) for a fiver.

It essentially boils down to an argument over convenience against authenticity, with a bit of price consideration to bear in mind.

Scott Lane of the UK BBQ Association said: “Look for a BBQ that has a lid with adjustable vents. The lid is there to control your temperatures (not just to keep the rain out). Go for a quality brand such as Weber or you may end up buying every year.”

Then there’s always the option to build a permanent barbecue in your garden, and with it a whole host of other things to think about.

First off, it’s worth checking with your local council to see if you need planning permission before building your barbecue. Unless it towers over the 2metre mark, you’re probably fine – but it’s best to check.

There are plenty of tutorials available online to help you plan and build it, but if you’re not sure on anything, you should probably call in a professional, or at least someone who knows what they’re doing. The barbecue needs to be structurally sound, as you can’t run the risk of having what is essentially a pit of fire toppling over, mid-BBQ.

There’s a pretty thorough and simple 10-step guide to doing it yourself here.

Of course if you’re planning on plumbing in a gas supply to your barbecue then you need to contact a Gas Safe registered plumber to do the work for you. This isn’t a job for amateurs.

Building a barbecue, especially if you’re hooking it up to a gas supply, can be time-consuming and expensive – but the finished product may be appealing to buyers if you ever sell the property.

What to cook

I’m certainly no expert when it comes to cooking, but even I can follow a simple recipe – and the web is full of them. Here are a few links to some good ones:

And for the more adventurous:

Websites are pretty old hat, though, as you can simply download an app on your smartphone or tablet and take it out into the garden with you.

iBBQ (iOS devices), for example, has recipes, tips and weather forecasts built in. It even has a BBQ locator, in case you give up on your own efforts and want to go elsewhere. Grill Time (iOS) gives you a timer depending on how you want to cook various meats, while BBQ Menu allows you to take orders from your guests, limiting waste.

Drink and safety

Nearly 2,000 people visit A&E each year after an accident involving a barbecue, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA). It’s not surprising given the combination of alcohol, children running around the garden and an open flame.

RoSPA advises all BBQ hosts to take the following precautions:

  • BBQ on level ground, away from fences, sheds and overhanging trees
  • Never light a barbecue in an enclosed space
  • Prepare the barbecue early to ensure it is at the right temperature by the time you want to cook
  • NEVER pour petrol, meths or other accelerants on to a barbecue.
  • Use long-handled tools
  • Be careful of steam when opening foil parcels
  • Don’t move a barbecue until it has cooled down
  • Don’t leave children unsupervised near a barbecue
  • Make sure the barbecue is fully extinguished before you leave it
  • Take care when getting rid of a disposable barbecue

Scott Lane also offered this additional safety advice: “Invest in a pair of heat gloves or even an extra oven glove. You can never tell by 'eye' how hot the barbecue will be.

“Use tongs not fingers...that way you won't give your guests food poisoning or burn yourself either. Invest in an instant read thermometer such as a Thermapen from that looks done because it is brown or black quite often isn't cooked through.”

1.5million MORE TH>N Home Insurance customers have caused fire damage to their properties while BBQ-ing drunk, according to its claims data research, so alcohol is best avoided, or at least limited, until the cooking is done.

In theory, any fire damage to the permanent fixtures of your home would be covered by your buildings cover, and legal cover could protect you against damage caused to other people’s property, or injuries to any of your guests.

That said, the insurer may take a dim view of your claim if you were drunk while in charge of the BBQ, and could refuse to pay out on the grounds that you failed to take reasonable care of your property.

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

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