There is a lot of work that goes into throwing a party outdoors. Whether it's a simple gathering in the backyard or a big cook-out in the park, here's our take on how you can turn up the heat at the next grill-out! These suggestions are good for anyone, be it for the seasoned griller or barbecuing newbie.
Know Your Guests
Who you invite matters. Having more people around makes for a lively affair, but an intimate gathering of close friends and family is equally enjoyable. As the perfect host, you will need to do a bit of research and know their food habits. Make sure every person is included when you're prepping, taking into account allergies and dietary needs. Instead of treating this as additional work, catering to different preferences actually opens up more opportunities to sample new foods and cooking methods you've never tried before! Foil meals make a great addition to your barbecue – here's a simple recipe that's perfect for your vegetarian friends!
BBQ Veggie Pack (serves 2-4)
1 cup red/orange bell peppers, chopped
1 cup red onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, ½" square chop
1 cup Russet potatoes, ½" square chop
1 cup zucchini, chopped
1 cup button or baby bella mushrooms, chopped
1 cob of corn, sliced to 1-2" wide coins
2 tablespoons olive oil
¾ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon black pepper
1½ teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon ground coriander
Cut four 12 x 8" pieces of aluminium foil.
Warm up your grill to medium-high heat.
Place all ingredients into a very large bowl and toss together so that it is well-mixed and evenly coated.
Divide the mixture into four portions. Place each portion in the center of the foil.
Bring two sides of the foil towards the center and fold together, and then fold down until you reach the veggies.
Take one of the other sides and roll in, towards the center; repeat on the other side, until you have a packet. Press firmly on the rolls/folds so that they do not come apart easily.
Put them on the grill and lower the lid, grilling for 8 minutes on each side of the packet. To see if they're ready, peel back a fold and check the corn or potatoes.
For a drier mixture inside, open up the top of the packets while grilling during the last 4 minutes. Serve hot, and top with a little more salt and pepper, hot sauce or BBQ sauce if you desire!
Master that Grill
Before you begin barbecuing, make sure the grill is clean and oiled to stop the food from sticking. Once the fire gets going, do a quick temperature check by placing your hand as near to the heat as you can. Here's a rough guide:
If you can only hold it there for 3 seconds before it gets too hot, the grill’s all fired up and ready for your steaks and meat.
When it gets to 4-5 seconds, it's hot enough to barbecue your sausages and fish that take a shorter time to cook.
But if you can get all the way to 6 seconds and more, don't put food on the grill as it's not hot enough to cook.
Another tip: for a more aromatic barbecue, you can add wood chips or chunks such as apple, hickory, cedar, birch or maple to your charcoal.
Maintain Strict Hygiene Standards
Campylobacter is considered as one of the leading causes of food poisoning – this contaminant is commonly found in raw meat and poultry and is also present in unpasteurized milk and contaminated water. But worry not! You can always keep cross-contamination at bay with these simple steps.
Prep and marinate your raw ingredients one at a time, and make sure that they are kept separately in air-tight containers before they are cooked. If you don't have enough Tupperware to go around, putting your food items on a plate and covering them snugly with a plastic wrap works as well!
Always use a different cutting board when handling raw and cooked foods. Bacteria may still be present when you just run the board under water – always use a dishwashing liquid coupled with a really good scrub.
Prepare multiple sets of utensils and serving tongs for raw and cooked items. Buy them in different colours if you can, or label them with markers – so everyone knows which is which. Also prepare separate serving trays for cooked food.
You may also want to section off areas on the grill to cater to guests with religious or dietary restrictions.
Best Food Forward
Using ingredients that require minimal prepping and are quick to grill doesn't mean just stocking up on processed foods. The trick is to use ingredients that cook at different times so there's always something on the table. Get the grill going with popular but simple requests like hotdogs or luncheon meat – these things come in pre-cooked but they should be well-heated before eating. Pair them up with fast-cooking vegetables or seafood like fish fillets and skewered prawns. It's also a good idea to create cheesy Portobellos – make a 'bowl' with tin foil, sprinkle some cheese before placing them on the the grill. The foil is there to capture every drop of that mushroomy goodness! Serve these with your pre-made pasta or potato salads and your guests are good to last for another hour while you focus on the bigger meat items. One tip to faster cooking is to not move your food around too much. Remember to let them brown well on each side before turning over. Add some sweet treats on the side for a refreshing change. Keep them simple – cut fruits, ice-cream or fruity popsicles are perfect for beating the summer heat!
Keep Boredom at Bay
Great company is as much the heart of the party as great tasting food. Having some form of entertainment lessens the potential awkward small talk or bouts of 'complaints' when the food's taking longer than expected to cook! Start with a music playlist – including the current top 50 hits is a safe bet for the younger crowd – add some games, and it will surely liven up the mood. If board games are too much of a hassle to carry around, there are plenty of fun party apps easily played on mobile. Download some of the popular ones like 'Heads Up!', 'Sing! Karaoke' and 'Just Dance Now' to get the ball rolling. Or your guests can always choose to work up a sweat, and appetite, by playing a game of Frisbee or badminton instead. The idea is to make sure that everybody gets to enjoy both the company and of course, all that fabulous food!
Have a go at these ideas for your next big cookout and we think you'll really be the talk of the town.