Admittedly, while I’m most definitely no gourmet wonder in the kitchen, put some BBQ tongs in my hand and shove me outside (gently, please) and I magically transform into an alfresco version of Nigella (in my own little world anyway). Because while the vagaries of good gravy and un-soggy pie bottoms are a mystery to me, I’m a dab hand when it comes to grilling sausages, kebabs and burgers to perfection and I’ve even been known to dabble with mackerel, lamb skewers and sticky chicken drumsticks (posh, eh?).
Yes, there’s something oh so liberating and totally relaxing about a BBQ bash with friends and family, but while it all seems such second nature to our continental cousins in Oz and America (they’ve got the weather, natch), us Brits are a bit lacking in practice. However, don’t wheel away the barbie just yet, as according to facts and figures over at www.nationalbbqweek.co.uk the UK is Europe’s leading BBQ nation hosting over 125 million barbies per year (that’s a lot of sausages and burgers to get through) and beating the Germans into second place. Not only that, we are going for the grill more and more it seems, and the average number of BBQs held per family during the summer, has rocketed from 2.5 up to over nine over the last decade or so.
When it comes to essential BBQ kit, an all-singing, all-dancing, outdoor kitchen – complete with state-of-the-art grill, fridge and bar – might seem a tad over zealous given our fickle British weather. However, 2% of all households now have some form of outdoor kitchen and new houses are incorporating built-in barbies to entice buyers in. For the rest of us, we’re content with a portable grill (I still love my bulbous-shaped, Weber Kettle charcoal bbq on wheels) although the convenience of gas is taking over as the fuel of choice.
As we become more at ease with the whole BBQ ritual then, the food we are cooking for our crowds is definitely on the more discerning side too. The supermarkets are never short of good, off-the-shelf BBQ fodder, but research shows we are swapping our sausages for swordfish and burgers for brochettes. And in fact, the internet is choc-a-bloc with snazzy recipes such as fish tacos, halloumi kebabs and char siu (that’s barbecue pork to you and me).
While I don’t want to dampen any burgeoning BBQ spirit, any stylish outdoor soiree should go hand in hand with safety measures. As a quick round-up, please heed the following BBQ-ing golden rules for safe cooking all summer – and enjoy yourself!
1 Wash hands thoroughly before preparing food, after touching raw meat and before serving and eating; also ensure frozen food is thoroughly defrosted and keep raw and cooked meats separate
2 Check food is thoroughly cooked by investing in a meat thermometer or cutting open the sausages, burgers and chicken and checking visually. In hot weather, throw away BBQed food left out for more than an hour
3 Keep children, animals and the elderly well away from the BBQ
4 Position your BBQ on level ground, well away from fences, hedges, trees and any overhanging foliage
5 After all the guests have left, make sure the charcoal is cold and gas securely turned off and disconnected before retiring for the night.
Featured image: Bucci Homes
Image 1: Eric Olsen Design
Image 2: Use Real Butter