Top Tips for the Perfect BBQ

There's nothing like a good BBQ with friends and family to make the most of summer. From setting the mood in the early evening by stringing cheerful Chinese hanging lanterns, to key know-how that ensures the food is cooked to perfection, the following guide will see to it that your next outdoor get-together will be a resounding success.

Setting Up the Perfect Grill

It's a good idea to light the BBQ before your guests arrive, and even have a few tasty morsels on the go - that way people will be welcomed with the tantalising smell of grilled food.

These are key steps for the ideal BBQ:

  1. Instead of using firelighters which have a chemical smell, simply scrunch up three or four double pages of newspaper and place them in the barbecue under a handful of kindling. Then place a few chunks of charcoal on top, before lighting the paper. As soon as the wood takes the flame, add more charcoal as if you were building a bonfire. Do use good quality charcoal as it burns for longer (up to an hour).
  2. Let the BBQ burn for around 15-20 minutes with the rack in place. When the smoking of the fuels has died down and the embers are glowing nicely, you know you're ready to start grilling the food.
  3. Bear in mind that grill times are not standard - many factors affect it such as weather conditions, the core temperature of the food and the quality (age, type and dampness) of charcoal you're using.

Forward Planning

The best BBQ's result from having everything ready beforehand. The meats should ideally have been marinated the day before and a table should be setup to accommodate the amount of food you'll be grilling, along with your grill tools laid out. Not only will this make the cooking process smooth sailing, but you will also be able to better enjoy chatting to your guests.

An important tip is to always grill the meat when it's almost at room temperature. Take the meat out of the fridge at least 20 minutes before you'll be cooking it. The reason for this is that whether red meat, chicken, fish or vegetables, if the food is too chilled it will tend to cook only on the outside rather than entirely, making it easy to end up with food that is burnt on the outside by the time it's thoroughly done.

Vigilance is Key

An excellent grill depends on the chef staying with the BBQ to carefully watch the meat cooking. No doubt you will be joined by guests - men in particular love to huddle round a BBQ chatting and drinking beer, it seems to be a ritual as old as time.

Always be vigilant about the proximity of the food to the coals - be sure to shuffle the food around from hot patches to cooler parts of the rack, or alternatively place the food on foil to slow things down. Another way forward, if you really want to be precise and especially if you have a lot of different types of foods such as thick steaks, chicken fillets and vegetable skewers, is to buy a grill rack which has three different heights.

The best way to test if the food is done is to cut into the centre of the meat or down to the bone with a small sharp knife to see if the flesh is cooked thoroughly and if the juices are clear. When it comes to flaky fish such as salmon, simply press the flesh with a fork or your finger - if the flakes come apart easily the fish is ready.

Use Fresh Ingredients & Be Careful with Seasoning

Take advantage of summer's bounty by adding vegetables and fruits such as apples, courgette, plums and sweet corn to the BBQ - these and more taste delicious in a salad, or slices of grilled pineapple for example are delicious on a burger.

The main thing to remember about seasoning is to only add salt during the BBQ, since if you add it longer than 2hrs before cooking it will toughen the meat. Also steer away from flaked sea salt as that will simply fall into the BBQ. Black pepper is fine to season whenever you like, including the night before as part of the marinade.

Rest the Meat after Grilling

This is another key tip for a perfect BBQ. If you rest the meat for a few minutes before eating it absorbs its juices nicely, whereas if you eat a steak for example straight off the BBQ then it will tend to be tougher and all the juices will flow out the moment you cut into it. After you remove the meat from the BBQ, leave it to sit a little by covering it with tin foil.


The above tips should ensure your friends and family are suitably impressed by your grilling skills. A final tip for an evening BBQ is to enhance the mood by stringing up charming, glowing Chinese hanging lanterns.

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