There's nothing like a great barbecue to kick the summer into high gear. From burgers, to steaks, bread, and of course, grilled vegetables, there are no limits when it comes to cooking on the grill. The first rule of barbecuing is to make it fun and keep it simple. If you're a barbecue novice, fear not, there are plenty of quick tips and stress-free ways to make barbecuing a fun summer tradition for years to come.
One of the great things about having a barbecue is that it is a very social event. It gives you an opportunity to get outdoors and mingle with guests, without worrying about making a mess of your kitchen. You can cook just about anything on the grill, so you don't have to spend the evening washing loads of pots and pans when it's over. Instead, you can relax, throw the ball around and reconnect with family and friends.
Nothing takes the fun out of a summer barbecue like stress. Running around collecting ingredients, assembling dishes, grilling food (and making sure it doesn't burn), setting the table, and keeping your hot items hot, may seem like a lot of work, but it doesn't have to be. If you've never barbecued before, below are a few easy tips to keep your stress level down and serve great food.
Many of the common side dishes you find at a barbecue are served cold (potato salad, pasta salad, chips and dip, etc). So if you are expecting a large crowd, or just want to get some of the work done before your guests arrive, it is really easy to prepare these dishes ahead of time. This way, when your grilled food has finished cooking, your cold dishes are ready to be placed on the table. You will probably enjoy your day a little more if you plan ahead, and prepare what you can before the event.
This is also true for your table setting. Whether you're planning a rustic theme, or a fancy candle-lit table setting, you can at least get the basics on the table and ready to spread before your guests arrive. This will save you a lot of time later in the evening, when your food is ready to be served.
Timing is Everything
Because I grew up cooking on a gas grill, I never realized the preparation time needed to cook on charcoal, at least until I used a charcoal grill for the first time, with four hungry guests, waiting for their burgers. When it comes to quick and easy cooking, a gas grill is usually the way to go, but nothing beats the flavor you can get from cooking over charcoal. The trick to cooking with charcoal is knowing how much time it takes to prepare the charcoal before you start cooking. This can vary depending on the type of charcoal you buy, so my suggestion would be to find a brand you like and stick with it. This will take some of the guesswork, when planning a barbecue for a crowd.
Experiment with Seasoning
The barbecue is versatile. It is a great way to experiment seasoning your food with herbs, sauces and dressings. If you need help coming up with seasoning ideas, there are a variety of food magazines, books and websites available to offer tips, but my rule of thumb is 'go with your nose'. Many seasonings taste similar to how they smell. More often than not you can get a good sense of what seasonings will complement your dish, simply by the aroma of the herbs and spices. If you find a seasoning that seems like it will work well, try it. Over time you'll learn what works and what doesn't. If seasoning is a little intimidating to you, salt and pepper just might do the trick.
If you've never barbecued before, this might be the year to start. A barbecue brings a casual and relaxing atmosphere to dining. We can help keep it that way by keeping our stress level under wraps and having fun. Plan ahead, experiment with new flavors, and keep it simple so that you and your guests can enjoy the fun it brings to your summertime activities.