9 Tips for the Perfect BBQ – Read Now Before Starting Your Next BBQ
To host the perfect BBQ, you should follow these BBQ tips:
- Prep food before the BBQ starts
- Let guests help out
- Be open to alternative seating methods
- Set up a self-service drink station
- Set out games before guests arrive
- Lockdown an effective lighting method
- Understand how to maintain proper grill temperature
- Master BBQ staples
- Plan for inclement weather
Finding a comfortable balance between preparing food and enjoying your event can be difficult, but these BBQ tips will help you reach that middle ground. Keep reading to learn how to prepare food, manage your guests, and create contingency plans to ensure the perfect bbq.
Prep Food Before the BBQ Starts
One of the easiest things that you can do to set your BBQ up for success is to prepare as much food as you can beforehand. It is unrealistic to assume everything will be done, but you should at least:
- Have fruits and vegetables chopped
- Assemble and cook side dishes
- Set out drinks and snacks
- Have meat ready and cooking on the grill
By getting most of the tedious work like chopping vegetables or prepping meat out of the way you socialize with guests more easily. You will probably need to manage the grill, but this makes you more accessible and gives you more opportunities to enjoy your event.
Let Guests Help Out
Just because you host the event does not mean that you need to handle every single dish. Barbecues often host more guests than indoor events, and you can burn out trying to feed the entire group.
You can split the labor with catering services, but most guests will be more than happy to show off their favorite side dishes. If someone offers to bring something, let them do it. This can increase the variety of foods offered at your BBQ, and it takes the pressure off of you.
Some popular BBQ side dishes are:
- Macaroni and cheese
- Roasted corn on the cob
- Sweet potato fries
- Potato salad
- Cucumber salad
- Southern-style greens
- Baked potatoes
You can even let some guests handle the task of picking up ice or disposable plates on their way in. You do not need to branch out and ask people to pick up the work, but try not to refuse if anyone offers.
Don’t Stress About Tables and Seating
A BBQ has a completely different atmosphere than other social events, and you might find yourself scrambling to come up with enough seating for everyone. Instead of purchasing dozens of folding chairs, consider using what you have.
Most people will keep their food in their hands or on their lap as they stand or sit and socialize, so you can use tables mostly as a space to lay out food and drinks. Try to keep these away from the grill to limit fit hazards and prevent crowing.
If you do not have enough tables you can also use sheets of plywood with saw horses or cinder blocks as legs.
You can encourage others to bring their own folding chairs to sit in and offer whatever seating you already have. Another great option is laying down thrifted quilts or old blankets so that guests can sit on the ground and eat like a picnic, giving your BBQ a nostalgic and laid-back feel.
Set Up a Self Service Drink Station
If you open yourself up to run and get drinks for every guest, you won’t have much time to watch the grill. Try this instead.
Take the time to greet people as they arrive, and offer to grab them a drink. You can take this opportunity to show them where you have drinks set out and encourage them to serve themselves.
An easy drink setup involves coolers or steel tubs stock with ice, bottled water, juice boxes, sodas, and other drinks. Make sure any adult beverages are kept separate.
You should also have a way for people to label their drinks. In most cases, masking tape and a sharpie should work fine.
Using plastic cups can make it easy for guests to keep track of their drinks. You can also use a specific color plastic cup for adult beverages to make it easy to spot a child accidentally picking up the wrong drink.
Must Have Games At The Perfect BBQ
Regardless of whether you have kids at the BBQ or not, setting out games or other forms of entertainment is essential to relieving some of the weight of socializing. This will give guests an area to connect without forcing them to come up with topics of conversation.
Some backyard favorites include:
Make sure you set these up beforehand so guests are not waiting on you to scramble and get everything put out.
You can also have an indoor entertainment area set up for anyone who might be sensitive to the outdoors for very long, such as young children or elderly guests.
Locking Down Grill Lighting
One of the easiest ways you can decrease your stress level and keep your BBQ on track is by locking down an effective method for lighting your grill. These BBQ lighting tips will keep you on the right track for hosting the perfect BBQ.
Regardless of grill type, you should always check to make sure your grill is stable, regardless of whether it was last time. Make sure there is nothing in the area that is a possible safety hazard, and give yourself plenty of time to get the grill lit and up to temperature before your BBQ starts.
Charcoal and Wood Grills
Charcoal BBQ tips and tricks can be applied to wood grills, especially when it comes to lighting and maintaining heat.
One of the best things that you can do is purchase a chimney fire starter. They have a cylindrical shape that helps light charcoal or wood quickly and evenly, and it only takes about 20 minutes before the fuel is ready to pour into the barbecue.
You can also use an electric starter, which is a looped heating element that you place under the fuel and plug in. This can be more convenient, but it requires an outlet and often takes longer than the chimney starter method.
While accelerants were once a popular choice, most are moving away because they are not as eco-friendly and can give food a petroleum aftertaste if the coals are not completely lit.
Remember to keep the lid raised on a gas grill at all times. This prevents the grill chamber from filling with gas and causing major problems when you hit the ignition or throw in a match.
If it is windy, recruit someone to shield the grill as you light it. Wind can cause you to use more gas than necessary while trying to get a match to light.
Most grills will have specific instructions on the best way to light them, and manufacturers often post digital copies of manuals online for easy access.
The general steps for lighting a gas grill include:
- Raising the lid
- Turning on the gas at the propane tanks
- Turning on one of the gas burners
- Pressing an “auto light” or “ignition” switch
If your gas grill does not have an automatic lighting switch you can use a match through a hole at the bottom of the unit or the top of the burner to light it.
Once the grill is lit, turn on all the other burners and allow to heat before turning the heat to low and getting started grilling.
Maintain Grill Heat for Safe, Efficient Cooking
Unlike ovens or other indoor appliances, maintaining heat on a grill is a difficult task. The easiest way to do it is by keeping quality fuel at hand, knowing the hot and cold spots on the grill, and understanding fluctuations in temperature.
Oxygen is the biggest catalyst when it comes to the temperature in a grill, and learning how to work the dampeners is much more effective than adding more fuel before it is needed.
Stocking Up on High-Quality Fuel
Regardless of your grill type, using high-quality fuel is essential for proper burning. This increases the efficiency of your flame and can improve the quality of food for your BBQ.
Make sure you stock up beforehand so you are not left in the cold in the middle of food preparation. Check on your stock at least a day before and run to the store if you anticipate needing any additional fuel.
When it comes down to it, overstocking is an easier problem to deal with than understocking.
Identifying Hot Spots
If you have not identified hot spots in your grill, doing so is cheap and easy. This will help you determine any areas where food may burn or not heat correctly.
Simply heat the grill to medium heat and lay slices of bread on the grate.
You can use whatever is cheapest at the store, but make sure the edges of the bread are touching and that they cover the entire surface.
Flip when the bread starts to toast, and then note any variations in color. You can also take a picture to remind yourself which areas tend to be hotter and which ones may not head up enough.
Measuring Air Temperature
Measuring air temperature is the easiest way to monitor how effective your grill is and make sure the heat is sufficient for the task at hand.
You can purchase a grill surface thermometer to keep track of the air temperature in the grill. Avoid any that mount in the hood, including ones that came preinstalled; these tend to be inaccurate when reading the temperature of the air at the level food cooks.
When barbecuing, checking as often as every 5 minutes can ensure the meat is cooking thoroughly, and it gives you enough time to adjust heat as needed.
Adjusting Air Flow Is Essential For The Perfect BBQ
Adjusting the flow of oxygen into the chamber is the easiest way to maintain grill heat effectively. Grills have two dampeners, an intake and exhaust, that control the flow of air.
You should leave the exhaust open at all times when cooking, and adjust the intake dampener to increase or decrease heat. If you need to make it hotter, open the intake dampener and allow more oxygen in. To decrease the temperature, close the intake dampener a bit.
Keeping fuel ready at hand makes for easy refueling. A chimney starter is the easiest way to keep charcoal and wood ready to add to your BBQ without throwing the temperature balance of the grill.
You should also be disposing of accumulated ash every 30 to 60 minutes to prevent it from smothering lit fuel or preventing proper airflow.
Learn How to Grill For The Perfect BBQ
Learning the basics of grilling will let you create the perfect BBQ dish that goes well with every side. Arranging your cuts is essential to proper management, as well as employing an effective system to determine doneness.
The easiest cuts to work with are dark meat options like chicken legs or thighs because they cook fast and are palatable for most guests. If you want to add variety, learning how to grill fish can be a nice touch to any BBQ.
Regardless of what you are cooking, take the time to arrange it neatly on your grill. This will let you avoid any hot spots and keep track of what has been on the longest.
Neat, uniform rows are easier to manage and have a better chance of cooking meat evenly.
If you have been putting off purchasing a meat thermometer, this is your sign that the time is now. Meat thermometers can be the cheapest, most effective way of determining the doneness of meat without tearing into it.
A simple $10 instant-read thermometer can give you the confidence to cook more expensive cuts like prime ribs or tomahawk steaks, and it can save you from the repercussions of undercooked meat.
Choose dark meat like legs or thighs for the grill. These cuts are more flavourful than breasts, and they are also cheaper (making them economical for feeding your BBQ crowd).
Darker meats are better at staying moist in higher temperatures, and you can indirectly grill them until almost cooked through. Finish the cuts directly over the heat to add a bit of crispiness, and make sure you do not add the sauce or glaze until the last 15 minutes to prevent charring.
Fish may seem like a bad choice because of its tendency to still to grill grates, but you can add it to your perfect BBQ with a few adjustments.
Try to stick to varieties with firmer flesh, such as:
Instead of cooking directly on the grate, cook fish on a bed of lemon slices, a cedar plank, or in a well-oiled expandable mesh grill basket.
Thin-bladed spatulas work best for turning fish without tearing.
The Perfect BBQ In Inclement Weather
Even the best-laid plans might not work out, and all you can do is create a plan B.
Moving your grill inside is a major fire and air quality hazard, but you can use an indoor alternative like a countertop grill or a fireplace grill (if you have a fireplace).
If the weather is not too bad, some grills can accommodate specially made umbrellas that grip onto the table and fit over a grill. These are great for sunny days, but they can also provide adequate protection as long as it is not raining sideways.
Try to have a backup plan to host guests inside, even if the forecast appears to be clear. This is the easiest way to turn a potentially disastrous BBQ into the perfect one.
Final Thoughts On Hosting The Perfect BBQ
Hosting a BBQ can be intimidating because you have countless responsibilities. Setting up a laid-back environment creates the perfect setting for guests to socialize and sit back while you show your new skills at the grill.
What is the best temperature for the grill when barbecuing?
Most BBQed meat cooks well at 225°F. This lower temperature prevents burning and charring and lets meat stay juicy and flavorful.
When should I add sauces to meat?
Because sugar scorches easily when exposed to high heat for longer periods, it is best to wait until the last 15 minutes of grilling to add any sauce. Turn the meat frequently, and can add more right before serving.
Can I step away from the grill to handle other issues?
Grills are not designed to be left alone, and a responsible party should be able to intervene if needed. Keep in mind that grills use live fire to cook, and they can easily cause major destruction if left unattended.