Advance preparation is the key to a successful barbecue. Most importantly, people should make sure they have plenty of charcoal to last the duration of the party, or bottled gas if a gas barbecue is to be used.

Barbecue Snacks and Drinks

It is always good to have pre-barbecue snacks available for guests as soon as they arrive, to keep them going until all of the delicious char-grilled food is ready.

Snacks such as cured meats, marinated olives and light cheese are perfect pre-BBQ snacks. Less is more, as it is advisable to whet but not spoil the appetites of the guests.

Refreshing summer cocktails, such as caipirinhas or Pimms cocktail, always go down well in the summer heat and most of the preparation for these can be done in advance of guests arriving.

Advance Barbecue Preparation

Several things can be done in advance of the barbecue so that hosts are free to spend more time with their guests.

Pre-cooking chicken in the oven is advisable, particularly if the host is using a basic coal barbecue where the level of heat can be quite hard to control. Chicken can be roasted at 200°C for between 25 minutes (wings) and 45 minutes (legs,) simply brushed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. This leaves the chicken safely cooked through, but still able to be crisped-up and charred on the barbecue.

Salads for the barbecue can easily be prepared in advance. Small potatoes, boiled until tender, mixed while warm with mayonnaise, crème fraiche, chopped spring onions, salt and pepper make a delicious and simple potato salad.

Proper oven cooked jacket potatoes are always a good barbecue accompaniment and just require washing, piercing in a few places and placing in an oven at 230°C for one hour. These can even be finished off wrapped in foil in the embers of a charcoal barbecue.

Barbecue Cooking

Cooks not experienced in BBQ cooking can invest in a meat thermometer to ensure they do not poison their guests!

Preparing as much food as possible in advance means the cook is free to concentrate on grilling the food when the time comes. Food that can take really high heat, such as vegetables, steaks, burgers and whole fish can go on first.

Pork, sausages and chicken do well at a lower heat so are better cooked slowly once the heat has died down, or at a lower heat setting in the case of a gas barbecue.

Barbecue Considerations for Vegetarians

It is likely there may be vegetarians amongst your guests, so it is good to make sure they are well catered for. There are many recipes available for things such as homemade vegetarian burgers or stuffed mushrooms, or cooks could make interesting vegetarian kebabs with fresh vegetables and Greek halloumi cheese, which is delicious when grilled on a barbecue.

It is important to cook the vegetarian food first on the barbecue, as vegetarians are unlikely to enjoy their food tainted with meat.

Barbecue Desserts

If there is still heat left on the barbecue, there are many delicious desserts that can be prepared over the coals. Whole bananas can be thrown onto the grill and served when soft and mushy with syrup, cream and a dash of rum.

Certain fruits also work very well grilled on skewers, such as pineapple, banana and strawberries. Served with a good vanilla ice-cream, these make a delicious light dessert to follow the BBQ feast.

However many people are attending a barbecue party, these tips, along with some advance planning, will make the barbecue a fun experience for all, including the host!