BBQ Hosting Basics

Perhaps you’ve already had one, or you’ve enviously caught the scent of your neighbour’s outdoor feast in the air. Either way, BBQ season has finally arrived. Throwing a BBQ is not always as easy as the idea of hosting a BBQ and there are a few things that must be considered. 

The Basics
We would assume (hope?) the basics are common sense but we thought it necessary cover them anyway to avoid any absent-minded mistakes. Firstly, although you’re outside, maintain the same mentality as cooking indoors; avoid cross contamination and don’t use the same cutting board for raw and cooked meat or vegetables, be sure to properly clean and sanitize the cutting board between uses and wash your hands after handling all foods. Although an annoyingly tedious task, especially after the preparation of a multi-dish BBQ feast, your grill should be cleaned after every use. Nobody wants to ingest the remnants of last month’s BBQ and letting it build up will only make for a more grueling (and gross) task down the road. Just be sure that your grill is completely cold before cleaning it and spraying any cleaning solution or oil, which can cause the hot surface to ignite. Never place a hot grill against a wall, because this can actually heat up an exterior wall to the point of combustion. Finally, don’t put the grill cover back on until the grill is completely cool.

Easy on the Charcoal Lighter Fluid for Charcoal Grills
Charcoal lighter fluid is used frequently to light charcoal, but it comes with significant drawbacks. It can produce horrible odours and cause the food you are roasting to taste different than with other types of grills. If lighter fluid is a must, spread it evenly over the coals and allow the liquid to soak in completely. Once you light the coals, allow them to burn for at least 30 minutes in order to fully eliminate the rancid smell. Or just buy a gas or environmentally-friendly electric grill.

Expand Your BBQ Horizon
Don’t get caught up in the idea that BBQs are just for things like steak, burgers or salmon. Making for a well-received appetizer, try cooking oysters in their shells on your barbecue grill. The heat from the grill steams the oysters and pops the shells open while it poaches the oyster inside. For tasty side dishes (and to accommodate the needs of your vegetarian guests) grill all vegetables, even just to spruce up an otherwise typical salad. A favourite cottage BBQ staple always welcomed among guests is goat cheese and Portobello mushroom-filled red peppers, blackened on the grill. As is grilled asparagus to top with a shaved parmesan. Tofu is also made more amazing on the BBQ. A few tofu tips: marinade it in the same manner (and with BBQ sauces, vinaigrettes and other seasonings) you would meat and use bamboo skewers rather than placing your tofu right on the grill.

Sauce is Key
Not that we need to tell sometimes sauce-obsessed YPs, but a good sauce is key to pleasing hungry BBQ guests. Just remember: covering your grilled dish in barbecue sauce after it cooks means a missed opportunity to heighten the flavors of the sauce.  It is therefore of outmost importance to apply the sauce throughout the cooking process if the meat begins to look dry, adding layers of sauce that won’t burn. 

The Meat Isn’t Going Anywhere; Keep That Lid Closed
Almost a habit among some frequent BBQers, there is no need to constantly open the lid to check on the food. You can’t tell if the meat is done by looking at it. The smoke makes the outside look “ready” long before it’s actually done. Furthermore, the temperature drop can shock your meat and make it tough and will cause your meat to cook even slower or result in undercooked meat (you don’t want your guests to end up in the hospital). If you’re guilty of this, it may be a good idea to invest in a digital thermometer to truly gauge when the dish is ready. Open the lid only when necessary to season, move, or turn the meat.

A few more pointers…
Use tongs rather than a fork to turn the meat on the grill. The fork will poke holes in the meat and allow the juices to drain out, resulting in a disappointingly dry dish.

Cook various meats at their proper temperature; some meat is best cooked quickly over high heat while others will dry out or burn if the temperature is too high.

No matter how hungry guests are (we would hope the appetizers would suffice), don’t rush food to the table. Let steak, pork and even burgers rest for a few minutes before serving to allow the meat to seal in all the flavourful juices.