How To Plan the Perfect Barbecue Menu

Barbecues are a fun way to entertain family and friends. Getting out the barbecue is a sign that summer is here.What better way to entertain in a relaxed and informal way than eating out doors with a barbecue.

Although barbecues are meant to be a relaxed affair, if you are planning a barbecue for a particular event such as a birthday, then you want to make it special. So to plan the perfect BBQ menu,a little more thought and preparation are needed to ensure your BBQ goes well.

Before you start on the menu selection for your barbecue there are several things you need to check you have before the day. To plan the perfect BBQ menu it is best to start with a list of your preparations well in advance. Check that your barbecue is in good working order and that you have sufficient gas, coals, BBQ tools such as skewers, tongs, brushes etc.

At least one week before the party, check the long-range weather forecast. If good weather is in doubt then either make sure you can adapt your BBQ to be held inside or put up some sort of covers for your guests, borrowing these from friends if necessary.

Next make sure you have all the plates, glasses, cutlery etc that you will need for your guests. Always allow a few extra serving plates to put the cooked food onto. If you choose paper or plastic tableware, buy this well in advance to avoid a panic on the day.

The perfect BBQ menu need not be a complicated affair but one that is carefully planned and caters to everyone's taste. For this reason you should check with your guests first if they have any special dietary requirements such as vegetarian or nut allergies. BBQ is very simple to plan around a variety of different dietary needs, but being prepared is vital.

When planning the perfect BBQ menu it is a good idea to have a good selection of meat. This can be in the form of favorites such as burgers, sausages, steak, chops or mixed kebabs. If you want to have an alternative to meat, fish cooks very well on the barbecue. Whole Salmon cooked in foil or king prawns on skewers served with sweet chili sauce make a special BBQ dish.

It's important to have plenty of vegetable dishes at your barbecue not only for the non-meat eaters, but to add variety to the meat dishes. Mushrooms, tomatoes, sweet corn, onions and peppers threaded onto wooden skewers and basted with oil add flavor and aroma. Remember that if using wooden skewers, soak in cold water for at least an hour before putting on the BBQ to stop them burning.

There are many recipes for BBQ sauces and rubs to add flavor and tender your meat. Most of these are very simple and just mixed in a bowl and rubbed or brushed onto the food or used as marinades. Most of these can be made up in advance to save you time on the day. BBQ rubs can be made several days ahead of your BBQ and stored in an air tight container in the fridge.

Salads are a must at a BBQ, these are not so easy to make up ahead of time, but you can have all your ingredients ready and washed or prepared in advance. Salads that are rice or pasta based can be cooked earlier in the day, cooled and stored in the fridge, adding the rest of the ingredients just before the BBQ.

While there are many dessert dishes you can make on the BBQ such as grilled bananas or pineapple, if you don't want to have the stress of yet another dish to cook on the BBQ, then making or buying desserts and having them ready to bring out for your guests is the perfect answer. Big bowls of strawberries and cream or fresh fruit salad make refreshing desserts. Or making your own favorite deserts that can be made and frozen the week before will save a lot of stress.

And finally drinks. A selection of beers and wine go well at a BBQ. For those who want something a little more refined, sparkling wines make the BBQ perfect. Make sure you have plenty of soft drinks and ice. If room in the ice box is limited, fill buckets or cool boxes with ice to keep drinks cool and store out of the sun. And one last handy tip, have some dustbin bags handy so that at the end of your BBQ clearing up can be shared.

    Editor's Note: Gary H Andrews is a highly successful freelance writer and the author of Simple Barbecue.

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