Outdoor grilling can mean many different things to many different people. For example, as I’m half Thai, I tend to put a bit of an Asian twist on the food at my place. But while there’s lots of information and videos out there about how to cook on your barbecue grill, there’s not much out there that covers the prep steps. Enter my handy guide to outdoor grilling. I’m talking how to keep your ingredients fresher for longer, marinades and tips for how to get the most out of your proteins, and what else you need to think about besides the barbecue cook itself.
Hosting a BBQ get-together often means needing to store lots of fresh ingredients: there’s meat, seafood, herbs, vegetables, marinades (and that’s before we even get to the drinks)… the list goes on. Luckily, there are some great tricks you can use to keep your produce in optimum condition for longer.
Buying your proteins in advance gives you the opportunity to portion things up – helpful if you bulk buy and know you’re not going to get through it all on the day. Once you’ve divided things up, you can keep things frozen and defrost them in time for your event (just set a reminder so you don’t forget!). However, lots of kitchen appliances these days have technology that enables you to keep food fresher for longer in your fridge. For instance, my Panasonic Prime+ Premium 3-door refrigerator has a Prime Fresh drawer, which keeps meat in a soft-frozen state. That way, it keeps nice and fresh for longer than just a regular fridge compartment, but doesn’t need lots of defrosting as it would do if kept in the freezer. Spoiler alert: that extra firmness is a massive help too when it comes to slicing (stay tuned!).
I also like to take things out of the plastic bags when I get home from the supermarket or butcher. I’ll divide and transfer any meat, fish and seafood to plates or trays, then cover in plastic wrap. So much fresher than sweaty packaging!
Maximise your salad greens and herbs by taking them out of any packaging, giving them a quick rinse, then wrapping in some kitchen towel. I like to buy spring onions (or scallions) – a staple ingredient of mine – fresh so they’re lovely and crisp. However, if you buy them a couple of days before, they’ll keep fresher if wrapped lengthways in plastic wrap, or popped bulb-end down into a jar of water.
Make use of your fridge’s crisper, as here the temperature and humidity conditions are usually designed to keep things tiptop for as long as possible. However, certain items such as citrus fruits and tomatoes are better kept out of the chill and on your benchtop.
Using your freezer to put a soft freeze on your protein can be a massive help when slicing – the meat is firmer and therefore won’t disintegrate as you start slicing. Not only that, but utilising this technique also stops your chopping board and kitchen benchtop from turning into a bloodbath with all those juices. And who doesn’t love a better clean-up?
Salt and pepper are all well and good, but for maximum flavour for your outdoor grilling party, you can’t go wrong with a marinade. The coriander root (even if you don’t like the herb, the root is a much milder flavour), white pepper and garlic base of this marinade for my Thai-style Grilled Chicken is a real hit. It’s savoury and fresh, but is a true multi-tasker, as it works well with other meats and seafood too.
Another great marinade is one that can perform double duty. With my Chilli Lime Grilled Prawns, I use a very simple marinade both for packing flavour into the prawns before the grilling action, then drizzle extra over once they’re cooked. That way you’re getting both the cooked and charry version, topped up with the fresher more vibrant flavours.
One important tip in my guide to outdoor grilling? Don’t underestimate the allure of a skewered option. You want guests to feel relaxed and not restricted by a fine dining set-up; grilled skewers bring a casual vibe, but are easy to eat, walk around with and mingle at the same time. In particular, my Hunan Lamb Skewers are a total showstopper centrepiece for a barbecue spread. The marinade packs a real punch, but the chilli salt sprinkle at the end takes them to a whole new level.
Metal skewers are great as they’re reusable, but here’s a tip if you’re using bamboo skewers: always soak them beforehand. Place how ever many you need in some room temperature water for around xx minutes before you thread your protein on them. That way, they won’t burn on the barbecue grill later.
I also like to wrap the ends of the skewers with a little aluminium foil too to also prevent any burnt parts, but that’s totally up to you!
Dessert can be a time-consuming course to master, but here’s my secret – choose something that is quick and easy to make, but LOOKS like it took you hours to prepare.
My tropical Mango Jelly Cups look so impressive and modern, but they’re actually surprisingly simple. Even better: they can be prepared in the morning and then kept in the fridge until you’re ready to tempt those sweet tooths.
Keep pests away from your outdoor spread (and your guests) by burning some citronella candles. You may also want to invest in some covers or cloches to places over your food so that the flies don’t get first dibs on your delicious dishes.
Warm drinks on a warm day = not good outdoor soiree etiquette. Make or buy ice,
If you’ve got an old laundry tub to hand (or even a small inflatable paddling pool!) try filling it with cold water and ice to stash your drinks in. That way, everything stays lovely and chilled, and guests can also help themselves, leaving you with more time to enjoy ther company rather than rushing around flapping in host mode.
I also like to serve some homemade drinks in jugs, as I love the made from scratch rustic vibe going on (and it also looks gorgeous on your table). For a non-alcoholic option, this tropical mango and ginger punch is a refreshing thirst quencher.
And there you have it – my complete guide to outdoor grilling. Enjoy!
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