When you're blessed with a rare hot day in Britain, you know what that means: barbecues.


While many will take part in the quintessential summer ritual of grilling, the word “enjoy” might not always fit the bill. Far too often, gatherings are marred by undercooked or incinerated meats, insufficient sides, and the unfortunate aftermath of foodborne illnesses.

But we are here to guide you through – our top 10 tips will help to elevate your barbecue. From managing your menu expectations to savvy preparation techniques that allow for more leisurely time, we've got the helpful hints you need.

Check out our helpful guide on how to barbecue safely.

If you need some inspiration for what to serve at your shindig, check out our BBQ ideas, vegetarian barbecue recipes and vegan barbecue recipes.

More like this

1. Sort your tools

Barbecue chicken with tongs

Hosting the ultimate barbecue doesn't mean you need a mountain of specialised equipment. Chances are, your kitchen is already stocked with most of the essentials.

  • Tongs: Essential for safely manoeuvring food on and off the grill with precision.
  • Spatula or fish slice: Opt for a flat spatula to delicately handle items like fish and vegetables.
  • Foil: Handy for keeping cooked food warm or wrapping potatoes and bread for that authentic charcoal flavour.
  • Skewers: Whether metal or wooden, skewers are ideal for grilling smaller foods like prawns and veggies without them slipping through the grates. Just remember to soak wooden skewers in cold water for 30 minutes to prevent them from catching fire.
  • Plates, boards and platters: Keep your serving vessels and carving boards nearby, ensuring they're ready for when you need them.
  • Sharp knife: To check meat is properly cooked, slice through the thickest part to check there's no pink and the juices run clear. Alternatively, use a meat thermometer for precision.
  • Napkins: A barbecue essential for inevitable sticky fingers!

If you're looking to upgrade your BBQ kit, here are some of our tried, tested and top-rated favourites that would come in handy for alfresco cooking.

2. Be realistic about how many you're feeding

People gathered around a barbecue

Make you've got the right equipment to cater to your party size. For instance, with a 25cm diameter grill, aim to comfortably entertain a maximum of six individuals. Simplify your menu to focus on a few offerings rather than overwhelming yourself with many options. A cluttered grill breeds uncertainty and challenges in effectively timing cooking. Opt for quality over quantity, mastering some standout dishes.

3. Prepare the night before

Piri piri pork ribs

We highly recommend completing as much prep work as possible the night before your barbecue to alleviate any last-minute stress on the big day. Prepare your salads in advance, but refrain from dressing them until serving time to maintain their crispness and vitality. See our comprehensive guide on how to make vinaigrettes and dressings, as well as our array of colourful salad recipes. For those aiming for peak organisation, consider pre-chopping your fruits and vegetables, and storing them in bowls ready for use. Elevate the flavour profile of your meats by marinating them. Allowing your cuts to soak in marinade overnight guarantees that the flavours deeply penetrate the meat. Check out our expert advice on how to marinate chicken, and our marinade recipes to spark your creativity.

4. Start early

People sat around a barbecue serving food

Start the barbecue well in advance, allowing it to reach the ideal cooking temperature gradually. This gives you lots of time to get everything else ready and will have the meat prepared in good time.

5. Organise your space

A wooden board with two chicken and halloumi burgers on it next to a plate of halloumi and a bowl of sauce

A burger station is an effortless way to elevate your barbecue. Designate a table where guests can customise their patties with an array of toppings like cheese, pickles, lettuce, and sauces. By including essentials such as salads, plates and cutlery at the station, guests can serve themselves easily.

Check out our beef burger recipes, chicken burger recipes and vegetarian burger recipes for more inspiration on building the perfect bite.

6. Add more plant-based options

A plate of bulgur wheat with charred aubergine and red pepper

Embrace vibrant barbcue halloumi, succulent grilled aubergines and creamy avocados to satisfy all palates. Elevate your offerings with tantalising grain salads, charred vegetable creations and an assortment of homemade breads. These flavourful options are sure to delight meat-eaters as well, making your barbecue spread a feast for everyone to enjoy.

For more plant-based inspiration, check out our top vegetarian barbecue recipes and the best vegan barbecue recipes.

7. Keep drinks chilled

Two glasses of strawberry mojito in front of a jug

Make sure you’re topped up ahead of time with plenty of ice. Check out our jug cocktail recipes which are great for serving a crowd. Given the limited fridge space, troughs of iced water where people can easily immerse their bottles are a handy solution to keep drinks refreshingly cool. Whether it's cool boxes, buckets, or even cleaned-out wheelbarrows, any receptacle will suffice.

For more cocktail recipes perfect for the sun, check out our summer cocktail recipes and summer mocktail recipes.

8. Choose your charcoal

Charcoal and wood on fire

Selecting the right charcoal can significantly impact your grilling experience. Lump charcoal is a swift lighting option, boasting an approximate burn time of one hour. It's an excellent choice for cooking a diverse array of meats, ensuring efficient and even cooking throughout. Conversely, briquettes offer a prolonged burn time of up to three hours at a steady temperature, making them perfect for grilling larger cuts or roasting joints with precision.

The type of wood used to create the charcoal can impart distinct flavours to your meats. Charcoal derived from oak trees lends a subtle smokiness with caramel notes, enhancing your dishes' flavour profile. On the other hand, charcoal sourced from orange wood infuses a rich marmalade essence, complementing poultry such as duck, chicken and turkey.

9. Make sure you test and rest your meat

Barbecued Greek lamb with tzatziki

Determining the 'doneness' of meat solely by its appearance on the barbecue can be challenging. For optimal safety and quality, it's advisable to test chicken and pork by slicing into them and checking there's no pink meat and the juices run clear. Alternatively, investing in a meat thermometer can provide precise readings. Once the meat is cooked, allow it to rest for a few minutes. This crucial step enables the juices to redistribute within the meat, resulting in a more tender and flavourful finish. Remember, the larger the cut of meat, the longer it should rest.

For help checking your meat, check out our guide to the top meat thermometers.

10. Have a back-up plan

Umbrella in the rain

Blazing sunshine can swiftly transform into hail at the flip of a burger. In such unpredictable weather, it's crucial to be ready to open your home to guests at a moment's notice. Embrace flexibility and hospitality by offering shelter indoors if the weather takes a turn, so your guests remain cosy and content regardless of the elements outside.


Discover more help and recipes for throwing a successful barbecue...

Top family BBQ desserts
Most popular barbecue recipes
BBC Good Food Podcast with Tom Kerridge – BBQ brilliance
Top family barbecue recipes
Best healthy barbecue recipes
Easiest ever barbecue menu
How to light a BBQ
How to use wood on your barbecue
Last-minute barbecue recipes
Best gas BBQs
Best Weber BBQs
Best charcoal BBQs

Comments, questions and tips

Choose the type of message you'd like to post

Choose the type of message you'd like to post