What a glorious bank holiday weekend we had! I don’t know about you but as soon as the sun shines the barbecue is on at our house. Al fresco dining brings me utter joy. A big jug of iced water (with a cool beer to chase) and all the barbie classics make for perfect summer dining in my book. So I thought today we could chat all things BBQ essentials.

I’m always amazed at how much food our circular 18 inch BBQ manages to cook. A couple of weekends ago we had 3 sets of neighbours over (so that was 6 extra adults and 3 extra kiddies mouths to feed) and it managed perfectly with a steady stream of food coming off it to satisfy everyone. We have a classic charcoal barbecue though I’ve recently been made aware of their high carbon footprint. The fuel is often taken from non-sustainable hardwood sources and so we’re considering a change to gas. I will miss the smokey flavour from a charcoal grill although I have seen that you can buy smoke boxes for gas BBQs to try and achieve a similar taste. I guess gas is much more convenient too, there’s no real waiting time for it to get up to temperature and unlike charcoal it won’t lose its heat quickly. Have you switched from charcoal to gas? Or has anyone tried the solar grills which are a much more eco-friendly option? Did you find it more expensive to run? The ease of cleaning a gas BBQ does massively appeal to me though because what a nightmare it can be to scrub those 18 inches!

So what about the essentials. What do you need for the perfect BBQ? Once you’ve read all of today’s comments about types of BBQs people have you can choose the ideal one for you. You can then get the right fuel, be it your charcoal, fire lighters or your gas. Now there’s even the solar powered option too. Most BBQs come with a bunch of utensils but my top four recommendations are a sturdy set of tongs and a spatula, a grill basket and a BBQ brush for cleaning (this one has excellent reviews). We also use an electronic instant read meat thermometer. I’m always very conscious of making sure any meat is thoroughly cooked through and because of the nature of the BBQ it can appear more cooked than it is from it’s lovely charred outside so using this thermometer gives real peace of mind that you aren’t serving anything undercooked.

There are two ways of approaching the food you cook on your barbie – a little bit of everything or a more put together meal. We tend to do a bit of both. With a big gathering, everyone brings a bottle and a choice of meat. That way you usually end up with agreat selection of meats. Which is great and often leads to epic gluttony but once in a while, I love that. For a smaller BBQ we tend to stick to one, sometimes two types of meat and treat it like a ‘normal’ dinner. Without fail whatever the meat it is always accompanied by a big bowl of crunchy salad, rice, wedges (because one carb option is obviously not enough) and then a selection of smaller accompaniments (coleslaw, couscous, potato salad etc) and of course, all the necessary sauces.

What about if you have a non meat eater in your midst? You obviously can’t cook their veggie burger on the same grill that you’ve just disintegrated your pork loin on. But what you could do is get a disposable BBQ for them. They cost about £4 and that way they still get the same smokey flavour but obviously then there’s all the waste. Alternatively I use my oven grill on a high setting to try and emulate the barbecue heat intensity.

You’ll need somewhere to sit. You can find some great tips from Lauren’s post a few weeks ago about how to get garden ready for Spring. There is such a choice of outdoor furniture it can be really difficult to know where to start but my advice would be to go with a size of table and number of chairs that would be used most frequently (a rectangular shape table might give more actual table space that a round one as we have recently discovered) and then perhaps get yourself an additional folding table for when guests come and a couple of foldable chairs that way you’re not taking up any unnecessary space day to day. We also love a picnic blanket for the kiddos and their friends. A waterproof backed one is great for if the ground is a little damp. We also have a couple of giant beanbags because sometimes there’s no better place to eat your burger than in the comfort of a beanbag.

And the most important ingredient for a successful barbecue is of course, the people you’re sharing it with. There’s nothing like getting some good summer tunes on, cooking up a storm (and playing burnt-sausage-roulette) and chatting and laughing with your nearest and dearest.

What else do we need to know to have the perfect summer BBQ? Please let us know as always.