When you think of the quintessential Australian summer, what images spring to mind? People at the beach splashing around in the surf? Kids from the local neighbourhood playing cricket in the backyard? Sausages and steaks sizzling away on the BBQ on a balmy evening with family and friends? All of these and many more make up what is a wonderful time of the year in Australia. But what if you’ve volunteered or have been asked to have a BBQ at your place? Already the pressure is on because everyone is a BBQ expert, right? If you find yourself with the task of hosting a BBQ this summer, do not fear – we’ve come up with a comprehensive guide to ensure your barby will go down in folklore for all the right reasons.
Before we even get started on a list of Australian BBQ party ideas that will rock the world of your guests, there are the basic elements of any Australian BBQ that need to be done right, otherwise the bells and whistles will be a waste of time.
- Drinks – It seems odd but when we think of having an Australian BBQ we often wonder what we’re going to drink before considering what we’re going to eat! Beer, white wine, fruit punch spiked with your favourite clear spirit and non-alcoholic options such as juice and fizzy drinks are all very popular choices. It’s going to be hot, so no matter what you and your guests drink, make sure it stays cold. Your fridge is probably going to be full of food so fill tubs with ice and dot them around the venue. Try to keep them in the shade but whatever you do, don’t run out of ice!
- Meat – Your choice in this department could make or break your party. It’s not a BBQ that’s been thrown at the last minute, so sausages and fried onion on a slice of bread with a splash of tomato sauce just won’t do. Of course offer BBQ staples like sausages and chops, but this is Australia so take it up a notch. Cook up some steaks that have been swimming in a homemade marinade overnight, baby back ribs with a delicious smoky chipotle sauce, a grilled fish option for those watching their waistline or chicken wings with a soy honey glaze to get the party started!
- Tables and chairs – While it isn’t vital that everyone has a seat, it’s essential that all elderly guests have a seat and a space at the table to eat. Again, it’s potentially going to be a long hot day, so it’s important people who need a rest have a place to do so.
Once you’ve got the nuts and bolts sorted, it’s time to really think about how you can take your Australian BBQ to the next level. How can you differentiate your BBQ from all those you’ve been to in the past? What original, sophisticated and outside-of-the-box BBQ party ideas can you come up with that will have your guests heading home thinking ‘wow’ instead of ‘what the…’?
What grill are you going to use?
It doesn’t matter how good your meat is, if the grill isn’t up to scratch then neither will the food. Modern grills are incredible cooking machines, with a wide range of options available leaving you with few excuses if your BBQ goes horribly wrong.
- Charcoal grills – For ease of use, an authentic BBQ flavour and those classic grill marks running across your meat, it’s hard to go past a charcoal grill. However, they can be a pain to clean, take a while to heat up and maintaining the ideal heat can be difficult.
- Gas grills – A common choice for the modern BBQ cook. A top quality gas BBQ offers the opportunity to cook on the grill, roast, braise, bake and fry. The temperature is immediate and consistent so you can be confident with your cooking and gas is cheap so fuel costs are kept low. You do miss out on the authentic BBQ taste that a charcoal grill offers but the quality of the finished product more than makes up for that.
- Smokers – Want juicy, succulent meats cooked to perfection with that intense smoky BBQ flavour? Then you need a smoker for your Australian BBQ. They’re used for slow cooking, so you’ll have to be well prepared and patient but the payoff is extraordinary. They limit the kinds of meat dishes you can prepare and modern gas grills often offer this feature as well but they do cook some amazing meat!
You also need to think about the size of your BBQ. The last thing you want is to have some of your guests eating while the rest go hungry waiting for you to load up the grill again. Make sure your BBQ has a warming rack so you can keep the meat you’ve prepared warm while you cook enough for everyone to eat at the same time.
What’s your serving plan?
The most important question you need to ask before you even think about what meat and drink you should buy is “how many people are coming?”. This will determine everything else that comes afterwards such as the type of meats you cook, the sides you offer and the timing of your preparation.
The day before can be spent making salads and marinating meats, freeing you up to concentrate on cooking the following day. A few hours before guests arrive is the time to whip up any homemade dips or guacamoles you have planned, then slice and plate fresh fruit an hour before go time.
Pre-heat your grill so that it’s the perfect temperature and time the cooking so everything is ready to be served at the same time. You’ll need a different strategy if you have a small grill. Instead of trying to cook a number of different meats at the same time and doing none of them justice, it might be a good idea to cook one type of meat at a time, nail it, then move on to the next. Rest your steaks for about 40% of the time it took you to cook them so the juices can soak back through the meat, making them moist and tender. Factor this into the order you cook the meats so they’re all cooked to perfection when you’re ready to serve.
It’s summer, so use it to inspire your cooking!
We use herbs and spices in our cooking all the time but how often have we thought about using some of the native options that have been growing in Australia for thousands of years? Native Australian herbs and spices are increasing in popularity and if there’s ever been a good time to use them, it’s now! Here are just a few ideas to get you started:
- Mountain pepper – Add it to meat, eggs and vegetables at the beginning and end of the cooking cycle to add some zing to your food.
- Forest Anise – Add to white meat, seafood, desserts, feta and cream cheese for an aniseed and lemon myrtle mix finish.
- Lemon myrtle – Use with fish and chicken dishes for a lemon finish.
- Pepperberries – A great pepper substitute, with a unique Aussie flavour.
- Yakajirri and Akudjura – Bush tomatoes can be used in sauces and marinades.
- Wattleseed – A nutty/chocolatey/coffee flavour great for desserts and baked foods.
No BBQ is complete without dessert
Just because you’re cooking on the BBQ doesn’t mean you should forget about dessert…mate. There are plenty of delicious desserts you can cook that will have your guests begging for the recipe. In fact, by finishing with a dessert successfully cooked on the BBQ, you’re guaranteed a resounding thumbs-up from your guests. We’ve searched the web and found six desserts that we believe will win the hearts and minds of your family and friends:
- Blueberry crumble
- Strawberry tart
- Banana split with coffee ice-cream and mocha sauce
- Gluten-free grilled summer fruit cobbler
- Pineapple berry hobo pack
- Grilled banana splits (for the kids)
Have you tried a summer BBQ meal at Lantern Club yet?
Alternatively, if planning, preparing and hosting an Australian BBQ at your place sounds like too much hard work, you could always come down to Lantern Club and let us look after you instead. Our new summer menu is full of amazing new dishes.
Book a table for family and friends or for last minute bookings call us on (02) 8037 8200. We look forward to treating you to a premium-grade authentic Australian culinary experience at Lantern Club.