With summer and good weather just around the corner, picnics and family barbecues will be on the horizon. Enjoying outdoor meals is part of the fun of summer vacations and long weekends, but backyard get togethers are sometimes harder to prep for than you initially may think.
Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean kitchen etiquette gets thrown out the window. While barbecues may not necessarily use all elements that constitute a kitchen, the same organization and cleanliness should apply. Here are a few tips to help set you up for success when it comes to outdoor entertaining.
While it’s fun to eat outside, it’s important to be diligent about ensuring things are clean so food is not contaminated before it’s consumed. Bacteria can easily transfer from one surface to the next, making your food unsafe to eat. Start by cleaning your hands, surfaces you will be using, and any equipment thoroughly with warm soapy water. Also be sure to:
• Wipe down outdoor tables, or use a tablecloth, to prevent the spread of bacteria.
• Clean barbecues and cooking utensils. They need to be scrubbed down at the end of the season, and then again before first use.
• Clean all plates, glassware, utensils and serving equipment before using them.
• Wash down all coolers and containers that will be used to serve and transport food.
Cooking and serving food outdoors, especially when temperatures are high, means you really have to pay attention to food safety. Here are a few rules of thumb to follow:
• Keep raw meat, poultry and fish separate from ready-to-eat foods like breads and salad.
• Never serve cooked food on anything that’s come in contact with raw/uncooked food.
• Serve food quickly if it’s at risk of spoiling and be prepared with coolers and ice packs.
• Be sure to chill leftovers instead of leaving them out in the sun.
• Use a meat thermometer so you aren’t left to guess if your meats are cooked through.
Cooking tip: A great way to cook, or just keep food warm outdoors, is to bring your trusty multi-cooker or rice cooker with you. The heat from the pot cooks the food slowly, in the same way a slow cooker would. The best thing about these appliances is that it continues the cooking process without using any electricity or gas.
With a bit of advanced planning, it’s easy to create an inviting space to enjoy your outdoor meal. You just need to think ahead and be prepared to make sure you’ve got all your bases covered.
• Provide ample seating. Add some cozy pillows and throw blankets in case it gets chilly.
• Don’t forget lighting. Candles and lanterns are a great way to add to the ambience.
• Keep the bugs away. Work some decorative citronella candles into your décor, and have extra bug repellent on hand for your guests.
• Supply coverage. Put up umbrellas to provide your guests with some shade from the hot sun.
• After-dinner festivities. Bring out your thermo pot to easily serve up some coffee and tea.
Outdoor entertaining requires a more simplified menu than when you have your fully stocked kitchen to work within. To keep it simple and delicious, prep as much as you can in advance.
• Offer plenty of variety.
• Choose sides that you can also make on the BBQ, such as grilled vegetables.
• Select dishes that can be prepped ahead of time and easily transported and served.
• Factor guests’ dietary restrictions into your menu planning (vegan, gluten free, etc).
And to answer the question of what to serve, these delicious recipes will get you started:
Now that you have everything in order, it’s time to sit back, relax, spend time with your guests and savour the meal together.