BBQ Planning – A Beginners Guide To The Ultimate Outdoor Eating And Party Experience

BBQ Planning - A Beginners Guide

Barbecue. A mere mention of the word conjures up a tantalizing amount of visuals, smells and tastes for my brain to engage with. And looking beyond the food you can almost feel the warm embrace of your family and friends and even the sun as you kick back with a refreshing drink waiting for the moment it’s time to tuck in. Yes the brain is amazing like that but none of this will come to fruition if you don’t do some BBQ planning.

Of course there is no perfect plan to fit everyone’s needs. Individual circumstances will come into play. You’ll first need to ask yourself some questions. What are your financial constraints? Because even though there are options for tiny budgets a quality BBQ set-up doesn’t come cheap. How much space do you have available? Will your barbecue be a one and done deal or will you be throwing a party every Sunday watching the big game with those you are closest to? And don’t forget to question yourself – What is your cooking skill level? Can you fillet and grill a nice bit of fish or is it better to stick with the simple classics of burgers and hotdogs?

Answering these questions should give you an indication on which options to select through the rest of this BBQ planning guide. And although this is a beginners guide you’ll also be given the option of more advanced set-ups and equipment. Because if you plan on taking outdoor cooking seriously then it’s best you go down the quality route to start with or you’ll find yourself buying the same sort of equipment multiple times.

The first step when planning the perfect BBQ is to invite your guests. It’s not going to be much of a party if you forget. So firstly jot down all the people you’d like to attend keeping in mind any special requirements they may have (don’t eat pork, vegetarian etc.). Because if they attend your BBQ you’ll have to cater for these needs. When you send out your invites be sure to always ask people to RSVP and to indicate if they plan on bringing a plus one or children with them. The last thing you need is to have bought a load of expensive meat and the majority of your guests are no shows.

Planning your BBQ cooking area

Your cooking area set-up can be anything from a small disposable BBQ all the way up to a fully functioning outdoor kitchen. And the options in-between these two extremes are numerous. Below, you’ll be run through the main options available but at the end of the day you’ll need to decide which of these options is best for you.
BBQ Beginners Guide

Grills

The most classic piece of BBQ equipment – the BBQ grill. The first grill most people visualize for this is a beautiful brick barbecue, it’s old school and likely what you remember as a child. Now, I wouldn’t talk anyone out of going down this road but unless you’re going to pay for a bricklayer or have some seriously advanced DIY skills you’re simply not going to get the quality of buying a ready made grill. So what are your options?

  • Charcoal Grills
  • Electric Grills
  • Gas Grills
  • Inferred gas grills
  • Portable Grills
  • Built in grills
  • Freestanding grills
  • Post mount grills
  • Table top Grills
  • Disposable Grills

Smokers

For that slow-cooked, great flavored succulent chunk of meat, you’ll need a smoker. This is for the committed meat connoisseur as to give your guest a perfect slice of meat it can take over 24 hours of cooking (of course this is for massive slabs of meat). If you’re willing to plan ahead with your cooking then this is defiantly a route you should take.

  • Electric smoker
  • Pellet smoker
  • Charcoal smoker
  • Gas smoker
  • Horizontal Offset Smokers
  • Propane Smokers
  • Gravity Feed Smokers
  • Kamado Smokers
  • Vertical Charcoal Smokers

Fryers & Cookers

These aren’t strictly BBQ items, but we’re using the term BBQ quite liberally for this beginners guide and including everything that will help with our outdoor cooking experience. And for me, something like a burner stove opens up so many different options.

  • Fish Cookers
  • Burner Stove
  • Turkey Fryers

Outdoor Pizza oven

Freshly made, piping hot pizza! What’s not to like about that? Again, pushing the boundaries of what constitutes a BBQ but I assure you once your friends are stuffing their faces with a homemade pizza none of them will care. An excellent addition to any outdoor party.

Types of BBQ Fuel

To get the best out of your BBQ’ed food you’re going to rely mainly on two elements – heat and smoke. And for this you’re going to need the right type of BBQ fuel to match your intended flavor.

  • Wood Chips
  • Charcoal
  • Charcoal briquettes
  • Butane gas
  • Propane gas
  • Smoke pellets

BBQ Fuel

BBQ Gadgets and Tools

So you’ve arranged for your friends to visit and you’ve picked out your BBQ cooking apparatus, be it a grill, smoker, stove or oven. But you can go further. There is a host of gadgets, tools, accessories and equipment to make your life as head chef that little bit easier.

Thermometers

Some BBQ gadgets are more important to beginners than others, and a BBQ thermometer is one such tool – making sure your meats cooked enough to eat and your BBQ is hot enough to start your cooking.

You have probe thermometers that you leave in the meat, an instant read thermometer that you poke in for a quick temperature reading, smoker thermometers to read the temp in your smoker and last and probably least (important for BBQing) is the candy thermometer. A candy thermometer is only needed if you need really high temps, like in a fryer or for melted sugar, hence the name.

Grill & Smoker Accessories

To write an exhaustive list of BBQ grill and smoker accessories would be a never ending job. Something new seems to crop up every other day and is very often just a fad that disappears as quickly as it arrived. So below are some of the most popular accessory options that have stood the test of time.

  • Chimneys and Fire Lighters
  • Smoke Generators
  • Smoker & Grill Covers
  • Rotisserie Units
  • Charcoal Baskets
  • Smoker boxes
  • Cast Iron Griddle
  • Cast Iron Grate
  • Cast Iron Grill press
  • Dutch Oven
  • Wood chip soakers
  • Grill Cleaners
  • Grill Expanders
  • Racks & Holders
  • BBQ Pizza stone
  • Heat resistant gloves
  • Temperature Control Devices

Meat Preparation Equipment

Barbecuing is a hobby and an enjoyable past time that many people take extremely seriously.  Rather than trusting their local butcher with meat preparation they’d rather keep as many elements of BBQing under their control as they can. The starting point for this is making your own burgers and sausages from scratch. All the equipment below is only intended for those that plan to take things to the next level.

  • Meat Grinders
  • Sausage Stuffers
  • Scales
  • Spice Grinder
  • Slicers
  • Dehydrators
  • Vacuum Sealers
  • Knives
  • Injecting & Brining
  • Jerky

BBQ Food

The expression ‘all the gear but no idea’ is pretty funny when it’s someone else. Not so funny when it’s you – so don’t be that guy. Remember the most important part of any meal whether inside or outside is the food. No one is coming solely to see what a great set up you have. They are hungry and they want to be fed.

BBQ Food

This is the area a little skill is needed. Cooking BBQ food isn’t rocket science but it does require you to follow instructions carefully. The easiest way to ruining your tasty well-prepared meat is to either under cook it or to burn it. So as a beginner you’ll need a meat temperature chart. The below chart gives the main BBQ food types recommended internal temperatures and their rest times.

Rest times are crucial as it results in less juice escaping from your meat when you cut into it and therefore makes it loads tastier and juicy when you come to eat it (rest times in the table are the very minimum amount of time you should let meat rest).

Beef, Venison, Lamb and Duck Breasts
Blue110-12043-493 mins
Rare120-13049-543 mins
Medium Rare130-13554-573 mins
Medium135-14557-633 mins
Medium Well145-15563-683 mins
Well Done155+68+3 mins
Pork, Veal and Fresh Hams
Rare120-13049-543 mins
Medium Rare130-13554-573 mins
Medium135-14557-633 mins
Medium Well145-15563-683 mins
Well Done155+68+3 mins
Poultry (breasts, whole bird, legs, thighs, and wings, ground poultry, and stuffing)
Safe Temp16574
Fish
Tuna Rare120-12549-52
Tuna Medium Rare125-13052-54
All Fish Medium130-14554-63
Burgers, Sausages, Ground meats, Meat loaf
Safe Temp16071
Pre-cooked – Hams, Sausages and Hot dogs
Safe Temp140+60+
Ribs, Pork shoulders and Briskets
Safe Temp145635 mins
Sea Food
ShrimpHeat until fresh is opaque
LobsterHeat until fresh is opaque
ScallopsHeat until fresh is opaque
CrawfishHeat until fresh is opaque
CrabsHeat until fresh is opaque
ClamsCook until shells open
OystersCook until shells open
MusselsCook until shells open

See USDA Guidelines

Ingredients – Adding a little bit extra

Now you know how to cook your meat to perfection it’s time to decide on how to get the very best out of your BBQed food. You do this by adding a little extra flavor. The methods for doing this are

  • Spices
  • Cures
  • Marinades
  • Rubs
  • Sauces
  • Sides

BBQ Furniture

Making sure your loved ones and guests are comfortable is obviously of the utmost importance to having a successful BBQ. And if BBQ furniture isn’t taken into account during your planning you’re more than likely going to fail at this.

Patio Furniture

Having somewhere to sit and a table to eat your wonderfully cooked food is probably the most important part of BBQ furniture. This can be done cheaply with a load of old crates and pillows or by buying a selection of different stools, chairs, benches and tables.

Outdoor chairs

  • Outdoor Dining Chairs
  • Adirondack Chairs
  • Outdoor Chaise Lounges
  • Outdoor Benches & Gliders
  • Outdoor Rocking Chairs
  • Outdoor Picnic Benches
  • Outdoor Club Chairs
  • Outdoor Bar Stools

Outdoor Tables

  • Outdoor Dining Tables
  • Outdoor Bar Tables
  • Outdoor Coffee Tables
  • Fire Pit Tables
  • Outdoor End Tables
  • Outdoor Buffet & Console Tables

Outdoor heating and cooling

The bane of everyone that loves outdoor entertaining is the unpredictability of the weather. Yes, you can make a pretty good educated guess but sometimes the weather can just turn and from the number of times I’ve heard air con wars at work I also know people’s internal temperatures vary vastly. So depending on the season you might need to consider outdoor heating and cooling.

Outdoor Heaters

  • Freestanding Patio Heaters
  • Wall-Mount Patio Heaters
  • Tabletop Patio Heaters
  • Electric Patio Heaters
  • Natural Gas Patio Heaters
  • Propane Patio Heaters
  • Patio Heater Covers

Fire Pits & Fireplaces

  • Fire Pits
  • Fire Pit Sets
  • Fire Pit Tables
  • Chimineas
  • Outdoor Gas Fireplaces
  • Outdoor Gas Logs Sets
  • DIY Fire Pits & Parts

Outdoor Fans & Cooling

  • Outdoor Fans
  • Outdoor Misting Fans
  • Outdoor Air Coolers
  • Outdoor Shade

Outdoor lighting

Invariably most BBQ parties will carry on well into the night and although people often joke (or at least I think they’re kidding) that I look better in the dark most people would rather be able to see where they are walking and what they are eating and drinking. So planning for the BBQ to go on beyond sunset is a must.

  • Outdoor Lamps
  • Outdoor Torches
  • Outdoor Lanterns

Pest control

The dreaded micro-invaders. It never fails to surprise me just how much insects love a good BBQ. Fortunately there is something you can do about it. If the BBQ is in your yard you can introduce some plants that repel insects – there is a whole lot of them. Or you can go down the route of sprays, candles and decoys. We have a comprehensive article covering all aspects of BBQ pest control.

So there you have it, a beginner’s guide to BBQ planning. But don’t be fooled into thinking this is everything. There are so many different facets to the hosting the perfect BBQ that the only way to work out what works best for you is to jump in and give it a go. Good luck and happy BBQing.

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