Think of the typical BBQ, and it's all burnt sausages, undercooked chicken, cold burgers, soggy salad and most likely, sudden rain.
But barbecuing needn't be stressful. Although we can't promise you the weather, we know a few things about how to make everything else run smoothly and we've asked Peter Lloyd, executive chef at Spice Market and Clare Edwards, manager and head tutor at the Weber Grill Academy to share their expert BBQ tips.
PREPARE IN ADVANCE
There's nothing worse than your guests arriving before you're ready. Avoid this by making sure you do all your preparation before hand. Make sure your meats are marinating, big salads are made, bread cut, summer desserts are in the fridge, cocktail drinks are chilled and your coals have been lit.
If you are really prepared, you could even have some party food ready to serve before you start barbecuing.
LET YOUR MEATS CHILL OUT
If you cook your meats on the BBQ straight from the fridge, it is likely that the middle, the coldest part, will still be raw when the outside is cooked. "Sausages are especially high risk, they can burn quickly on the outside due to high fat content so people can get confused and not realise the inside is still raw," says Peter.
It's best to get your meats near to room temperature, which can take 20-30 minutes, so that it cooks evenly when pop it on the barbecue.
SET UP YOUR BBQ PROPERLY
We're eager eaters but one thing we've learnt (the hard way) is that you can't put food on the BBQ until the fire has died down. The coals should be turning white and glowing amber, which can take up to 30 minutes. It's also a good idea to have a table near by with all the cooking utensils, plates, cutlery and seasonings so they are close to hand.
BEWARE OF CROSS CONTAMINATION
Cross contamination is one to the most common causes of food poisoning and happens when harmful germs are spread onto food from other food, surfaces, hands and equipment.
"Keep raw and cooked foods separate at all times and be wary of plates, bowls and cutlery that have been in contact with raw foods," says Peter. While you're outside, it's also easy to forget to wash your hands - just make sure you make regular trips inside for a thorough wash, especially after you have been handling raw meat.
You might think it's cheating but we see it as getting ahead. Peter has a foolproof way to ensure that chicken is always cooked through after barbecuing. "For perfect BBQ chicken, poach your chicken for approximately 15 minutes before you BBQ it," he says. "When they are done, marinate and grill in the usual way, and then all you have to do is heat them through on the BBQ and get that lovely smoky char on them."
USE A PROBE
If you struggle to tell when food is cooked through, Clare recommends a temperature probe, so that there's no need to second guess whether the food is cooked or not. "A reliable temperature probe gives you confidence to serve properly cooked food," she says. You can pick one up for £5-10 online or in a specialist food shop. Simply insert the probe into the thickest part of the meat and note the temperature on the dial.
Different foods require different cooking temperatures to destroy bacteria, which is why a thermometer is such a handy addition to the BBQ. Fish should reach a minimum of 63C, sausages should reach 71C, pork 71C and chicken 74C. For beef, medium rare should reach 63C, medium 71C and well done 77C.
You don't need to ask us twice! A lot of barbecues start in the afternoon and go on until the wee small hours. After a few too many shandies, it's easy to forget that the chicken drumstick you're devouring has been sitting outside for over six hours.
There is a four hour rule that you should stick to - that is, if it has been cooked and sitting there for more than four hours, it's no good. It doesn't happen in my house but if there are leftovers, once everyone has stopped eating you should ensure all food is left to cool as quickly as possible, covered and popped in the fridge. If you are going to reheat your meat later, check that it is hot all the way through and remember you shouldn't reheat food more than once.
CLEANING YOUR BBQ
Your party is finished, you've slaved over a hot stove, you've fed everyone and now they have gone home with happy bellies and left you with the mess. "Don't slave over the food encrusted grill with a scourer," says Clare. "The simple way to clean it is to fire up the barbecue again and burn off the old food scraps on the rungs. Everything will turn black, all you have to do is simply leave it to cool completely and then brush off the residue."
Now you know what to do, all you need are some recipes to get you going. Take a look at all of our brilliant BBQ recipes for inspiration.