Few would argue that food cooked outdoors tastes better, and as good as it is, it’s a bit more involved than cooking inside the house. Kitchens are designed for convenience, but with some outdoor equipment, a little practice and planning ahead, you’ll be serving delicious food cooked outside with ease.
1. Make Realistic Selections
Plan your menu according to your skill level with food and the grill or barbecue. Food that cooks directly over the heat will be easier to manage than meals that require indirect heat. Cakes, cookies and breads can all be baked outdoors, but require some experience and practice with indirect baking to perfect.
2. Set a Schedule
Prepare ahead of time by listing what you’ll be cooking and learning how long each menu item takes to cook. It will help to list the items by cooking time so that you’ll know when to start each dish and determine how much grill space you’ll have at any given time. If you’ll run short of room, you may need to use some kitchen resources for food preparation.
3. Recruit Helpers
Depending on the size of the group you’re feeding and the extent of the menu, having helpers on hand will save a lot of steps and increase the enjoyment associated with preparing and serving a meal cooked outdoors. Grilling food normally requires the full attention of the chef and having someone who can lend a hand helps you enjoy the event instead of focusing your full attention on the grill.
4. Keep the Area Clean
Before the cooking starts, bring out the tools you need to keep the area clean. Plastic tablecloths are inexpensive and easy to wipe down. Food spills attract flies and ants, both unwelcome guests as you prepare and serve a meal. Having a bowl of sudsy hot water, kitchen towels and wipes prepare you for any of the cleanups you’ll inevitably encounter.
It’s also good to clean the grill ahead of schedule using the manufacturer’s recommendations so that you’re ready to go. As you clean, you may also discover you may need more fuel and will have plenty of time to replenish your supply before the event starts.
5. Maintain the Temperature
Nothing is more important during the whole process than keeping the food at safe temperatures. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends keeping nonacid food at 40 degrees F and lower until you cook it. Once cooked, keep it at 130 degrees F or higher to prevent bacterial growth. Chill leftovers in the refrigerator or on ice, especially meat and those made with eggs.