Now that the warmer weather is really getting into swing, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about that favourite of British garden pursuits – the barbecue. Come rain or shine, us Brits can be found in our droves piling into gardens to enjoy a spot of grilled meat. And whether it’s enjoyed sprawled in the sun with a cold beer in hand or huddled under a leaky gazebo trying to escape another downpour, there’s nothing quite like the taste of food cooked outdoors. But how to make sure your barbecue is a success and not a soggy mess? Here’s our guide to planning a feast to remember:

Get the right gear

Before you even start thinking about what food and drink to buy, you need to start thinking back to the basics of your barbecue. While cheap disposable grills might do for students and days out in the park, no self-respecting barbecue fan should attempt a similar set-up in their own home. Don’t lead your guests into disappointment… a great piece of barbecue kit should leave them drooling at the mouth in anticipation. That said, you don’t necessarily need to go all out on a really expensive grill. For the budget-minded, building your own barbecue out of bricks in a corner in your garden is a great way to get good results for next to nothing. Or why not check out the simple charcoal burning grills at stores like Argos ? Traditional barbecues like these have been used for generations – and with good reason! Of course, for the real barbecue fanatics out there nothing beats an elaborate grilling machine. There are so many extras to choose from, with everything from built-in gas hobs and smokers to more extreme accessories like speaker systems and beer coolers. Whichever you choose, remember the important thing is the food and the company – not how much money your barbecue cost!

Grub’s up

The secret to a successful barbecue is all about buying the best possible ingredients. While your local supermarket will probably do special offers all throughout the summer on bargain barbecue packs, these are really only good for those on a super-tight budget. Cheap burgers and sausages come with lots of added water and other nasties, so they’ll shrink right down and look disappointing on your plate. Instead, buy the very best quality meat you can direct from your local butcher or farm shop. Yes, it’s more expensive, but you’ll have a much better barbecue serving fewer, better quality dishes and padding them out with salads and breads than you would serving up a huge pile of sub-par meat. Making your own burgers from fresh mince is also a great way to save money, and lets you control the seasoning and other ingredients too.

Top tipples

We all know that no barbecue is complete without at least a few cold beverages to hand, but what’s the best approach to keeping your guests refreshed and happy? While many people will be happy with a simple choice of beer or wine, it’s nice to have something a little special to offer too. A simple cocktail bar can be surprisingly easy to run – just select two or three drinks beforehand, brush up on your mixing skills online and prepare to wow your guests. One fruity drink and one sour drink is a good balance to cater for all tastes, and many ingredients such as rum or vodka can be used in several different recipes. For the extra wow factor, splash out on some plastic Martini or Margherita glasses to really get your guests in the mood. And don’t forget the designated drivers either – make sure you have at least a couple of non-alcoholic options (other than water!) to keep them refreshed and off the booze. For top quality drinks, check out the range at Ocado for inspiration.

Plan ahead

Nobody wants to spend their whole party chained to the grill, even those who love to barbecue. Luckily, you can minimise the amount of time you spend slaving away with a little forward planning. Make as much as you can in advance – salads, burgers, dressings and more can all be made up well before your guests start to arrive and brought out at the last minute. Also, don’t start your grill when your guests are hungry – get it started well in advance so that the food can go on as soon as everyone’s settled with a drink in hand. Finally, don’t fall into the trap of cooking too much and being left with mounds of uneaten food. Just cook a batch to start with, and add more as your guests require them. After all, you’ve got all day to enjoy it!