The Winter Season and Barbecues
Summer seems a long time ago, and chances are that most of us have packed away our barbecues and patio furniture for the winter. It won’t see the light of day again until at least Easter, and often the British weather means that even in the summer we have to cancel our barbecue plans because of the rain. Do we really have to abandon all hope of having barbecues in the snow though?
Of course you can’t barbecue when it’s snowing or pouring with rain, but that goes for summer as well as winter. There is no reason why you can’t have a barbecue on a sunny, crisp afternoon in the middle of winter, and children and adults alike will love the novelty of having food they associate with summer when it’s freezing and they’re wrapped up in hat and gloves. The other main issue with being outside in the summer is that we don’t have the long, light evenings that we enjoy through the summer, and it is dark by 5pm or even earlier. Therefore, plan your winter barbecue to start in the middle of the day rather than later in the afternoon.
Move the Barbecue
If you generally keep the barbecue at the end of the garden well away from the house, moving it a bit closer could make things much easier for a winter barbecue. Having the barbecue by the back door means you won’t have to trail everything back and forwards through the garden. Keep it far enough from the house to be safe, and think as well about how you are going to stop the flames blowing out if you are using a gas barbecue. It will take the barbecue longer to come up to temperature in the winter than in the summer as the temperature is lower to start with, so bear this in mind when planning your barbecue and when you intend eating. Don’t be tempted to rush the cooking or serve food which is not piping hot all the way through; food poisoning is just as much of a risk in winter as it is in the summer.
We mostly associate barbecues with hot countries like Australia or South Africa, but other countries which have even worse weather than we do enjoy barbecues or grilling their food the whole year round. Barbecues are very popular in the Nordic countries like Sweden and Finland, and they get around the weather and light issues by building special barbecue huts. From the outside, these huts look like circular or hexagonal garden sheds, but inside they are quite different. The barbecue hut features a central fire pit with a chimney which draws the smoke and fumes out of the roof. Purpose built barbecue huts allow you to have a barbecue whatever the weather outside, but they are not particularly cheap at around £3000 for a basic model. Never be tempted to improvise by using a standard un-ventilated shed or hut to have a barbecue, as fumes can build up inside and carbon dioxide poisoning can kill. Watch this space, as i am currently writing about one of these special huts.
You can’t go wrong with sausages and burgers at any time of the year, but especially in the run up to Christmas the shops fill up with all sorts of exotic and interesting things which are just perfect for barbecuing. Reindeer, kangaroo and ostrich steaks are all sold through supermarkets and farm shops, and small game birds like partridge or quail are ideal for cooking on a barbecue as they are smaller than something like a chicken and cook through far more quickly too. When it’s cold outside a kick of chilli is always a good addition to the barbecue, so invest in or make some chilli relish or sausages made with chilli or spices. Rather than salad, cook some baked potatoes in foil in the bottom of the barbecue, and serve warm vegetables like barbecue beans or corn on the cob. For dessert, skip the ice cream and let the kids toast marshmallows over the glowing coals once the rest of the food is cooked. Alternatively, slice a banana lengthways with the skin still on, squash some chocolate inside, tightly wrap in kitchen foil and leave to soften and melt on the coals. Absolutely delicious.