Top tips to put the spark back into your BBQ

You’ve got the pool, the shiny new barbie (it looks like it’s been designed by NASA) and an outdoor setting that wouldn’t be out of place in a Hollywood soiree.

So you can imagine the collective sigh of disappointment when you present your guests with row after row of snaggers, chops and steaks. If Gordon Ramsey dropped by for a beer he’d poke you with a pair of tongs.

In this era of food fascination you don’t want to barbecue like they did when Donald Bradman was hitting hundreds.

There’s now a myriad of ways of transforming outdoor cooking from the depressingly familiar to the dazzling different, from the produce to the presentation and beyond.

Tip 1 – Look beyond the value pack

When you’re selecting meats for your barbecue supplement the old standards with different cuts of meat and types of protein.

Mix it up with marinated ribs or lamb kebabs with peppers, onions, garlic and lemons or beautifully made burgers that will be snapped up by the kids.

And beyond red meat there are some great choices, such as chicken and fish. Imagine the delight of your family and friends who arrive expecting the regulation sausage/chop combo and you give them perfectly charred Cajun chicken and salmon grilled with dill and lemon.

Tip 2 – Add some colour

Don’t be afraid of barbecuing vegetables. Apart from injecting colour (an important aspect of any meal) vegetables add the balance of flavours that can be absent in a traditional, meat-centred barbecue.

Corn, mushrooms, asparagus, eggplant and onions are among the vegetables that roast beautifully on a barbecue, especially if they’re marinated before being tossed onto the grill.

Tip 3 – Put a fresh spin on drinks and desert

Your ambition to avoid holding a boring barbecue should extend to both the drinks and the desert.

Instead of your usual sink full of beer, wine and soft drinks whip up a pitcher of sangria or margarita. These summery drinks are the perfect way of putting everyone in the mood for a party.

You can also shake things up with a selection of craft beers and ciders as well as offering those who don’t drink an array of interesting non-alcoholic alternatives. It means that nobody’s left out of the foodie experience.

And if want to totally transform your boring barbecue into a feast that would impress Matt Preston try some barbecue desserts, such as grilled pineapple or peaches served with ice-cream, marshmallows and grilled donuts and ice-cream (check out the foodie websites for ideas).

Tip 4 – Dress up your back yard

The setting is just as important as the meal

While the meal is the heart of the barbecue don’t be afraid to dress up your pool area and backyard.

Use lights in the trees, candles on the ground (which also keep away the mozzies) and pretty bunting or banners. A few artistic flourishes can have a transformative effect on your barbecue.

And make the tables inviting with attractive napkins, flowers, ready-to-grab silverware and funky jars instead of plastic cups.

You could even build your barbecue around a theme, such as boho chic, Asian style, the American West, Hawaiian luau or beach barbecue.

Tip 5 – Let the games begin

And it doesn’t take much to lift your barbecue from a routine gathering to a memorable experience for the whole family.

Cricket and footy are naturals but why not try a game of horseshoes, bocce (the Italian name for bowls), croquet, badminton, table tennis or Twister.

Not everyone will play, of course, but spectators will have as much fun as those playing the games.

And, of course, with Kreepy Krauly doing the job of keeping your pool sparkling clean you will have plenty of time to change up your barbecue from boring to bravura.