While it’s true most cultures in the world have their own special take on a barbeque feast, none have stitched the occasion to their national identity quite as proudly as Australians. For so many of us living down under, gathering round the BBQ grill has been an event we orbit weekly, regardless of situation or season. To the outside world, though, an ‘Aussie BBQ’ is a summer event, which, to be fair, does it a disservice.
We here in Melbourne know all too well that a barbeque can be enjoyed year-round, and should – rain, hail, or shine. That being said, if you’re used to firing the barbie only when sporting zinc and boardshorts, the thought of doing so in winter might seem a little daunting. If so, here is a brief but helpful guide to hosting an authentic BBQ in winter.
1. Start preparing early
To be fair, this piece of advice applies anytime you’re hosting a BBQ, no matter the season. But considering it’s winter, this is particularly important. Unlike summer, or even spring, when your grill can enjoy the sun’s warmth before use, in winter it will need all the help it can get.
This means fire it as early as possible, so long before you plan to cook those t-bone steaks that you’ve had marinating overnight. And another useful tip: keep the grill on—albeit on low—at all times, even when you’re not cooking. One, it acts as an extra heater, and two, you never know when your guests might want more snags. And if the grill is still powered on, you can shave precious minutes off the time it takes you to cook another burger patty or pork snag.
2. Heat the venue accordingly
On the topic of heaters, it’s vital you make sure your BBQ area is toasty for your guests. There’s nothing worse than being unable to chat because your teeth won’t stop chattering. Getting your BBQ area ready for the event will avoid the need to eat the feast inside, which, let’s be honest, kind of defeats the purpose of having an Aussie BBQ in the first place.
This doesn’t mean you need to blow up your energy bill in a single afternoon. An outdoor gas heater—like the ones you see in the beer garden at your local pub—placed near the dining area is a great option, as is a fire pit. The fire pit, in particular, is a cosy touch, especially if your guest list is small. You only need to throw in a few camping blankets and a packet of marshmallows to make it the perfect place to tell stories after a good feed of snags, burgers, and plenty of grilled onions.
3. Also, dress accordingly
Yes, you can heat your patio to the degree that your guests think they’re in the Bahamas. Or, you can just dress according to what the day brings. Remember, it’s a winter BBQ, and there’s nothing to gain from trying to cheat a season rather than embracing it. And while you don’t want your guests layered in wool and fleece to the point where they struggle to sit down, you do want them to arrive with scarves and beanies and mittens. It helps set the mood, and invites everyone to be more intimate.
It’s also important to remember that a winter day in Australia can yield vastly different weather patterns depending on where you are. Yes, the southern states will demand you add some layers, but in the north, perhaps not. And if you’re planning a BBQ in Melbourne anywhere between March and September, you can rightly expect at least a little bit of rain and wind. As we said, dress accordingly.
4. Seasonal food is best
Now to the important part. When it comes to building an authentic BBQ menu, always use the produce that’s in season. That, at least, takes care of the ‘authentic’ part. But also, there’s a simple reason why you should choose seasonal produce: it’s the exact time when those fruits and vegetables are at their most vibrant and delicious. And if you want to welcome your guests to flavour country, this is the channel you must explore.
To be honest, winter produce in Australia isn’t too different to other places in the world. Which means, if you’ve never hosted a BBQ in winter before, just look to the traditional Sunday roast as a guide. That is, root vegetables such as beetroot, potato, carrot, and broccoli for the main course, and for your desserts, fruits such as apples, oranges, rhubarb, and strawberries.
When it comes to the protein part of your feast, you need not be so militant. Most meats such as lamb, chicken, and beef, are delicious all year. That said, if you enjoy cooking fish on your grill, go for fish that is in season.
5. Seasonal drinks are also best
Part of what makes any meal wonderful is the right pairing of food and drink, and a winter BBQ is no different. Once you have decided on your food menu, it’s time to shift your attention to the drinks. Again, this may differ depending on where you are. In the far north, there’s no reason why ice cold beers and negronis can’t be had year round.
If you’re in the far south, though, it’s time to think a little colder. For beer, consider Guinness or other dark stout beers. For wines, go with things like a full-bodied shiraz to help warm the bones. If you’re after a lovely winter touch, consider making mulled wine for after dinner, which will literally warm your bones.
In the end, the wonderful thing about hosting a BBQ is that there are no rules. You can do what you want, without feeling as though you are upsetting the BBQ gods. The thing that makes any Aussie BBQ a success is the quality of the company, and this will never change. So, remember to surround yourself with good friends and family, and the rest should take care of themselves.
Be sure to check out our Melbourne home content to see what else we are cooking up throughout the year, and the places and trends that are perfect examples of the Melbourne lifestyle.