Take the barbecue itself – if it’s seen better days then maybe it’s due for an upgrade? Do you want the precision, efficiency, and convenience of a gas barbecue or would you prefer the hands-on theater of a traditional charcoal-burner?

Gas can be a real time-saver, assuming you remember to check the level of the gas bottle and don’t have to make a dash to the local garden center to re-stock in the middle of the party. But charcoal fans will tell you that nothing imparts the smoky barbecue flavor like the real thing – even if you do set your hair and the neighbor’s fence on fire in the process. It’s all down to personal taste, but with dozens of models available in all price ranges the choice has never been wider.

If you’re creative in your kitchen, then there’s no need to be boring when it comes to barbecue food either. Good quality burgers and sausages always go down well, but be a bit more imaginative and try something new. Swordfish, monkfish or tuna are very easy to cook on a barbecue and can be really tasty when combined with a tangy marinade or dressing.

If you’re short on time, you can always speed up the marinating process by massaging the meat in a plastic bag of marinade for a few minutes before placing it in the fridge for just 30 minutes.

Vegetables are delicious cooked over a fire and flambéed bananas & pineapple make the perfect finishing touch. Take an approach to experimentation. If you’re feeling lazy, many of the supermarkets now sell pre-prepared food with the BBQ in mind, for example, Waitrose stocks Chinese-Style Pork Loin Ribs marinated in honey, orange and spices and Green Thai Chicken Kebabs marinated in aromatic coconut and fresh coriander and spices.

It’s best to prepare salads and dressings before you start cooking so that everything is ready to serve as soon as the cooked food comes off the heat. If you are cooking for a large number of guests, then many foods may be cooked off first and kept hot in the kitchen oven until required. Remember that you – the cook – are there to enjoy yourself too so give yourself time to relax by being properly organized.

There are some basic rules to remember when using a barbecue that does make sense to bear in mind.

Keep safe. Be aware of children and pets and keep them away from the hot stuff. If using charcoal, then allow enough time for the coals to really heat up before trying to cook anything. Look for signs of white ash on the charcoal to indicate that the temperature is hot enough for effective cooking.

Barbecue food is infamous for making an unwelcome return appearance! If you want to avoid this unpleasantness, be aware of basic food hygiene and wash your hands before handling food.

Be especially careful when handling raw meats and do not contaminate cooked meats with raw meat juices. Ensure that all items are properly cooked through before serving. If you are cooking items on the bone, such as chicken legs, it’s a good idea to pre-cook them in the oven first and then finish them off on the barbecue.