Top tips on BBQ etiquette

The sun is out, the sky is blue and the smell of paraffin and burnt sausage is in the air. Host or guest, here’s how to get the most out of barbecue season.

With summer on its way, one thing’s for certain - up and down the land dads will be dusting off the grill, stocking up on burgers and beers and inviting friends round for that British summer staple – the barbecue.

Tradition dictates that such al fresco fry-ups are impromptu affairs, so if you decide to host a roast or get an invite to one at a moment’s notice, don’t panic – follow our tips for the perfect barbecue.

Must I invite the neighbours?

You don’t have to invite anyone but once you get the firelighters going your garden party won’t be a secret to anyone in the street. It’ll be pretty awkward next time you put the bins out, so it makes sense to invite the neighbours to your barbecue.

You never know, they might even say no!

What should I wear?

Barbecues are too informal to come with a dress code, but just because it’s an outdoor event, there’s no need to dress as though you’re about to do some gardening.

If you’re hosting you set the tone, but think practical. Casual is key, but it has to be durable, wipeable - burger grease gets everywhere - and preferably non-flammable. And don’t forget the comedy apron.

As a guest, there are no rules but maybe take a peek at the host’s Facebook page and see what kind of get-up they’ve worn at their previous barbecues.

Etiquette expert William Hanson, who has teamed up with eBay, added: "Women are best advised not to wear skirts (unless very long, summery ones) so they avoid exposing anything they shouldn’t when shifting positions when sitting on the floor."

What do I bring?

Even if the host has said “Oh, just bring yourself”, don’t fall for it! Always remember what your mother taught you and never turn up empty-handed. 

The host’s fridge should be crammed with meaty treats so play it safe by opting for side dishes like coleslaw or potato salad or the perennial party pleaser – crisps and dip. And don’t forget the booze - bring a six-pack or a bottle of something cold.

And remember – if you bring it, leave it. It’s a whole lot less awkward than scrambling around gathering your half-drunk bottle of wine at the end of the night.


Is it wrong to tend to the grill while the host isn’t looking?

If an Englishman’s home is his castle, then his barbecue is his beloved country pile. If he’s still struggle over the coals when you arrive, don’t offer any advice on how to get the fire properly roaring – it won’t be welcomed.

Once the food is cooking, keep a safe distance from the event’s alpha male. Even if the meat is on fire - in fact even if the host is on fire - do not step in to save the day.

After all, who are you to be touching someone else’s grill when you’re not wearing the all-powerful apron marked ‘Chef’?

If I’m hosting, do I have to offer a vegetarian option?

Not really, no, but then you don’t have to offer running water of use of a toilet either. Not everyone is a full-blooded carnivore, so splash out a tiny bit more for some peppers and halloumi cheese – the posh squeaky kind – and wow them with vegetable kebabs.

The invite says 2pm, what time should I arrive?

Unless you know the host really well and you’re arriving to help them set up, never turn up early and even try to avoid turning up on time.

Basically give your host a little leeway – they’re probably cursing at the still-unlit coals 10 minutes before you arrive.

Our best advice is to arrive about an hour late. That way the fire will have got going before you arrive but you won’t be so late that you’re left with just burnt burgers and vegetable kebabs.

Should I offer to help clear up?

If it was a civilised barbecue and you’re not all skinny-dipping in the neighbour’s paddling pool then yes, definitely make the right noises or at the very least clear up after yourself by dumping your paper plate in the black bin bag hanging off the garden gate.

Leave the rest for the host to clear up tomorrow morning.

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