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Barbecues are an exciting and relaxed way to cook. The barbecue creates a central social hub at any casual gathering or celebration!
The all-time favorites for New Zealand BBQs are sausages, steak, lamb chops, and meat patties. Today you will find a wider diversity of food items such as grilled corn cobs, paua fritters, fish fillets, salmon and vegetarian sausages.
With the development of hooded BBQs, another option is to roast a large piece of beef, chicken or lamb. The best foods are tasty and straightforward.
A favorite for children is a sausage wrapped in a slice of white bread, smothered in tomato sauce (ketchup) and onions caramelized on the hot plate.
What type of barbecue do New Zealanders cook on?
The Kiwi traditional BBQ is a grill where smaller pieces of meat are cooked quickly over hot coals or flame.
Traditionally BBQs were home-built and constructed from recycled bricks and or from a cut-down drum and burned wood or charcoal.
Today, most BBQ cooks like to grill on a gas barbecue.
In recent decades, you can purchase a complete range of smaller portable gas barbecues right through to a barbecue to fit within a full-sized outdoor kitchen.
Gas barbecues are sized by the number of ‘burners.’ The smaller portable units have one burner, while the largest could have six burners.
Gas barbecues are quick, safe and easy to maintain.
Why do New Zealanders love BBQs to feed friends and family?
Barbecued meals are very common for hosting friends and family in the backyard during the summer months.
Or you may take a portable gas barbecue to the beach, river or park. Some parks provide gas BBQs and picnic tables available for a small charge.
Kiwi BBQ food is tasty and straightforward and doesn’t require a lot of preparation.
Also, guests will contribute to the meal by bringing along some meat, a salad and a few beers or a bottle of wine.
These types of meals are very casual. No need to dress up, and punctuality is not a high priority.
New Zealand in summer is a very relaxed time of year which makes hosting a great BBQ an easy thing to do.
Fun Fact A traditional New Zealand fundraising activity is to set up a portable gas barbecue outside the local hardware mega-store to sell sausages in bread, with onions, tomato sauce and/or mustard for a small charge. The success of this popular fundraiser is down to the intense aroma of grilled onions and sausage that wafts across the car park, drawing in the hungry crowds of Saturday morning shoppers.
What does “Bring a plate” mean?”
There is a New Zealand tradition of asking guests to “bring a plate” to a shared meal.
But don’t be fooled into thinking it means to bring your crockery. Your host will expect you to put something on that plate to contribute to the meal.
I had heard stories about new migrants making this mistake.
Often barbecues are ‘pot luck’ meals, where everyone brings something.
A suitable item to take a plate may be meat for the bbq, salad, nibbles or dessert.
Alternatively, you might bring a bottle of wine or a few beers.
The very casual nature of New Zealand hospitality makes hosting large groups easy.
What to serve with barbecued meats?
The great thing about a BBQ meal is that you don’t need to go to a lot of effort for your guests to be happy.
Accompany the barbecued meats with a range of simple salads, tomato sauce, bread rolls and potatoes boiled in or as a salad.
Most New Zealand animals (both beef and lamb) are grass-fed, resulting in tasty and tender meats.
The options are unlimited but usually simple.
Favorites dishes include lettuce salads, coleslaws, tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, new potatoes with mint and bread rolls.
New Zealand salads are wholesome and healthy, dressed simply with mayonnaise or a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice.
Fun fact I grew up with the traditional salad of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, boiled eggs accompanied by a mayonnaise made out of sweetened condensed milk, white vinegar and mustard. We loved it! (Here’s the recipe.)
Who does the cooking on the barbecue?
Here’s the thing. n New Zealand, it is often the men who took charge of cooking over the BBQ grill.
While women traditionally have cooked in the home, men did the cooking outdoors.
That doesn’t always mean they are good at it!
But it does mean that the women get a break from cooking in a hot kitchen in the summer.
Naturally, these role models are changing, but men still tend to ‘assume the position’ in charge of the BBQ.
The funnier thing is that they often think they’re great cooks outdoors but less assured in the kitchen.
No matter who is cooking, the BBQ becomes the center of the social chit-chat, guests are relaxed and happy to wait until everything is ready.
Tips for grilling on the BBQ
Buy disposable serving platters, plates and serviettes.
Check your gas bottle has enough gas that it won’t run out halfway through the cooking.
Check your BBQ grill is clean, which means you may need to fire it up and scrub it before your guests arrive.
Put the wine, beer and non-alcoholic drinks in the fridge the night before.
Have a handily located chilly bin to keep them cold on the day, so you don’t have to go indoors every time you’re topping up drinks.
Prepare your meats and salads beforehand. Or don’t prepare anything, and whip it up when guests arrive. Allow people to lend a helping hand.
Think about what you to feed the children. You may decide to feed them first.
Relax! This is why we have BBQs and not dinner parties.
Can you roast meat on a barbecue?
You can also roast meat on the BBQ using indirect heat.
For this, you need a hooded BBQ so that the grill will heat the air in the BBQ surrounding the piece of meat.
Instructions for roasting on the BBQ
- Either marinate or apply a dry rub to the meat a few hours in advance of cooking.
- Lay the meat on a rack on a drip tray. (Disposal aluminum foil trays save a lot of clearing up.)
- Preheat the grill well to a moderate temperature.
- Turn off the burners directly under the meat, leaving on those on the outside.
- Don’t open the lid too often, but you can baste the meat occasionally during cooking.
- Use a meat thermometer to judge the level of cookedness.
- Let your meat rest after cooking.
How do you know your roast is cooked?
Use a cooking thermometer to test the internal temperature of the meat. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat.
Let the meat rest after cooking, so the juices are absorbed.
Serve hot, or cook in advance and serve at room temperature.
Serve with your favorite chutney, guacamole or pickle.
New Zealand Christmas dinner on the barbecue
With Christmas celebrations falling during summertime, it is not uncommon for Christmas dinner to be cooked on a barbecue.
It is a great way to feed a large group of family and friends.
For this special occasion, a side of salmon, a whole snapper fish or a leg of lamb is the easy way to feed a large family crowd.
Other favorites include seafood such as paua fritters, mussels cooked in their shells, and juicy crayfish.
While some may still make a hot Christmas pudding, this style of Christmas meal is better suited to the New Zealand classic dessert, a pavlova, served with fresh fruit or strawberries.
Christmas is a relaxed celebration with families coming together in big groups, as it falls at the start of a long holiday season that runs through to until after the New Year public holidays and school holidays.
Keep it simple so you can relax and enjoy your guests!
Here’s more information on New Zealand food culture and favorite foods.
Serve your BBQ with New Zealand’s most famous wine
Don’t forget to try a bottle of New Zealand’s infamous fantastic wine, sauvignon blanc.
According to this New Zealand Wine website:
“The ‘zing’ of Sauvignon Blanc is a delightful complement to the fresh flavors of seafood, shellfish and white fish and enhances citrus or garlic-based sauces.
Crunchy summer salads and capsicums resonate with the flavors of Sauvignon Blanc, with both the wine and dish complimented by the match.
Tangy foods, such as tomatoes and vinegar-based dressings, are also ideal food matches.
On its own, Sauvignon Blanc is a mouth-watering aperitif, especially on a bright summer’s day.”
And if wine is not your thing, then any good New Zealand beer or non-alcoholic soda will do.
Celebrate summer anywhere in the world with a New Zealand BBQ
In New Zealand, we celebrate summer by sharing meals and entertaining outdoors.
It can be a simple firepit on the beach or a full six-burner BBQ on your deck.
Summer is a time to be enjoyed with friends and family.