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6 Steps to the Perfect No-Stress Dinner Party

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Hot on the heels of this summer's scorching weather, the season for BBQs and garden parties is in full swing. That said, amidst the roasting temperatures and searing sun, it's easy to let the summer heat turn into a backdrop for blackened burgers, limp salads and spilled drinks, without the right preparation.

It's more than just rain that can put a dampener on your summertime soiree, but with the right forward planning, you can take the stress out of your dinner party or BBQ in no time. Before you dust off your grill and break out the charcoal, be sure to check out these top tips for taking the stress out of your next outdoor get together. From recipe advice to practical pointers, we're here to make sure your day goes off without a hitch.

1. Marinate meat and fish the day before

The good thing about a BBQ is the inherent simplicity that comes with cooking the food. What could be easier than throwing a few sausages, burgers, veg and other cuts of meat onto a grill and serving them up hot and ready to eat? But if you're looking to add a bit of flair to your fare, then go the way of the marinade.

Make things easier on yourself and prepare them the day before so you can focus on everything else. That way, they've got plenty of time to take on all the delicious flavours and accents as well; with marinades, the longer the better. For chicken, go for olive oil, lemon and garlic for a Middle Eastern vibe. Prawns go unbelievably well with a blend of chopped garlic, red chillies and parsley, drizzled with olive oil, while vegetarians will love a drizzle of honey, za'atar and lemon over their freshly grilled halloumi. The only limit is your own creativity really, and once your marinades are out of the way, it leaves plenty of time to get other things ready.

Marinating meatMarinate your meat early to avoid last-minute stress.

2. Create big-batch cocktails

Making everyone's drinks over the course of the day will gain you some kudos on the hosting front, but with everything else going on, you'll surely miss out on enjoying the party yourself. Avoid playing bartender by making your cocktails in big batches so everyone can help themselves while you mingle, cook the food and make less of a mess catering to everyone's requests.

A pitcher of Pimm's is a tried and true classic that pleases just about everyone, while a margarita (simple recipe: two-parts tequila to one-part Cointreau and one-part fresh lime) is a good go-to if your guests are made of stronger stuff. Even if you have to make another batch, you'll be done in no time, so you can get back to enjoying the rest of the party.

3. Be prepared for rain

Yes, we've been lucky this summer, but the UK can be inclement at the best of times. Err on the side of caution with your best-laid plans and opt for an awning or umbrella, the last thing you want to happen is have the rain rear its ugly head and soak your carefully-prepared food or worse: give everyone in attendance an early bath.

4. Avoid wilting greens and spoiling sides

Your salad or side accompaniment is likely to get a bit worse for wear under the heat. Not only does it look visually unappealing, but it'll likely have a flavour to match too. Make sure your potato salads, for example, don't spend more than two hours in the sun; with all that mayonnaise, it could be a breeding for all sorts of bacteria and potential food poisoning.

Go for a simple summer salad of broccoli, tomatoes, cucumbers and red onions, drizzled with a light balsamic dressing. The vegetables will stay firm without spoiling. If you like your leafy greens, avoid spinach as it wilts in no time at all; opt for something hardier like watercress as it'll stand up to the heat.

A broccoli salad in a bowlKeep your side dishes simple.

Likewise, a robust pasta salad, with carrots, peas and diced red peppers (no mayo) will hold up well against high temperatures. Anything pickled in brine is also a great idea, and will keep guests nibbling away without having to cast out the soggier bits of their salad to the sides of their plate.

The best thing is that these are all easily made beforehand in no time at all.

5. Stash away breakables

BBQs and garden parties can often spell disaster for glasses, crockery and cutlery, especially after a few drinks too many. Avoid the dreaded breakages by storing away the fine china and precious glassware and go for plastic glasses and crockery. It might sound like a cheaper alternative, but you can get some ornate-looking options that'll still impress your guests without having to worry about them going wayward in the hands of your company.

6. Grill up something simple for dessert

Save slaving over a huge, time-consuming cake or fancy dessert that'll barely be picked at after all that BBQ food, it's really not worth the effort. Opt for something refreshing, impressive and easy; grill up some peaches and serve it up with fancy ice cream. Your guests will appreciate the effort and those grill lines seared into the juicy fruit will surely prove irresistible to even the most stuffed of stomachs.

Grilled peaches with ice creamGrilled peaches can make for a very tasty dessert.

To help your BBQ leftovers last a little longer, don't forget they can all be stored using the FoodSaver vacuum sealing system to help you save money and reduce food waste. For more information about our innovative vacuum sealers, visit our FoodSaver homepage