How to have a socially distanced barbecue

Well, if Boris says it’s okay…

Good news folks – barbecues are back on the menu by decree of Boris Johnson himself. But before you go firing up your grill and prepping your royally approved meats, there are a few caveats. Social distancing is, alas, still firmly in place meaning you’ll have to stay at least two metres apart from your guests at all times. And, while this presents significantly more of a problem when you’re barbecuing from the balcony of a London flat than it does in the garden of a spacious country house, there are certain etiquette rules every host should consider. Here’s what you need to know.

Carefully consider your guest list

If you’re in England you can have up to six people (including yourself) at your barbecue. If you’re in Scotland it’s eight (but only from one other household) and in Ireland it’s 10. As for Wales? Sorry, no barbecues for you just yet.

What this means, of course, is that you’re going to have to seriously think about who you’re inviting. Have a family like mine with two parents and three married children? You’re going to have to play favourites because one couple can’t come. (It’s fine, everyone secretly agrees George is a bit annoying after a couple of gins anyway.)

Then there’s the issue of public transport. If everyone can drive to you, great – if not you’re going to be limited to whoever is in walking/cycling distance of your home. And if that means you can only invite your best mate, his girlfriend, that neighbour you’re kind of friends with and a guy from uni who you don’t really like but never managed to shrug off and now he lives down the road from you, remember you don’t have to use all of your invites.

Make a seating plan

Remember when barbecues used to be relaxed affairs where everyone would just grab a plate and find the nearest seat? No longer friends. A socially distanced barbecue is going to necessitate some creative table arrangements. Bench seating is out of the questions – unless you happen to have a six metre long (and two metre wide) banqueting table to hand. No? We thought not.

Practically the only way to follow the rules is to invest in six single seater tables (like the ones you used to have in primary school) that can be arranged to accommodate couples and single guests alike. But this also sounds like a lot of faff. So maybe just get some trays and arrange your chairs accordingly. Barbecues are supposed to be casual right?

BYO everything

It should go without saying that sharing bowls of crisps, nuts, wasabi peas or that weird dip John insists on bringing to every gathering are out of the question. But frankly so is being in charge of any kind of menu at all. For the foreseeable, barbecues are going to be less about communal eating and more about eating separate meals at the same time.

Yes, trying to coordinate cooking times for five different cuts and sizes of steak plus a half rack of ribs is going to be a challenge akin to your A-level maths exam but having everyone bring their own food (and keep it separate) is the best way to make sure none of you becomes a coronavirus super spreader. Also make sure your guests know how boozy you anticipate this event to be. The last thing you want is for Amelia to be hitting her third bottle of rose while Glen stares in envious sobriety at your (off limits) crate having polished off his four-pack in the first hour. Remember: sharing is no longer an option and the queue outside Waitrose on a Saturday rivals Thorpe Park’s Nemesis Inferno.

Don’t forget the details

You can’t have six different barbecues – but you can make sure you clean and disinfect your grill before use. Same goes for cutlery, plates and glasses. Run them all through the dishwasher and wear gloves when you touch them. Or use paper ones – unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures after all. And if anyone happens to need the toilet? Sorry, you’ve only got one and it’s been out of order for months…

Need more lockdown etiquette advice? Here’s the gentleman’s guide to digital dating…

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