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BBQ hacks to make entertaining easy

Sweating over how to throw an impromptu BBQ get-together? Here are some next level barbecue hacks that will make hosting a last-minute barbecue a breeze.

Summer’s the prime time for outdoor eating — you’re probably not a stranger to backyard barbecues this time of the year. If you’ve been roped into hosting a last minute barbecue with a couple of hours to spare, here are some barbecue hacks, including:

Buy the mains

Less time spent humming and hawing over what to buy means more time for you to prepare your grill and maybe chill out before the guests arrive. Here’s what to pick up from your local Four Square in a pinch:

Frozen food

Yes, you can grill frozen food on the barbecue. Make your last minute barbecue prep a little easier with a trip to the frozen aisle:

  • Jumbo prawns. Defrost the prawns, grill on high heat for a few minutes until it’s orange-pink on the outside and the flesh is opaque
  • Frozen burger patties. Make sure to thaw the patties, then place on a preheated grill for about 3 minutes a side or until the burgers reach the desired doneness
  • Pizza. Place aluminium foil over the top of the pizza and cook it whole from frozen
  • Chips. On a preheated grill, spread your fries evenly in a single layer onto the grill pan. Grill for about 10 minutes or until they’re crispy and golden. Make sure to turn them every now and again


  • Butterflied whole chicken. Butterflying chicken creates uniform thickness so that it cooks more quickly and evenly. Save yourself the mess and pick up one in store 
  • Premade kebabs. Whether it’s chicken, beef or lamb kebabs, you’ll find a variety of flavours (think teriyaki, honey soy, satay, Greek and more) so there’s going to be something for everyone
  • Burger patties. Find pre-made burger patties in the meat aisle; you’ll be spoilt for choice with vegan and vegetarian alternatives too
  • Precooked sausages. Whether you’re looking for kransky, cheerios or polonies, you’ll find a range of flavours and even gluten-free precooked sausages so you can cater for friends and families with alternative diets
  • Beef. Look out for lean cuts of meat like flat iron steak, top loin, sirloin, porterhouse, T-bone steak and tenderloin
  • Lamb. The loin cut is a lean, prime cut so it will cook quickly over high heat
  • Chicken. While chicken thighs are great for the grill, you can also use bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces; the bone helps insulate it from overcooking
  • Pork. Look for cuts such as spare ribs, loin chops, and tenderloins. Grill them over high heat and on a grill rack so that fat drips away


Look out for firm fish that won’t crumble when you cook them on the grill. Try salmon, tuna, mahi mahi, halibut, tilapia, thick kingfish, and kahawai fillets. Don’t skip the classic kaimoana: crayfish, scallops, paua and mussels. Depending on the season, the selection of fish can vary; ask our friendly Four Square staff for their recommendations!

Prepare your marinade

For a flavourful barbecue spread in half the time, pick up some pre-seasoned meat or bottled marinades. If not, whip up a quick marinade for your meat 30 mins to an hour before your guests arrive. To really speed things up, marinate the meat in resealable plastic bags instead of in bowls. This allows the marinade to be evenly distributed and it’ll make cleaning up so much quicker! Here are some easy marinade ideas. 

Simple marinade for steak

This 3 ingredient steak marinade will have you in and out of the kitchen in no time. All you need is 1 tablespoon each of soy sauce, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Stir to combine then marinate your steak in it for 30 mins but no more than 24 hours. This recipe works best for a single steak, and scales up easily if you have more meat.

If you’re in a time crunch, you can marinate steak quickly by slicing the steak thinly, placing it in a resealable plastic bag and squeezing the air out. In 30 mins, your steak will be well seasoned and ready for the grill.

Easy BBQ marinade for chicken

You probably already have all the ingredients in your pantry for this easy barbecue marinade for chicken. You’ll need:

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons oil (sunflower or vegetable oil works best)
  • 2 tablespoons wine vinegar

Mix these up and marinate your chicken for at least 30 minutes before grilling. This recipe works well for 2 chicken breasts. If you’re using chicken thighs, marinate them for a little longer. 

Simple marinade for lamb

If you’re barbecuing a leg of lamb, it doesn’t need much marinating — perfect for your impromptu summer barbecues. Try spicing it up with garlic, herbs like oregano, basil, sage, or mint and spices like coriander, cumin, cayenne, chili powder, mustard powder, or paprika. 

If you do want to marinate lamb, experts tend to advise at least 4 hours of marinating but you can speed it up by cutting your lamb into smaller chunks. For a no fuss lamb marinade, you’ll need: 

  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

This will work for 2 pounds of lamb chops but be sure not to leave it in for too long; it’ll turn your meat mushy. 

Simple barbecue marinade for pork

The next time you’re barbecuing pork, give this simple marinade a try. You’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

This recipe works best for 4 pork loin chops so scale it up if you’re feeding a crowd. 

The golden ratio for marinades

Don’t shy away from making your own marinade. All it takes is some fat, acid, seasoning, and aromatics. The golden ratio for marinades is 3 parts fat to 1 part acid. Once you’ve got that down, add your seasoning and aromatics to taste. 

  • Fat: olive oil, canola oil, avocado oil, vegetable oil, sunflower oil, coconut milk
  • Acid: vinegar, lemon juice, orange juice, Greek yoghurt, buttermilk, wine 
  • Seasoning: soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt
  • Aromatics: ginger, garlic, shallots, fresh or dried herbs, spices, citrus zert, sugar, honey

Do I have to marinate my meat for a barbecue?

No, you don’t have to marinate your meat. In fact, some meat like beef and lamb just need a salt and pepper seasoning before cooking. 

For a time-busting alternative to marinade, try spice rubs instead. Spice rubs give a stronger flavour than marinades in less time. All you need to do is rub the spices on to the meat while the barbecue heats up. Easy peasy! 

Assemble the sauces

The heat is on so skip making barbecue sauces from scratch. Instead, grab them from your local Four Square. If you’re not a fan of barbecue sauce, you can substitute it with Hoisin sauce, plum sauce or other fruit-based sauces, or teriyaki sauce. For a healthier option look at plant-based and gluten free barbecue sauces. 

Use a salad formula

Almost there! All that’s left is to assemble and dress your salad. With these time-saving hacks, you’ll even have time left over to graze on your Christmas cheese board before the guests arrive. 

Every great salad consists of veggies, dressing, and something crunchy. Protein and toppings are optional but they will take your salad to the next level. Follow our formula and you’ll never make a mediocre salad again.

Choose veggies for your salad

Popular salad bases include romaine lettuce, baby spinach, arugula, and mixed greens. For the sake of time-saving, buy a bag of salad leaves at the grocery store. It’s all washed and cut, you just need to put it into a bowl.  

Choose a salad dressing

With these hacks, you can make bottled salad dressing taste homemade (we won’t tell):

  • Add freshly ground black pepper
  • Add chopped fresh herbs, minced aromatics like shallots or garlic, or grated citrus zest to vinaigrettes
  • Add a dollop of sour cream, crème fraiche or Greek yogurt to creamy dressings like ranch and thousand island
  • Stir in half a cup of freshly grated or crumbled cheese for cheesy dressings like Caesar dressing or blue cheese  
  • Add some citrus juice (lemon or orange), or hot sauce, red pepper flakes or some sriracha to sweet dressings 

If you do have time to make your salad dressing, it’ll be just like the meat marinade formula. Salad dressings follow the ratio of 3 parts fat to 1 part acid, plus some seasoning and aromatics. Here are some versatile 5 ingredient salad dressings that you can quickly make at home.

Mustard salad dressing

Whisk together 3/4 cups vegetable oil, 1/4 cups apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons mustard, 2 tablespoons honey and a pinch of salt.

Avocado salad dressing

Whisk together 3/4 cups olive oil, 1/4 cups red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons of avocado, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and a pinch of salt. 

Zesty salad dressing

Whisk together ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon hot water, 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, and a pinch of salt and pepper. 

Add something crunchy

Choose one crunchy thing to add texture to your salad:

  • Nuts. Popular choices include walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, and cashews 
  • Seeds. Try chia, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, or quinoa 
  • Crunchy veggies. Think cucumbers, celery, carrots
  • Fruits. Apples and pears are great choices
  • Croutons
  • Roasted chickpeas 

Pick a protein

Salads are an easy summer meal idea and adding protein will really transform your salad from a sad bowl of veggies to something to shout about. Popular picks include deli meat, grilled chicken, tofu, shrimp, hard-boiled eggs and tuna.  

Backyard BBQ hacks

Now that you’ve got your kai on the fly sorted, here are some summer barbecue hacks to make sure the rest of your backyard barbecue goes without a hitch:

  • Stoke the fire with a hair dryer. Sounds weird but you’re in a hurry to get a fire going in, blasting a hair dryer will turn the heat up quickly
  • Cook your meat at room temperature. If there’s one thing you don’t rush, let it be this. Letting the raw meat sit out at room temperature for 20 minutes will ensure that it cooks evenly and doesn’t dry out
  • Grill everything. Instead of going between the kitchen and backyard, why not grill your veggies too? Vegetables like courgettes, eggplant and bell peppers do well on the stove
  • Don’t let things go to waste. We’re all about lunchbox ideas. Save your leftover meat and salad for lunch the next day

Hungry for more?

Whether you’re barbecuing at the beach for a Christmas picnic, or entertaining guests at home, your local Four Square has everything you need to make your last-minute BBQ a breeze. 

For more easy meal ideas, check out our latest recipes for inspiration or take a peek at our virtual mailer.