Man Crates, a merchant who sells gifts for men, asked me to blog on the topic of outdoor grilling and to discuss the essentials that go into throwing an awesome barbecue. As it happens, May kicks off the season. With a little planning, a cookout can be fun and memorable for hosts and guests alike.
Consider these ...
Eleven Tips For Hosting The Perfect Barbecue:
1) It all begins with the people. Invite friendly, helpful people who like to mingle and talk to everyone. If your guests are genuinely nice, you will have good karma at your party. Fortunately for me, my friends are the type who if they see a need, will pitch in and help. They are delightful! (Here in Manhattan, I once saw a woman drop some chips on the floor and sweep the crumbs under a table with her foot. Unbelievable! Did she forget she was in someone's home?) Be sure to go around to introduce people. Set the tone for warm and friendly!
2) A cheese platter (of Swiss, cheddar, brie, etc.) and crackers will get the party started. Perhaps some hummus and cut up raw veggies to munch also.
3) The traditional meats to grill are burgers, chicken, bratwursts or hot dogs. These usual suspects taste great grilled. Depending on your budget, there's also steak, ribs and fish. We use a Cajun rub on the chicken and beef for people who like spice. (Here are two other easy recipes for homemade BBQ sauce.) Cheddar cheese to top burgers, if requested. Other fixings are pickles, relish, tomato slices, lettuce, purple onions, ketchup and brown mustard. Sauerkraut for the bratwursts and hot dogs. We prefer whole grain, crusty breads.
4) For a large crowd, make a big pot of chili and batches of corn bread. Or a sizable ham. Better to have too much food rather than too little. Chili, or ham can be made days ahead of the barbecue.
5) Cold slaw, German potato salad, baked beans, grilled corn-on-the-cob and a green salad will round out a menu. We try to keep our sides relatively healthy.
6) Drinks can include ice tea, craft beer, plus fine red and white wines. In the past, we served soft drinks, but now try to keep it healthy. Pitchers of ice water favored with (1) mint, or (2) lemon slices are refreshing. Some people like to make a signature alcoholic drink, but we don't, to be honest. We'd rather eat than drink at a barbecue.
7) Often guests want to bring something. I think side dishes, bags of ice and desserts are thoughtful. Bring a signature side dish, cake, pie or cookies to help feed a hungry crowd. What you bring should be ready to serve (or display, if flowers) so it doesn't add to the workload of an already busy hostess. Don't make her stop what she's doing to get you a dish to reheat your food, or find a vase for your flowers. I never thought twice about bringing a hostess flowers sans a vase before I co-hosted several large parties, myself.
8) For cookouts, I like serving fresh, in season fruit like watermelon, cantaloupes, blueberries, strawberries, cherries or peaches.
9) Ice cream is an easy crowd pleaser. Buy some wafer cones, and ask guests if they want one scoop or two ... delish! Don't forget the chocolate sprinkles.
10) Another essential element of a barbecue is listening to great music. So whip out the soundtracks of the 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, plus anything current you fancy. All your favorite artists playing while guests mix.
11) If you need games to turn the party up a notch, try playing musical chairs. Buy a few desirable prizes for the winners. Another fun activity is a dice game called Left, Right, Center. Click here for how to play. We found playing the game with real money (over chips) to be more fun. $3 per player is all it takes to add more excitement to the game. Keep it friendly!
And so, my tips for throwing the perfect barbecue come down to: Comprise a good guest list; prepare ahead as much as possible; keep the menu fresh, healthy, simple and pleasing; ask guests to bring ice, sides, or desserts; have lots of great music; plus a few backup games. Enjoy your guests!
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