There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned cookout.
The smell of something scrumptious sizzling on the grill, a spread of delicious side dishes, mild weather and good conversation are all part of the equation.
Whether you’re firing up the grill on a holiday weekend or having friends over on a late-summer day, barbecuing is a favorite American pastime. But how much food should you serve? What can you ask guests to bring? Are there tricks for making cleanup more manageable?
We talked to some grill masters to create a helpful guide to throwing the perfect barbecue.
1. Prepare ahead of time
Taking on some entertaining chores ahead of time can help make your barbecue run seamlessly. Decide who’s coming, check on dietary restrictions, and plan a menu.
Mareya Ibrahim, 53, chef and author of Eat Like You Give a Fork: The Real Dish on Eating to Thrive, suggests that as the day of the event draws closer, you start by cleaning the grill. “A good stainless steel grill brush can help get rid of stubborn meat, cheese and vegetables,” she says.
Next, gather your grilling tools, including tongs; a basting brush; grill baskets; and separate cutting boards for meat, seafood and vegetables. Then check propane tanks; consider having a backup just in case. If you plan to use charcoal briquettes or wood, make sure you have an ample supply and plenty of lighter fluid, Ibrahim says.
2. Choose the right food
Rick Mace, owner and executive chef of Tropical Smokehouse in West Palm Beach, Florida, says he plans his barbecue menus in three parts: “snacks to welcome folks to the party, the main spread, and some sweet or savory snacks for noshing afterwards.”
He suggests that to save time, you make whatever you can in advance, whether that’s dips, potato or fruit salad, or dessert. Cut veggies for dips or grilling a day ahead and make any sauces needed before the event starts.
Think about making some dishes yourself and purchasing others to lighten the load.