From the minute that first leaf pops each spring, the unmistakable, smoky scent of barbecue begins wafting through neighborhoods. If the sun is out, the grill is on. There's nothing like lighting the fire and gathering the gang in the backyard, at the park, or by the lake for an outdoor fest that so often drifts into evening because no one wants to go home.
- Fill a few tubs or coolers with ice and place them around the yard and under trees. Jam them with bottles of wine, beer, soda and water, designating one tub for just kids’ drinks and non-alcoholic beverages. Using a ribbon, tie a bottle opener to each tub’s handle or, better yet, around the tree.
- If you want to have cocktails, offer a pitcher of one signature summery drink: Spiked lemonade, White Sangria, Mojito Slush and margaritas all mix well in large batches. Be sure to have plenty of glasses on hand.
- Chicken is the easiest, most versatile protein to grill. Whether you do jerk kabobs or stick it on a beer can, the possibilities are endless.
- Burgers are a crowd favorite and rolling out a top-notch burger bar is easier than you might think. (See below.)
- Keep sides light and fresh to balance the heavier meat options—and the heat! You can’t go wrong with classic barbecue pairings, especially with unexpected twists like dill-flecked potato salad and crunchy-tart apple slaw.
- Grilled veggies are a simple yet satisfying way to showcase what’s in season and cater to any vegetarians in the bunch.
- Grilled fruit is an underappreciated dessert option. Keep the coals going and thread peaches, pineapple, mangos and watermelon on a skewer. A quick sear on each side will caramelize the sugars and deliver a killer fruit kabob.
Build a Burger Bar
Guests will love topping their own burger hot off the grill. Set out small serving bowls and plates laid with add-ons and condiments. Offer the usual suspects or get creative with new flavors. A few of our favorites:
- Goat cheese
- Caramelized onions
- Pickled chilies
- If you're using charcoal, consider mixing some hardwood in with traditional briquettes for a richer flavor.
- If you're hosting at a park, set the mood by hanging paper lanterns in trees or spreading out a mosaic of towels for sitting. Bring some pillows if you'll be lounging with your grillables.
- Bugs are the uninvited guests that are bound to show up. Light citronella candles early enough to ward them off, and consider putting out a basket with different bug repellent options for guests.
- When guests ask you what they can bring, assign a few people to yard games. Activities like ladder golf, ring toss and even horseshoes provide guests with a little healthy competition while they're waiting for the food to cook.