Hosting a Successful Barbeque in Your Own Backyard or at a Park
If you're planning on hosting any sort of outdoor event, there are probably at least a dozen things that you can think of that might go wrong. Maybe you'll overcook the food, or maybe it will start to rain. Mosquitoes, flies, and other bugs might invade your party, or you might run out of drinks. Anything can happen, but as you gain experience with hosting these types of events it only gets easier, and the following guide is going to walk you through every step of the planning, as well as some things to keep in mind during the actual cook-out.
Let's first start by taking note of exactly what kind of BBQ this is going to be. Thinking about the types of guests that will be coming and your relationship with them will give you a good idea of the type of event you'd like to have if there isn't any particular occasion. Do you want to impress people? Do you want people to stay late? You'll have to envision your perfect BBQ before you can plan it.
- Paper plates and plastic knives will save you a whole lot of time on cleaning. Make sure you get sturdy paper plates, flimsy ones can be dangerous because some people just can't resist but to eat standing up at a barbeque.Use a product called Mosquito Barrier to get all bugs out of your yard (it's just garlic, but it works).
- Use a product called Mosquito Barrier to get all bugs out of your yard (it's just garlic, but it works).
- Make sure you've got some shade, preferably over the seating area AND partially over the grill.
- Know how many waves of food you'll have to cook to feed everyone.
- Always have more than enough drinks.
Planning Your Barbeque Before the Big Day
If you've never cooked on a barbeque before in your life, then you might be in trouble. Anyone can manage hot dogs and hamburgers, but don't expect to produce BBQ chicken for anything more than 3-5 people unless you've got some experience under your belt. Experience, and a grill that's big enough and reliable enough to get the job done.
We won't get into the argument of charcoal grilling vs propane grilling, let's leave that to Hank Hill. Keep in mind that you want your grill to be close enough to the party that people can come and have a look at the grill while you're cooking because we all love to do this, but you want to be sure that the smoke from your grill isn't going to be pouring towards the guests, especially if you are using charcoal.
If you've got children coming, be sure to keep this in mind when deciding on the positioning of the grill. You won't always be able to predict the wind, but do your best to keep the smoke out of everybody's face. If you can do that, you're already doing better than most hosts.
Once you know where the grill will be, make sure there is going to be somewhere for everybody to eat. Obviously the more space the better, especially if there are going to be children, but don't be afraid to offer up your house as a great location to host an upcoming event even if your yard isn't the largest. Some people actually prefer to eat standing up at a barbeque, and you can encourage this (along with more conversation) by setting all of the drinks and napkins up in a place in which people can approach from all sides, speak to each other from across the table, spend some time yapping, and have an all-around good time.
When dealing with a small area, consider pointing your grill towards the wall or putting it in a corner to save space. People won't mind the fact that your back is turned to them just as long as you're busy cooking up their food. You might also consider lining a couple of tables up against a wall to place all the food on - this will cause people to line up to get their food buffet style and you don't have to worry about people bumping into each other or having trouble getting to their table after they get their food.
- Shade: You don't want little old miss Jesabel wilting like a flower in the sun waiting for her food, and you don't want to end up with the back of your neck peeling off when you're all done with your wonderful party. Set up umbrellas, tents, whatever you have to do to be sure that your party will have some shade. This is another EASY step that a lot of people overlook, don't overlook it if you want to be good.
- Seating: Do your best to have an abundance of seats available, even if they remain folded up in your garage. You never know who might decide to bring a friend or two, or three.
- Heat Accommodation: If it's dreadfully hot, do all you can to give your guests ways to cool down. Cold drinks are a must, but how about purchasing an enormous, industrial strength fan and running it outside with an extension cord? Your guests can take turns standing in front of the fan, and your ingenuity will definitely be appreciated. If there are children, purchasing a kiddy pool or sprinkler toy for the kids to run around in will have all of the parents thanking you for keeping their kids entertained. See to it that these water toys get put away before it gets dark, you don't want anyone's kid going home sick.
- Fire Safety: Obviously you want your guests to make it through your cook-out alive. Don't be a dummy - make sure you triple check everything around the grill for anything that could catch fire, and ensure that everything on your grill is in working order be it gas tank or electric. People choose to cook on an open fire for the taste and excitement, but it is a decision that should be taken seriously every time you make it. Watch the grill at all times and make sure people are warned to stay away while it's still hot.
- Trash Can Access: How long do you want to spend cleaning the next day? Throw-away plates and silverware save a TON of time, and be sure that you place some trash cans throughout the area so people don't have to go inside your house to throw their stuff in the trash under the sink if you don't want to be cleaning your rug afterwards, too.
Keeping Mosquitoes and Other Bugs Out of Your Yard or Outdoor Event
Imagine if one of your neighbors got lyme disease from a tick bite or west nile virus from a mosquito while at YOUR barbeque. If you'd rather not be so dramatic, imagine all of your guests leaving the party as soon as the sun starts to go down because the mosquitoes start showing up. Mosquitoes will ruin your time in a hurry, so don't hope for the best when it comes to the blood suckers.
You can't have a misting system in the area spraying your guests and your food with poison throughout the event, and you also don't want to apply any harmful pesticides to your lawn prior to the get together because it could cause allergic reactions to feet and ankles, children and animals could get sick, it's just bad news.
Instead, use a completely natural garlic juice called Mosquito Barrier. You can spray your yard about once a month to keep mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks out all summer, but you want to spray a little longer than a week before your party if it's your first time using it, and then a second time just a day or two before the party.
Once you've done those first two initial sprays you should only have to use it about once a month throughout the summer. It's just garlic, so it won't do any harm to anything, not even bees or butterflies, but there won't be a single mosquito in sight, not in your yard and not in your house.
If you are going to be grilling at the park or at a picnic site, you might still be able to spray the area just the same. I would advise against spraying anything in a park until you've spoken to someone, but there is nothing but garlic in this stuff so it shouldn't be too hard of an argument to win.
Planning a Barbeque for Many
Make sure you know how long everything is going to take to cook. If there's going to be bread, make sure it isn't toasted until everyone is ready to eat. It might be a good idea to put the bread out and tell people to choose their loaf and bring it to you if they'd like it toasted. Your guests feel more involved, you don't toast a bunch of toast that nobody eats.
Try to get things like potato salad out of the way before your guests begin to arrive, as you should expect the grilling to take up just about all of your attention. The more hands on deck the better, so be sure to get your wife, husband, children, or anyone else you can involved with the cooking or preparation to make things easier.
As a general rule of thumb, the better you know the people at the party, the messier you can make the food.
Something that people often overlook is the size of their actual grill. Sure you bought enough chicken for 20 heads, but aren't you only going to be able to fit less than half of that on your grill at once? This is often times the case with larger outdoor events, so people will already expect the food to come in waves. You'll usually be better off putting the food out as its ready and trusting your guests to have courtesy for others. Maybe they'll nibble, but everyone will still end up getting full around the same time as long as you go straight back to the grill.
Always get your chickens, steak, or ribs started first, and let people know about how long it's going to be until the food is ready up front - people will be very curious if you don't. It usually isn't a good idea to cook things like hot dogs until after you've taken care of all the steak, chicken and ribs, as there will definitely be some disappointed faces in the crowd if they fill themselves on hot dogs not realizing that T-bone was just around the corner. Let them know they'll have to wait, but also let them know it's worth it. You can always lay out a few snacks in the mean time.
Plan on the seasonings you will be using on everything before you start cooking, even if there won't be any marinade involved. You don't want to be leaving the grill to look for something to get the chicken moist, or find yourself experimenting on other people's food with a combination of spices that just don't taste very good.
Sauce Can Be Dangerous
Often times, people get the bright idea to slather some barbeque sauce on top of their chicken or steak while it's already on the grill. When you go to flip the meat, a bunch of the sauce will leak off of the meat along with the usual fatty juices. This stuff will cause your flames to shoot up, and your charcoals or wood to burn out. It's also a pain in the arse to clean later. Consider putting sauces on towards the end of grilling, the amount of flavor that is "soaked in" while it cooks is barely noticeable if even existent at all.
Some Quick Grilling Tips for Beginners
- Avoid marinating meat in lemon, lime, or salt for any longer than an hour - it makes the meat tough and you'll wish you hadn't used a marinade at all.
- Be sure to avoid putting your food on the grill if you've recently used lighter fluid to get it started. Your fire should burn for at least 45 minutes after using lighter fluid so as to avoid the flavor getting into your meat. It's not a very nice flavor, just ask any novice BBQ chef and they'll tell you all about it.
- Try to flip your meat as little as possible. Every time you do, some of the delicious flavors drips off into the fire below, and you'll end up with terribly dry meat if you can't stop tonging and pronging at everything.
- If you aren't sure which bottle of seasoning to buy at the grocery store, why not skip it entirely and instead use some natural vegetables, spices, and herbs? Everyone appreciates a natural meal, and it'll probably end up tasting better as well. Use salt and pepper sparingly, and consider adding garlic, chili peppers or powders, and any herbs of your choice. The trick is to mix all of these seasonings and veggies into olive oil and then brush it onto the steaks, otherwise all your flavoring will fall right off when you flip it.
- The trick to cooking steak on a grill is to have the fire as hot as possible, but good luck trying to cook a chicken breast over a 700 degree flame without it turning into a black char bird. I recommend choosing one or the other (steak or chicken) unless you have more than one grill to work with.
- When you put a steak slab on the grill, lay it longways so that the length of it goes in the same direction as the grill bars. After a minute or two, slightly turn your steak a few degrees to the side so that it's sitting at an angle with the bars and let it cook like that for a minute. When you flip the steak over, you'll have some beautiful diamond burn marks in your steak that'll make it look like it just came out of a magazine.
Saving Money On Your Barbeque
Hosting the most magnificent barbeque event of all time is great, but how about having a little get together that everyone enjoys without spending too much money? Both outcomes will probably make you happy.
- Using paper plates might save the environment, but using your own dishes and silverware will save you some bucks and do the environment some good as well.
- Buy your drinks in bulk - don't catch yourself stacking 16 pack after 16 pack of soda on top of each other at the grocery store unless they've got a deal. Hit up Costco and get a huge pack.
- Go potluck style - tell everyone to bring a side dish or something to put on the grill. Keep in mind that if people are going to be bringing meat, you'll have to cook this stuff, so be ready to welcome all challenges and expect a difficult grill. You may be best off asking for people to bring side dishes, napkins, drinks, and other ready-to-go items.
- The meat is usually always the most expensive stuff. Consider stuffing yourself and your guests on vegetables, salad, macaroni, and other side dishes, with just enough meat to go around. It might not be the most lavish barbeque by design, but it will certainly get the job done and could save you lots of cash.
Ready, Set, GO!
It's time to think about the big day and make sure everything goes just the way you want it to.
Be a good host, always introduce people that haven't met before and encourage conversation with a positive attitude. At the very least, your guests can talk about how chipper you seem to be this evening - it's better than an awkward silence.
You want people to arrive while you are still cooking to get that real barbeque feel, nobody wants to show up to a bunch of lukewarm food that looks like it could have been brought by a catering company. Still, make sure that there are plenty of snacks and munchies to go around while people wait - everybody should have at least one hand full, and not with their cell phone!
Grilling should be fun. Let people know your progress as you go along, you can even have your favorite guests come up and choose their meat. Kids love this, and adults do, too!
If you are cooking, most of the time, you are going to want to spend nearly every minute of your time in front of the grill until it's done. Avoid going to have lengthy conversations with people while steaks are sizzling, or getting some more beers from the back house when you could be watching the chicken. Do your best to get other people to do other stuff, and put all of your focus into every single piece of meat.
Be sure to let your guests know what time the party will be going to if it isn't already obvious. A polite way to do this is to mention it on the invitation - don't point out the fact that they will be leaving in two hours as soon as they walk in the door, unless you don't particularly like that person and would like to make them uncomfortable.
You'll probably be the last to it, but it'll be worth it when you see the round bellies and smiling faces of your friends, family, and peers.
Turning a Barbeque into a Real Party
After you've gotten all the bare essentials, you might wish there were a few little things that you could get to make your party better.
- Tablecloths are always nice, but definitely not necessary when outdoors. Consider getting some matching tablecloths to set up the sense of a real outdoor eatery.
- If you plan to have many visitors, setting up some sort of entertainment area inside where people can spend 10 or 15 minutes enjoying themselves after using the bathroom, and interact with some people they might not have ran into outside. This could be as simple as turning on the football game, or making sure that your guests pass by plenty of artwork as they travel through the house to spark conversation.
- Get creative with your snacks. A veggie bar with freshly cut vegetables and dips will look totally different from what people are used to, A "make your own cocktail" station with instructions for different drinks could accomplish the same thing on a more mature level.
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