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Summertime Entertaining

Updated on August 18, 2014

It's Summertime - Let's Get the Party Started!

The backyard is calling with plenty of fresh air and a promise of good times for the summer. Where to start? Planning parties or a simple meal outdoors is a great beginning! But, there's so much more to entertaining al fresco. Our Summer Entertainment Guide includes tips on how to host the perfect party in style along with grilling ideas and links to favorite recipes. We'll help you dress up the patio and even help you select the perfect steak. Now, there's something to make your mouth water, right?

Charger Plate
Charger Plate

Dressing up the Table Setting

You don't have to get all fancy outside, but it's nice to add something beyond the typical plastic and paper plates you find in aisle #19. Think about layering with colorful or outdoor-friendly charger plates. In squares or rounds, they can even make plastic look good! They're also fun to mix and match for more casual settings.

Another idea: check garage sales or discount stores for colorful serving trays. Those with low lip edges can also be used as a charger base for serving larger platter style plastic plates. They're also excellent for buffet setups, as guests can add multiple dishes on a single tray.

Faux Wood Charger Plates

Squares work well with round plates, too! Made of tough plastic, these are great for an outdoor dining table setting.

Patio Lighting Ideas
Patio Lighting Ideas

Light up the Deck for an Evening Party

As dusk falls, it’s time to light up the night - and the patio. Solar lights are becoming more economical and they can be placed almost anywhere. You’ll have choices between those with built-in collection panels and lights that are linked tighter with wiring that goes to one universal solar panel. If you’re lighting walkways, go with stakes that cast light downward. Those won't blind your guests.

Light strings add a festive touch and can be hard-wired with a transformer into exterior outlets. They are also energy-efficient and easy to set up. Just follow instructions so you don't overload the circuit or add too many strings.

We have some more lighting ideas for decorating outdoors here.

Festive Patio Party Lights

A string of margarita glasses will get guests in the mood for a patio party!

Fire on the Grill
Fire on the Grill

Getting Down to the Goodies: Great Food!

Cooking outdoors is more than just about the art of grilling. It also cuts down on heat indoors and gets the cook out of the kitchen, too.

If you’re a beginning griller and think charcoaling is the way to go, here’s a little help to get you started.

You may be conflicted between charcoaling and propane cooking. That’s a raging debate that won’t go away (just get two opposing teams together and you’ll see what we mean). However, each has its advantages, which you can read more about here.

Weber Tabletop Smokey Joe

Weber 10020 Smokey Joe 14-Inch Portable Grill
Weber 10020 Smokey Joe 14-Inch Portable Grill

The tabletop sized Smokey Joe is big on space and burns briquettes efficiently. When our larger charcoaler finally rusted out, we bought two of these so we could still cook larger quantities.


It's Summertime! And Time for Messy Foods

Yes, you can leave a few manners indoors when it comes to messy summertime foods. Think ribs slathered in barbecue and corn on the cob dripping in butter. This is no time for formalities; just be sure to be a good host/hostess and stock up on napkins.

When you're planning any outdoor gathering, forget about the rows of utensils you would normally require. About the only time you'll want to think about silverware (or plastic) is with side dishes such as baked beans or potato salad. Otherwise, encourage everyone to dive in if they're so inclined.

Grilled Hamburger
Grilled Hamburger

Favorite Foods for Outdoor Gatherings

Burgers are always on the list when it comes to grilling. We have a favorite list of standbys that you won’t go wrong serving to family members or guests. But ground beef patties are so easy to make ahead of time that you'll want to stock up and keep them in the freezer for last-minute meals.

A quick seasoning tip: For every pound of ground beef, add 1.5 tablespoons Worcestershire, 1 teaspoon of black pepper, 1 teaspoon seasoning of your choice (we use No-Salt Cavender’s). Make your patties, place them between sheets of wax paper and place in freezer bags. That’s it.

Potato Salad
Potato Salad

Safety Comes First - Especially in the Heat

Did you know the two-hour rule doesn’t apply when it comes to setting out foods in summer? As temperatures rise, one hour is the maximum. Keep an eye on ice chests and make sure they’re packed with a fresh supply. Melted cold water won’t do the trick.

While we’re outdoors, we’re also a little more lax in hand-washing. For any summer gathering, keep a stash of moist towelettes in a container on picnic tables and around the grill area.

Cross-contamination is always a big issue in the kitchen. Invest in low-cost flexible cutting boards and keep a stack ready for prepping. Poultry may be the biggest culprit, but ground meats are also susceptible to contamination before they even reach your home.

See the following short articles for suggestions and tips on keeping you and your guests safe from errant bacteria.

Backyard Canopies are Festive and Protective

Backyard Canopy
Backyard Canopy

Expand Outdoor Spaces with a Canopy

Popups, shade sails, and even mesh netting for market umbrellas - all of these will make outdoor entertaining even more enjoyable. Temporary gazebos with mesh netting will keep flying insects at bay while a simpler pop-up adds a little protection from sun and light rain. The ultimate is a roll-out shade attached to the exterior that covers the patio area when it gets too hot. Of course, watch out for strong winds.

Temporary and portable shelters are also a good investment when you want to take your party to the park or the beach.

Light and Tasty Ideas for Summer Entertaining

Chef Colombe Jacobsen shares her tips for creating appetizers and other dishes with Mediterranean flair.

Before you head outdoors for a feast, leave a comment or add your own suggestions for the best summer backyard parties!

How Do You Entertain in Summer?

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