There is no better time for a fun get-together than during the summer, when people come together outside and enjoy the weather. But the idea of hosting a party of your own can seem a little daunting with all the planning, cleaning and prepping necessary. However, with an organized approach it can be easy to get everything done efficiently so you can spend your time relaxing with your guests. Follow these 9 tips in order to plan and execute the perfect backyard barbecue.
1. Plan Ahead
As with just about everything, planning is key when it comes to pulling off a successful party. Creating lists of supplies, guests, food items and other necessities will help keep you organized and on track. You may even want to schedule different types of preparations by the day so you won’t be rushing the day of the event.
Start with a guest list and get your invitations out. Word of mouth or electronic invitations are fine for a casual barbecue. Next, plan out the non-food items you will need and get those several days before the party if possible. Once you’ve planned the menu you can make a two shopping lists: one for a couple days in advance and one for the morning of the backyard party. Some foods need to be bought fresh, and that’s OK as long as you plan accordingly.
You should also ensure that your grill is in good working order. Make sure you have plenty of the proper fuel for your appliance. If you are looking to purchase your first grill for the sole purpose of throwing this party, be sure you do plenty of research so you know you are picking the right one for you.
2. Create a Simple Menu
If you will providing all the food items, make sure to keep your menu simple. Most people like to eat lighter and healthier in the summertime anyway. Stick with the classics: grilled meats, a vegetarian option, corn on the cob, fruit salads, green salads and lots of beverages. Take extra care to not forget to include an option for your vegetarian guests, and certainly plan for a delicious dessert. Your final sweets should be light as well–gooey chocolate is less appealing during the hot months.
Another option is to make the party a potluck, which can help you save money. You might want to assign guests a specific category of items to bring. Otherwise you could end up with six fruit salads and no desserts.
3. Cooking Ahead of Time
You’ll want to make as many menu items as you can before the party. It can be very frustrating trying to prepare dishes while guests are in the kitchen and watching you expectantly. Of course, there will be things you cannot make until the day of the backyard party, but you’ll want to plan your menu accordingly to minimize those things.
Also, schedule yourself time to decorate your yard or set up the buffet. You want your guests to be able to make themselves comfortable as soon as they arrive.
4. Offer an Assortment of Beverages
A warm summer day will mean thirsty party goers, so you’ll want to be prepared with several different drink items. Lemonade and iced tea are classic barbecue offerings. If you plan on serving water or soda, you might want to use a tub full of ice to keep the bottles cool. If you are catering your party more for adults, be sure to include several beer, wine and cocktail options for your guests to choose from.
When it comes to parties, it is super helpful to have an extra beverage fridge to keep drinks cool until it’s time to put them out for guests. A kegerator with a beer tap is a particularly useful appliance to keep the brew flowing for your visitors, and no one will have to pump a keg all night! Kegerators can also be equipped with root beer if you are opting to keep your cookout dry.
5. Have Extras of Everything
Make sure to buy or make extras of everything. Not just the food and drinks–also remember to have extra plates, cups and seating. It’s easier to send people home with leftovers than it is to run to the store if you run out of something. Even things you don’t think you’ll need extra of, such as propane, should be bought early and held in reserve.
6. Be Prepared for Your Guests
Plan to have appetizers ready for your guests as soon as they arrive. They likely will be hungry, and it’s nice to have something to munch on while waiting for the main course. Chips and dip are just fine, but maybe offer some fruit skewers, finger foods or mini cups of barbecued beans to keep your guests satisfied.
When you are placing food out early for party goers, remember that things with mayonnaise or dairy products cannot sit out for a very long time without a bed of ice or other cooling device. You don’t want the potato salad hanging out in the sun for four hours: it may be unsafe to eat and certainly won’t look appetizing.
7. Crank Up the Stereo
Be sure to have music going in the background at your party. You don’t need to have a full backyard stereo system, but you can turn one of your interior speakers toward the window to help magnify the sound. Even a small boom box will do, though this will limit the selections you can play.
If you have music stations by theme or time period available through your cable TV provider or internet radio, this can be a good, commercial-free option. If you are super organized and ambitious, you can even create your own playlist for the night and save it on your computer or mobile music device to play throughout the party.
8. Prepare Some Games
If you will be inviting children to the barbecue, plan to have some games or other outdoor activities available to keep them occupied. Of course, the adults might want to get in on the fun as well. If you expect the party to last more than three hours, it can very helpful in keeping everyone occupied to have lawn games, water toys or decks of cards set out for the guests.
One fun game idea is to use non-toxic spray paint to paint a Twister board–just big dots in four colors–onto your grass. The rain or lawnmower will remove the paint eventually, and in the meantime, the board creates a wind-proof, outdoor-friendly format to enjoy this classic group activity. Other games to consider are hopscotch, volleyball, soccer, or even basketball, if you have a hoop.
9. The Cleanup Process
Depending how late the night goes, you might want to leave cleanup for the morning. Just make sure to put the food away at night before any outdoor critters find their way into your yard. Paper plates and cups are helpful for the cleanup process, but you might consider the reusable type of disposable serveware to cut down on waste. If you have the room, consider hanging garbage bags in convenient areas of your yard to discourage your guests from littering.
Hosting a backyard barbecue is a great way to connect with friends and enjoy the summer weather. With a little work in advance, you can pull a cookout off without worry.