Summer is a great time for a barbecue. The weather is nice, people are more relaxed, and the days are longer. It’s the perfect excuse to gather your kids, grandkids, other family, and friends to have a little fun in the sun. But, organizing everything for a summer barbecue isn’t always easy. There are logistics to plan and food to be made! If you’re a senior feeling overwhelmed, follow this roadmap for a fun and successful summer cookout.
Hosting a Summer Cookout
Throw the best party by planning all elements of your summer barbecue in advance.
Keep everything organized by making lists for the different party planning elements. List who’s been invited, RSVP’d, the dishes you plan to serve, and supplies you need to purchase.
Check the Weather Often
The summer weather can change quickly, and nothing ruins a summer cookout faster than a sudden heavy storm. When you’re initially setting a date, it’ll likely be too far out to get an accurate forecast, so have a fallback day or two just in case. Once you’re a bit closer to the original planned date, keep an eye on the weather.
It’s important to keep checking, because the closer you get to the date, the more accurate the forecast will be. A 10-day prediction is only about 50 percent accurate, a seven-day forecast is about 80 percent accurate, and a five-day forecast is about 90 percent accurate.
Have Backup Plans
A backup plan doesn’t just include a rain date should it be ugly and rainy on your planned day. Let’s say you’re unable to change the date, but it still rains. Is there an indoor or covered location available? Beyond the weather, what if your grill doesn’t work or something burns? It’s a good idea to have a plan for:
- Backup foods and snacks
- Events and games
That way, if anything goes wrong or isn’t working, you can quickly pivot and still have a successful cookout.
Get a Rough Attendance
Sometimes, people will invite friends and family and not ask for an RSVP. This can be a more laidback approach but leaves you open to not having enough food, seating, or parking spaces. By getting even a general idea of who will be there, you can have enough of everything.
While it may be nice to just sit and chat with a drink and hot dog for a little while, if your barbecue is stretching several hours, it helps to have fun games or activities planned, especially if there are children attending. Backyard games like cornhole or horseshoes can give an outlet for guests who want to be more active or play something.
Talk with Your Neighbors
It may be polite to invite your neighbors, especially if you’re friendly with them. Even if you don’t feel close enough, you should at least give them a heads up. If you live close to them, share the road, or have attached yards, this courtesy can go a long way. This is even more important if your guests will be parking along the street and making the road harder to drive on or will be staying later into the evening.
Simple Barbecue Cooking Tips
A central part to any summer cookout is what’s being cooked. It may seem as simple as throwing some stuff on the grill and you’re set, but it’s a little more complicated than you’d think. We’ll mention some elements that can set your barbecue apart.
Plan Foods with Activities and Cleanup in Mind
While not all food you make has to be convenient, the best cookouts have food that’s easy to eat while balancing a plate on your lap. If you have all foods that need to be cut or eaten at a table, it makes it hard to do other things. You can’t play bocce if you’re eating a soup. It’s harder to mingle around while cutting up a steak on your plate. Picking at steamed crab will keep your guests seated and very busy. Try to stick with handhelds like sandwiches or burgers or foods you cut up first.
Have One “Showstopper”
Hot dogs and hamburgers are great go-to foods, but every barbecue should have at least one dish that’s the main specialty — something that makes your guests go “wow.” This is especially true if you’re making this cookout an annual event and everyone knows you’ll be making your special “whatever” each year. We suggest something large you can cut up like a brisket or ribs or something easily sharable like smoked chicken wings, a special burger, or a barbecue sandwich — but don’t be afraid to get creative. If you have a smoker, try something on that so you can leave your grill for hamburgers and hot dogs.
Don’t Have Too Much
You can have too much food in two ways. First, you can simply plan for too much. This is why it helps to have a rough count of how many will be attending. While too much food won’t necessarily ruin a cookout, it does mean you’ll have wasted money on supplies and have a lot of food waste. Nobody wants a fridge full of untouched leftovers because you made way too much.
The second way you can have too much food is if your guests contribute to the barbecue. Guests often like to bring food as a way of thanking you for inviting them. If every guest brings an appetizer or a dessert, it can quickly get out of hand and then nothing gets eaten. Ask your guests to tell you ahead of time with what they’ll bring so you can control what’s being brought and what you don’t need more of. Instead of bringing something, you could also task a friend with helping cook food on the grill so you can step away and mingle.
Time Your Cooking Well
Timing your food can be difficult. You don’t want food being cooked too early or too late for your party. Too early, the food will get cold before people are ready for it. Too late, you’ll spend the entire party cooking and nobody will get food. Instead, have a cooking plan ready.
If you’re making something that takes a long time to cook, like smoked ribs or a brisket on a smoker (which can take anywhere from an hour to 18 hours), start that early with the plan to have it ready around two hours into the barbecue. That’s enough time for everyone to arrive, grab a drink and a snack, and be ready for a main course. For faster cooking foods, like hot dogs or hamburgers, you can get those started about an hour into the party. This gives you time to greet your guests before getting started and having the quick foods finish around the same time as your slow foods.
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Nobody wants a barbecue to turn into a disaster — not the hosts, not the guests, and not the neighbors who may live close enough to deal with it. We don’t want that to happen to you either, so follow these tips! Thinking ahead and organizing your cookout can go a long way to preventing stress and making your barbecue go smoothly.