Cookouts are a perfect way to bring family and friends together. They can either be intimate or huge gatherings, and the key to having a successful one is prior planning. When I’m hosting one of these, I give myself adequate planning time, anywhere from a couple of weeks to a month. A few days before the cookout, I make sure I get everything on the very many lists I make out. I also prepare foods that need early preparation. For example, marinating meats, confirming the guests who will attend, among other small details, to ensure the day will be perfect. The following are a few helpful tips I have been following over the years when hosting cookouts.
The first step I take is coming up with the appropriate date that will be convenient for everyone. I mostly host on weekends when most of my guests are likely to be free from school and work. I also consider the weather forecast and check if there will be a possibility of getting rain on that day. I also choose a date that will give me and my guests adequate time to prepare for the cookout.
After choosing a day, the next step is choosing a guest list. I keep in mind my budget to ensure I will be able to feed everyone I invite without straining myself. I later send all the invitations to my guests. The invitations include the date, time, location, type of event, and information about any dietary restrictions.
The last thing I do during the planning period is making out a shopping list. I ensure to go through my kitchen and the pantry and check if I have things needed for a cookout, for example, barbecue utensils, tablecloths, aluminum foils, party decorations, napkins, among others, and note down everything I don’t have on my shopping list.
Food is definitely the main element in a cookout. I usually have several courses to consider. Some of the food I find popular in cookouts I have been to that I ensure to include are different types of fruits, vegetable salads, chips, dips, and guacamoles.
The second step is picking the main course. Over the years, I have been doing different main dishes ranging from red meat, poultry, and fish. For all these, I ensure to include a plant-based protein for vegetarians. I also pick out a few other foods that will be served together with the meat dishes, including various roasted vegetables, baked potatoes, pasta, potato salads, etc.
Desserts are not commonly served in cookouts, but I ensure to add some for I feel it’s a nice touch for my guests. I mostly include ice-cream cookies or some fruit salads. It’s important to include beverages because most of these cookouts are held during summers. When it is hot, some lemonade, sangria, and a few mojitos go a long way.
Before the D-day, I take a trip to the grocery store and get everything I made out in my lists. 24-48 hours before the cookout, I thaw any frozen foods we will need for the cookout. I also ensure to marinate meats for the barbeque.
It is important to clean everything up, such as the vegetables, fruits, utensils, and grill, and give them adequate time to dry. I also ensure to prepare and make all my side dishes the night before the cookout to ensure everything will be ready.
On an actual day, I ensure to set up the cooler in the morning by filling it up with ice and putting all the drinks inside so they will be chilled when guests arrive. I also clean up the patio and the yard and put up decorations early enough to avoid the last-minute rush.
I also identify a spot and set up a station for the food and drinks and a garbage can for trash. Before the guests’ agreed time of arrival, I usually fire up the grill and preheat it. The last step is starting the cookouts when most of the main guests have arrived, setting out the foods on the tables, and enjoying every bit of the cookout.