Summer is in full swing and that means barbecues all across the country are being lit to produce some beautiful food. While it can be easy to fall back on the typical hamburgers, hot dogs, and brats, this is a great time of year to explore more interesting ways to put your grill to work and use it as a central entertaining piece. From Argentina to Japan, countries across the globe provide the inspiration needed to host a fantastic BBQ party with delicious eats. Here are a few tips to make your next BBQ a success!
• Go International. With a little research, you can find endless possibilities for the grill inspired by countries all over the world. Chimichurri sauce, made up of herbs like parsley and oregano, is an easy way to dress up grilled steak, chicken or fish. Whip up a dry rub with lots of Spanish paprika, dried herbs, garlic, salt and pepper to reflect the flavors of Spain. To create a Japanese feel, make your own yakitori using bamboo skewers to grill cubed chicken with a tasty teriyaki sauce with a side of easy Japanese pickles.
• Create Variety. Mix things up by having two or three different grills featured at your party. For example, ask your guests if they have a hibachi grill they could bring along for your Japanese skewers. Having just one grill that is unique in comparison to the typical gas or charcoal grills found in every backyard in the U.S. can add a fun spin to your party. Of course it may be difficult to man multiple grills and host a party at the same time, so use your guests’ grilling know-how to your advantage rather than burdening yourself.
• Beverages on Display. If the weather agrees with you, make your backyard festive by displaying beverages in big galvanized tubs filled with ice. Inexpensive tubs can be easily found at hardware stores and add a rustic appeal to any outdoor party. Using mason jars for premixed drinks, lemonade or iced tea (seen here) is a beautiful alternative to glasses or bottles. Label the lids using a Sharpie so the writing doesn’t run off in the ice.
• Super Sides and Decadent Desserts. Keeping sides easy and weather appropriate (things that won’t spoil in the heat) is important for a summer BBQ. Just-grilled veggies make a great gazpacho and won’t spoil in the warm summer sun. Plus, it is the perfect make-ahead side because it gets better with time. Other simple options are fresh fruit (seasonal fruit like peaches, cherries, and strawberries), and vinegar-based cole slaw and potato salads (avoiding mayo is smart because it spoils quickly if it isn’t kept cold enough). For dessert, continue the grilling theme by tossing pineapple slices, stone fruit, or even pound cake on the grill. Serve with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream. These desserts are simple, stunning, and full of summer flavor.
• Make Time to Play. What is a summer BBQ without some fun games? Boring, that’s what. Get some lawn games out for guests to play while food is being prepared or to burn off the calories from what is being eaten. Stick with the classics like frisbee, horseshoes, and a beanbag toss. Another great game idea, especially if there are kiddies at your event, is this lawn Twister game. Depending on how competitive and into games your guests happen to be, you can have fun BBQ-themed prizes. For adults, have a few of your favorite store-bought or homemade dry rubs for winners to take home. For kids, give them smaller versions of similar games played at the party, or other items for outdoor activities like jump ropes, sidewalk chalk, and bubbles.
• STAY SAFE. Remember to have working fire extinguishers handy when you are grilling. This is especially important if you use a gas grill. Don’t leave the grill on to burn off grease — this is dangerous and can cause flare-ups. Also, make sure any children present steer clear of the grills as they can get very hot and will burn tiny fingers. As always, if guests are drinking alcohol at your event, be sure they are OK to drive themselves home or have a designated driver to escort them.
Warm sunshine, green leaves, and mild evening air all help to make summer the perfect time to entertain. BBQ parties are ideal for your guests because they can enjoy the great outdoors. They are ideal for you because you end up using few dishes and are able to socialize with guests while cooking. Adding a few unique touches helps to create a party environment that is fun for all ages.
Rachael White is the author of the blogs Set the Table and Tokyo Terrace. After four years of living, eating, and entertaining in Tokyo, Japan, she and her family have relocated to Denver, Colorado. Rachael is constantly searching for new ways to make entertaining easier and more interesting for guests in a variety of environments and situations. In addition to food blogging, her recipes have been published in cookbooks including Foodista Best of Food Blogs and Peko Peko: A Charity Cookbook for Japan and in Japan’s Daily Yomiuri newspaper. Originally from Minnesota, Rachael strives to recreate recipes and settings that reflect Midwestern comfort with a modern twist.