I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of terrible at party planning. Sure, I have Pinterest on my side, but more often than not, the beautifully crafted dishes I create could end up in the Pinterest Fails category.
But this doesn’t stop me from trying. Like most people, I’m all about the summer gathering. Even when temperatures soar and my face feels like it’s going to melt off, I can easily be distracted from the summer heat by throwing an impromptu barbecue or even a well-planned cookout in honor of a summer holiday—like graduation, Father’s Day, or Fourth of July.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, graduation is upon us. Everyone is graduating, everyone and their mom are celebrating some type of graduation event, and every restaurant is packed to the gills with extended families. The good news is that you don’t have to wait in the crowded lobby of a Chili’s to hang out with your family after graduation. If you have a small patch of grass in your backyard and a grill, you’re all set.
We’ve done the footwork for you by consulting with expert catering company Meridith’s Catering to figure out exactly what it takes to create a memorable summertime barbecue event. The truth is that the party and entertaining industry is a-changing. Though it may seem like every guest would be happy with tater tots and corndogs on a stick, many people today are interested in healthy fare. At the least, it helps to provide a wide array of food options, either home-cooked or catered, to make health-conscious and allergy-prone guests feel comfortable.
Planning the perfect barbecue isn’t as complicated as it sounds. Use these top 10 tips to stay on-trend and throw a graduation bash your friends will never forget:
1. Start menu planning based on food allergies. Life-threatening food allergies should not be taken lightly. Today, a number of parents have children struggling with food allergies, gluten intolerance, and celiac disease; gluten-free food sales have hit a whopping $7 billion. Whether you barbecue at home or cater, make sure your menu “caters” to guests with serious allergies and food sensitivities first of all.
2. Set the scene. Any event planner will tell you that a barbecue is about much more than food. Set up a wading pool so that adults can cool their feet while kids play, or rent a projector screen to entertain friends with an outdoor movie underneath the stars.
3. Get familiar with your grill. If you’ve never grilled before, please, please take your new grill out for a test drive before partygoers arrive. Your guests will thank you.
4. Let your grill get hot enough. This may seem like a simple tip, but it’s worth mentioning. Nothing will kill a BBQ faster than undercooked meat. When you’re only able to hold your hand above the coals or gas on the grill for 1 to 2 seconds, it’s ready to cook.
5. Save time with skewers. Skewers and kebabs are oldies but goodies, so keep them in your barbecue lineup. You can reinvent the wheel by adding new food cuts to the typical kabob: sausage, pork, chicken, beef, lamb, and non-flaky fish seasoned with sriracha, guacamole, salsa, or BBQ sauce.
6. Don’t forget about your vegetarian friends. Meridith’s Catering confirms that because of the large vegan movement, vegetarian and vegan menu options are booming in popularity. Accommodate all diners with portobello mushroom steaks, vegetable kebabs, and grilled tofu skewers, as well as meat.
7. Keep it simple with grilled pizza. If you don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on steaks for a group, grilled pizza is the perfect alternative. Homemade pizza can be cooked directly on the grill or in a backyard wood-fired pizza oven.
8. Stay fresh and local. You can serve your friends the freshest, juiciest produce on the grill by buying from local farmer’s markets. It’s a win-win: You’ll benefit your health and the environment.
9. Stick with salads. Heavy, carb-rich barbecue side dishes are on the way out. Consider ordering or making a wide array of summer salads, like corn and black bean, avocado and grapefruit, and tomato and feta.
10. Rethink dessert. There’s nothing less fun than soaking up the summer sun with a belly full of cake. Take a nod from the health-conscious trend—your guests will appreciate light and refreshing alternatives on the dessert table, like fruit salad or a natural fruit “cake” frosted with yogurt spread.
(Image: Anna Moskvina/Shutterstock)