Summer has ended, luckily for us in Chicago, the weather is still awesome. And that’s not something that we say often! This summer, we grilled and grilled a lot! With time I learned that hosting a BBQ party is very different from regular ones!
Here are a few tips that helped us host grilling evenings at a frequency of two per week :-)
Be safe: Ensure to instruct the kids to be away from the grill when you are cooking. We generally keep some games (Ring toss/ bean bag throw/ water guns) at the other end of the deck. It keeps them entertained and I am not stressed.
Imagine a triangle. Grill being on one corner, the kids activities on the other and the drinks on the third corner. This layout helps keep the party flowing well, kids away from hot grills and drinks cooler!
Menu: Have a broad idea of what you are grilling. Raid the produce section and be well stocked! For a vegetarian grilling event, have 2 mains which are heavy and then a lot of accompaniments to go along with it.
Food Prep & Cooking:
- Appliances: Apron, Gloves, Grill cooking utensils, grill mats and foil! Be always safe and these are one time expenses and totally worth it!
- In our house, I prep/ marinate and Sumit grills. Admist the coversations and relaxing, he tends to forgets that food is still on the grill and then I jump into the rescue (You see how I slid that in)
- One thing I recommend is 1-2 things at a time! Start with the lighter items, one at a time and then progress. I have realised with time, though you may have 6-8 items ready to be grilled, your party will always be more relaxed on the deck!So just taking is slow and cooking 1-2 things at a time is highly recommended. This way everyone including you gets to enjoy the weather, the conversations and the food!
- We grill in a 'sequence' defined by increasing order of flavours and cooking time. Implying things that grill quickly go first! Simple reason, at the onset you are hungrier and food should come in quickly, as the evening progresses you and your friends would enjoy the breaks in food!
I highly recommend a main cool drink, be it sangria, a punch, jal jeera. It just makes me feel nice to pour cold jal jeera then opening a can of La Croix, I am just saying!
Keep a mini cooler/ Ice box ready and stocked with the group favorites. Have a variety of cans/ bottles ready for serving!
I have learned over time and now attached a bottle opener to my cooler, this way I am not scrambling for this essential item
Water: I prefer just having jars/ reusable bottles ready with water and ice! We as a family have been trying to avoid plastic bottles and considering we host a lot of friends over BBQ, having the reusable bottles is ideal (and cheaper!)
I have a tray ready with my essentials: Salt, Pepper, Chilli Flakes, Lemon Wedges, Hot Sauce, Ketchup, Chaat Masala etc. and definitely a knife!
Of course there are edits to these based on the menu for the evening.
- Food Prep: If you use skewers, pre-soak. i generally avoid them. I use glass containers for the marinated vegetables and then use the same ones for serving after grilling. (Read less clean up time for Sumit!)
- If your space allows a a table where you keep the marinated food and then eventually the grilled food. I line up the marinated food in the order that Sumit will grill (Read FIFO- First in First out), makes it so much easier
- Have ample serving spoons, forks etc handy... you do go through them very quickly!
- Keep paper plates, bowls, napkins, flatware ready. I highly recommend using the paper dishes, since you will be grilling a variety of things and walking and chatting around! (Read less clean up time for Sumit!)
- Thrash Can: A MUST. keep it lined, empty and ready to go. If you recycle (which you must), keep a double bagged paper bag ready!
(Read less clean up time for Sumit!)
Pot Luck/ Grilling:
- Most of my grilling gatherings have been with dear friends over and I enjoy the cooking process, so I tell them, please come and enjoy!
But if you are hosting a larger party, keep it simple for yourself as well. A salad, a dessert, some drinks are perfect and simple requests for your guests to bring along!
- Always keep a cold appetizer/ fruits ready for the evening: Simple things like a tossed salad, chopped watermelon helps. You can be fancy and have fruit skewers ready, but trust me if you grilled as often as we did, you want a simple repeatable model
- Finger foods like chips, salsa, pretzels etc should be served but in smaller portions, you would rather have the guests fill up on grilled gorgeousness!
- Marination: If you want marinate the night before it helps with the flavour in the vegetables/tofu/paneer what ever you are planning on. If your evening is more impromptu, fret not, increase the qty of herbs and spices in the marination by a little and even 30 minutes of marination is enough.
- Grilled vegetables with cold dips is always a hit: Think Grilled asparagus with a creamy pesto dip, delish!
- Think concoctions, you have 10 beans and 1/2 pepper lying around, slice them up marinate in olive oil, salt and pepper! Tada... Gril and then serve with crubled goat cheese (Ready!)
- For kids, encourage them to try everything coming off the grill, they will enjoy the 'not sit down and eat' type of meals. In addition, if you have more kids may be have a main like Mac N Cheese or something as a back up is a great idea!
- Trust me when I say this, a cold pasta salad is a hit with the kids and more with the adults!!!!
So have fun, enjoy the process and remember: Grilling parties are fun, simple, can be impromptu and you tend to eat a lot more...