Planning a Successful Summer Barbeque — 3 Key Tips for Hosting a Large Crowd

Planning a Successful Summer Barbeque — 3 Key Tips for Hosting a Large Crowd

 By Kylee Ryers - 11/08/2023
The average British household typically hosts three and attends four cooksouts every year, according to one study commissioned by bakery brand Baker Street. With 38% of people believing it’s typically British to have barbeques come rain or shine, there’s no denying the passion behind the summertime tradition. For those looking to host a barbeque and who are expecting a large crowd for the first time, however, successfully pulling it off doesn’t have to be an impossible feat. From the advantages of early preparation to why keeping things simple is often best, here are just three valuable tips worth keeping in mind.
A variety of ways to prepare
Preparing for a summer barbeque is undoubtedly a lot of work, making preparation where possible an essential element in a successful event. When cooking meat, for instance, the marinade is arguably one of the most important parts, and is one that can easily be prepared beforehand. “When it comes to marinating, the earlier the better, so the night before prepare all your tasty marinades and massage them into the meat before placing in the fridge,” notes The Greenhouse People. “In the morning, set up the BBQ area with seating, tables and handy bins to keep the place clean. Taking the time earlier in the day will leave you stress-free and ready to entertain when guests arrive.” 
Preparing the marinade isn’t the only aspect of hosting a barbeque that’s worth sorting out ahead of time. Making/preparing side dishes a day before is just one great way to ensure that the day of the event goes smoothly, while gathering supplies (cups, plates, etc.) and games for people to play can further allow you to focus on grilling the next day. An article from The Spruce suggests a variety of supplies worth having on hand, from plenty of ice to keep beverages cool to bug repellent for guests, and outdoor torches (or other form of lighting) if your barbeque is scheduled to last well into the evening. One great way to ensure you have everything is by creating a comprehensive checklist to keep track of everything and mark items off as you go.
Enlisting help and/or delegating tasks to others is another fantastic way to prepare when expecting a large crowd, and should be done well in advance. Asking guests to get involved by making and bringing a side dish is just one option that can cut down on stress, while asking a friend to help out with the grill can give you a chance to host and mingle for a bit (rather than be stuck behind the grill all day). By having someone else who is able to take over the grilling when needed, you can rest assured that the day will go well — and that nobody is left waiting too long for the food to get done. 
Making food safety a priority
The last thing that any host wants is for their guests to get sick due to the food, especially when there are plenty of people in attendance. With that in mind, keeping food safety a priority from the get-go is imperative in ensuring that everything is done in the correct manner. In addition to having good hand hygiene, it’s important to understand the many risks involved when barbequing. For example, one Real Simple article points out the fact that not preheating and cleaning your grill before cooking can actually make you sick. “If you fire up the grill and plop tonight’s steak over the remnants of last night’s pork chop, you might introduce bacteria that could lead to gastric distress, bloating, cramping, diarrhea, or vomiting,” explains the article. While many may believe that the heat is enough to kill off any bacteria, the flames aren’t 100% effective in doing so, according to the article, thus underlining the value in properly cleaning and preheating beforehand.
It’s important to realize that there are several additional ways in which illness (or even injury) can be prevented while grilling. Basting meat with the leftover marinade that it’s been sitting in all night is just one way that you can unintentionally cause food poisoning (as the marinade is full of juices from the raw meat). Instead, setting aside uncontaminated marinade for the purpose of basting the meat while it cooks is a much safer option. Not using a meat thermometer and using too much heat (which can cause meat that is burnt on the outside and raw inside) are additional mistakes that can cause illness. By ensuring that anyone behind the grill is well educated on food safety (including yourself), you can serve quality food while keeping your guests safe.
Keeping it simple
When catering to a large crowd, it can be tempting to try and please everyone by offering a luxurious spread of food with plenty of variety. However, this will likely only cause stress in the long run, and barbeques are typically casual events, anyway. By keeping things simple and offering a choice or two from the grill, you can better focus on serving quality food. Regarding meat choice, choosing one that you’re comfortable with cooking is ideal and can cut out any guesswork. However, considering the needs of your guests shouldn't be overlooked, and can be addressed ahead of time via the invite.
Nearly half of Brits admit that they worry about trying to cater to everyone’s dietary needs when hosting a barbeque, according to one poll of 2,000 adults. Knowing who will be in attendance is key when choosing your menu and catering to food preferences and restrictions. For instance, if you have several vegetarians on the guest list, preparing a suitable main-course option (such as vegan burgers or kebabs) will ensure they don’t have to resort to a plate full of side dishes. On the other hand, if some are allergic to seafood, opting to cook chicken can present a worthy alternative in ensuring everyone can enjoy the food.
Keeping things simple can also apply to the sides. If you’re making the side dishes yourself, opting for those that involve few ingredients — such as baked beans, corn on the cob, a simple guacamole, or a basic salad all offer ideal options perfect for a barbeque. If you’re offering appetizers, those can be made simple, too. Known crowd pleasers include those such as a veggie tray or fresh fruit, while desserts can be as simple as freshly baked cookies or pie. When it comes to getting the portions right, Rick Mace, owner and executive chef of Tropical Smokehouse in West Palm Beach, Florida, offers a few tips. For snacks and appetizers, two to three small servings per person should suffice. “Don’t feel compelled to put everything out at once,” Mace says. “That way, if there are latecomers or hungry early arrivals, you’re covered.” For protein, 12 to 18 ounces of meat or seafood per person is advised, while two servings of sides per person should be more than enough. “Obviously, not all sides are created equal, so go a little heavy on the most popular item.” And for dessert, one serving per person (in addition to some fresh fruit) should be sufficient.
Hosting a summer barbeque can be a great way to get a few friends together. However, when you’re expecting a large crowd, things can quickly become overwhelming — especially if it’s your first time. By keeping things simple, planning well in advance, and keeping food safety a priority, you can ensure that the day goes as smoothly as possible.


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