Saturday, May 05, 2012

5 Tips for Throwing an Awesome Summer Cook Out

Whether you are celebrating an engagement, birthday, graduation, or just taking advantage of the season’s warm weather, a cookout is the perfect choice for a summer party. From formal outdoor fetes to casual barbecues, hosting an awesome summer cookout is a matter of creative planning, detailed preparation and thoughtful consideration. Follow these five tips to host a cookout your guests will remember all summer long.

1. Prepare Your Party Space

Just as you wouldn’t have friends over to a house party without doing the dishes or vacuuming the rugs, take care to clean and organize your garden or patio before you host a cookout. Mow the lawn, wash down the pavement and stairs, weed flower beds and clean the grill and furniture. Be sure to store tools and toys for safety and neatness. If hosting the cookout at a public space, arrive early to make sure that the picnic tables are clean and the is area is free of broken glass and trash. Bring a broom and plenty of trash bags to clean up before and after the party.

2. Plan the Perfect Menu

Decide what type of food you will serve at your cookout. You can choose to provide all the meat and main courses while your guests bring side dishes or drinks. Choose a theme, such as Mexican food, and assign a side dish, dessert or appetizer to each guest. Another option is a “grill your own” gathering where each guest brings their own meat to grill while you provide everything else. The fun and delicious options are many, but the important thing is to inform your guests ahead of time so that you don’t end up with fifteen versions of potato salad. It is also important to consider dietary restrictions and preferences. Provide a few gluten-free, nut-free and vegan options to ensure that everyone will enjoy the meal.

3. Pay Attention to Ambiance

Even the most informal summer cookout will be more enjoyable if a little thought goes into the party atmosphere. Arrange tables and chairs into conversation areas. Create food and drink stations at different locations around the yard so that your guests don’t all crowd around one area. Use small chalkboards or colorful note cards to label unfamiliar dishes or to designate non-alcoholic drinks and items containing nuts. String lights in the trees and along fences for a little sparkle in the evening, and use citronella candles for atmosphere as well as to repel bugs. Don’t forget the music!

4. Consider Your Guests’ Comfort

Make the cookout enjoyable for all your guests by taking everyone’s comfort needs into consideration. Be sure to provide plenty of areas of shade and comfortable seating. Parents will appreciate a “kids’ table,” complete with water-squirting toys, sidewalk chalk, bubbles and crafts. Designate a table for first aid supplies, sunscreen and hand sanitizer. Toilets should be clean and easily accessible to everyone.

5. Don’t Forget “Plan B”

Unfortunately, you can’t always count on summer weather for a summer cookout. If you’re prepared with a back-up plan a little foul weather might slow the party down, but shouldn’t stop it altogether. Be prepared to quickly cover and store food and supplies in the event of a surprise rain shower. Make sure you have access to a sheltered spot where the festivities can continue until the sun comes out again.

Shawn Evans writes for ER UK (www.equityrelease.net – click here to visit) covering a wide range of retirement and household topics.