Taking on a few fun tasks ahead of time can help keep your barbecue running smoothly. The Widners spend the week leading up to their big event discussing the guest list and menu. “We look at who’s coming, what they like to eat, what they don’t like, and scan our garden for the freshest ingredients,” she explains.
Mareya Ibrahim, 53, chef and author of Eat like you give a fork: the real dish of eating to thrive, suggests that as the day of the event approaches, you start by cleaning the grill. “A good stainless steel grill brush can help get rid of stubborn meat, cheese and vegetables,” she says.
Then gather your cooking tools, including the tongs; a basting brush; grill baskets; and separate cutting boards for meat, seafood and vegetables. Then check the propane tanks; Remember to have a backup just in case. If you plan to use charcoal briquettes or wood, make sure you have enough supplies and plenty of lighter fluid, Ibrahim says.
Rick Mace, owner and executive chef of Tropical Smokehouse in West Palm Beach, Florida, says he plans his barbecue menus in three parts: “snacks to get people in the party, the main spread, and a few snacks sweet or savory to snack on afterwards.”
He suggests that to save time, you prepare everything you can in advance, whether it’s dips, potato or fruit salad, or dessert. Widner likes to cut the vegetables which she will grill a day in advance and prepares her sauces or her chimichurri to accompany the meat the morning of her barbecue. “The best advice I can give anyone else is to buy some tasty cheeses, pickles, olives and salami for a pre-dinner spread,” she shares.
How much to serve?
To help you decide on quantities, Mace offers the following guidelines.
Snacks and appetizers: 2-3 small portions per person, for example 2-3 chicken wings each. Also: “Don’t feel like you have to release it all at once,” Mace says. “That way, if there are any latecomers or hungry early arrivals, you’re covered.”
Protein: 12 to 18 ounces of meat or seafood per person
Sides: “Two servings total is more than enough,” Mace says. So if you’re serving three sides for 12 people, he suggests making 8 servings of each side. “Obviously, not all sides are created equal, so go a little heavy on the most popular item.”
Dessert: 1 serving per person, and add some fruit. “Fresh fruit is always a great addition to barbecue,” says Mace. If you’d rather not bother with dessert, it’s a great option to ask guests to bring a pie, brownies, or fruit platter.