BBQ Party Ideas For Adults in Summer

A barbecue, cookout or garden party is a great way to gather friends and family to enjoy good food in good company. For some people, it’s a rite of passage or simply a tradition centered around a holiday. Special events like a high school or college graduation are also prime reasons to send out some invitations and order up slabs of meat.

Of course, there are a lot of different themes to consider. Making sure you’ve got the right equipment will make the difference between a shindig to forget and a cookout everyone will remember. While there’s certainly an enormous amount of room for creativity, the following are some of the top themes people fall back on when they want to host a barbecue or cookout.

The Classic Backyard Barbecue

This is a cherished event that was once thought to be reserved for people living in the Southern and Southeastern United States. Today it’s evolved and spread not only across North America but indeed the world. A lot of what makes a classic barbecue so special is the slow-smoked meat. While Boston butt pork shoulder, brisket, and ribs certainly top the list, these days a lot of people are also smoking chickens, whole turkeys, and even giant skin-on salmon fillets.

The Right Equipment For A Classic Barbecue

Right off the bat, you need to make sure you’ve got the right smoker for the job. While the concept of “Bigger is Better” certainly rings true for catering to large groups of people, these days there are a lot of smokers that are modest in size that have the internal rack space to truly hold a lot of meat.

If you are thinking about buying a smoker, you might want to lean toward a wood pellet grill. Not only can you smoke a ton of meat in a relatively small space, wood pellet grills also come with a good amount of automation and long-term value. You can set up the meat with the seasonings and rubs you want, then dial in the temperature and the wood pellet grill handles the rest. There are even a few models today that come with wireless apps included in the purchase price. They let you truly “Set it, and Forget It.”

Of course, the smoker or wood pellet grill is only one important part of the equation. There are a few other things to consider that can help a classic barbecue go smoothly. While you probably aren’t going to prioritize invitations, there are some other things that will certainly help keep hands clean and service convenient. This includes things like:

  • Washable or disposable tablecloths
  • Folding tables
  • Heavy duty aluminum foil serving bins
  • Plastic forks, knives and spoons
  • Heavy-duty food grade serving spoons and forks
  • Salad tongs
  • Tableside paper towel dispensers
  • Handy wipes

Choosing The Right Meat For A Classic Barbecue

The type of meat your choice for a traditional or classic barbecue is arguably the most important part of the party planning process. Not only are there some deeply rooted traditions at play, but you’re also going to be dealing with different smoking times and recipes for each type of meat.

Boston Butt Pork Shoulder

This is one of the cornerstones of classic barbecue, and per capita covers the most territory. The Carolinas, Virginia, much of the Old Southern states and even Kansas City-style barbecue all have their own take on smoking a Boston Butt pork shoulder.

When it comes to smoking time a bone-in pork shoulder will need at least 8 hours, with a larger Boston Butt taking as much as 12 hours. The goal is to get it so tender that you can literally pull the bone out of the meat with just a slight tug.

At that point, you can pull it, which is essentially shredding it with forks, and prepare it with the sauce of your choice. Many people like to make sandwiches with either vinegar, mustard, or sticky-sweet barbecue sauce. Though there are some purists who advocate little more than some salt and pepper, with perhaps a little dippin’ sauce on the side.

The Beef Brisket

Beef brisket is nearly a religious institution in parts of Texas, though it does have a very serious following in Kansas City style barbecue. A large brisket flat can take 10 to 16 hours at 225 degrees to get very soft. So, if you’re going to plan a brisket for your classic barbecue, and you want to serve it while the sun is still up, you will likely need to set up the smoker in the middle of the night.

Classic beef brisket isn’t served with a sauce. Most purists will point out how a sauce would merely get in the way of the already rich smoky flavor of a properly prepared brisket. Though a pungent horseradish sauce on the side and some slabs of white bread Texas toast will certainly help make a flavorful sandwich. While you’re at it, you might want to also consider some thinly sliced onions or some crispy onion rings as a side dish.

Ribs

St. Louis, Memphis, and Kansas City-style barbecue all have their own take on how pork spareribs should be prepared. Texas rings in with their own take on beef ribs. About the one thing, they all agree on is that you should “Never Boil Ribs.” While it might speed the process of making them tender, it inevitably simmers out most of the flavor. Not to mention the fact that’s released in the boiling process is a prime vehicle for moving smokey flavor deep into the meat.

Whatever type of ribs you are thinking about making and the traditional rubs or sauces you are planning to pair it with, you can keep the meat moist by putting a water pan in the smoker. The ambient heat in the primary cooking chamber will gradually simmer the water pan, which releases steam. This sort of smoky humidity will then keep the surface from drying out, while also helping the rendered fat to deliver flavor deep into the meat of the ribs.

Summer Holiday Parties

Most outdoor BBQ parties happen in the summer. The most popular holidays where you are likely to have smoked or grilled meat include Memorial Weekend, The Fourth of July, and Labor Day Weekend, not to mention Father’s Day.

With these events, grills tend to be a little more popular than smokers, just for the simple fact that you can cook up a large amount of meat in a relatively short amount of time. Then you and your guests can get back to the festivities. Though there are a few grills that also come with offset smokers that let you both grill with charcoal or smoke.

Best Grills For A Summer Holiday Cookout

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Now, chances are good that you also want to do more than just toss some hot meat in your mouth and stare up at the sky waiting for the fireworks, or opening up yet another festive colored Father’s Day-themed tie.

These tend to be occasions when backyard games are a great way to keep people socializing, mingling, and making memories.
The Best Backyard Games For A Summer Holiday Cookout

A Seasonal Seafood Cookout

Of course, smoke meat doesn’t have to stay trapped in the tradition of classic barbecue. There’s nothing that says you have to stick to pork shoulders, brisket, and ribs. In fact, there are some food subcultures around the world that revere smoked seafood. This includes shrimp, oysters, and catfish. However, one of the biggest crowd favorites is skin-on smoked salmon.

Timing your cookout for when the first of the fresh-caught seafood comes to market, or simply to celebrate the official opening of the season, is a great way to save money on the cost of the food. If you want to spice things up, you can always decorate with a nautical theme.

A Build Your Own Burger Bar

Now, there’s nothing saying that you have to time your get-together cookout around a specific event or time of year. Maybe you’ve got some old friends coming back into town, some family visiting, or you just want to eat something special while hanging out with the guys.

A build your own burger bar is a great way to let everyone experiment with their own tastes. The burger patty itself and perhaps even the bun are just vehicles for other condiments, toppings, and ingredients. Just keep in mind that if you are going to offer a wide range of toppings and condiments that you’re going to want to give yourself enough prep-time in advance to make them all or get them ready for service.

With a burger bar, the core theme is creativity. You want people to feel encouraged to come up with multiple creative combinations. So, unless you’ve got some robust guests with massive appetites, you might want to plan on serving sliders or small burgers. That way your guests can feel like they really got to explore their curious combinations.

Along with a rainbow of toppings, you should also try to off a variety of cheeses. Just try to stick to cheeses that melt easily such as: Cheddar, Swiss, Gorgonzola, Mozzarella, Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack, and even Goat Cheese.

Popular Condiments & Toppings For A Burger Bar

  • Aioli
  • Bacon
  • Barbecue Sauce
  • Hot Sauce
  • Herb Butter
  • Fried Eggs
  • Fried Qual Eggs
  • Guacamole
  • Olive Tapenade
  • Pico De Gallo
  • Pickled Radishes
  • Horseradish
  • Tiger Sauce
  • Flame Roasted Red Peppers
  • Shishito peppers
  • Sauteed onions
  • Fresh-Cut Red Onions
  • Diced Scallions
  • Kimchi

A Custom Brat Or Hot Dog Bar

This is a place where the meat can be a strong point of debate. Ideally, if you are going to have a custom hot dog bar, then you want to use a natural casing wiener. Artificial casing wieners might be traditional for some, and you might want to keep a pack on hand for the kids, but most adult guests see artificial casing wieners as cutting corners on quality.

A step up from natural casing wieners is the much-beloved bratwurst. The great thing here is that the thickness of a brat encourages butchers to stuff them with their own creative combinations like Jalapeno Cheddar, Wild Rice, and Bacon & Cheddar, just to name a few.

This is also a great time to invest in a bun steamer. Not only does it give your guests super-pliant buns, but it also lets you rejuvenate day-old buns if you happen to have a few remaining the day after the party.

You can then offer a variety of toppings to let people recreate their favorite classic dogs or to let them mix and match as they see fit. Some of the classic combinations that draw a traditional following include things like the Coney Dog, Chili Cheese Dog, and Chicago Dog.

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Popular Hot Dog Combinations And Toppings

  • Spicy Mustard
  • Sauerkraut
  • Diced Onion
  • Steak Sauce
  • Tomato slices
  • Coleslaw
  • Guacamole
  • Thousand Island Dressing
  • Melting Cheese
  • Nacho Cheese
  • Cream Cheese
  • Jalapeño peppers
  • Pickled Peppers
  • Pico De Gallo
  • Spicy Salsa
  • Chili With Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • Crumbled Bacon
  • Pesto Sauce With Fresh Basil
  • Sautéed Mushrooms
  • Caramelized Onions With Melted Gruyère

Build Your Own Loaded Fries Or Loaded Nacho Bar

While you’re at it offering a custom burger or custom hot dog bar, there’s absolutely no reason to not add custom loaded nachos or custom loaded French fries to the menu. A lot of the same ingredients work and play well together.

With a build your own loaded French fries the challenge is going to be frying them to order or keeping enough hot and crispy fries on hand to make sure everyone is happy. An air fryer will certainly help, but the better option is to repurpose a turkey deep fryer. You can put a spouse or trusted friend at the fry station to let you focus on the grill.

Build your own custom nachos is going to be a little less work than fries. Simply because you don’t have to make them or worry about keeping them warm and crispy. You can even buy them in bulk to save money and simply leave a bag or box open for people to grab as they please.

You can make cleanup a little easier by offering cheap plastic baskets lined with wax paper. When people are done with their fries or nachos they can simply crumple up the wax paper and throw it away.

Most of the plastic fry baskets you find at kitchen supply stores are dishwasher safe, so you can reuse them for years to come. If you’re going to be hosting parties like this in the future, you will inevitably save more money than going with the small chipboard baskets that are a one-time use and have a knack for leaking or straight-up burning the hands of people who are holding them and standing while eating.

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Popular Toppings For Loaded Fries & Loaded Nachos

  • Nacho Cheese
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Aioli
  • Bacon
  • Barbecue Sauce
  • Hot Sauce
  • Herb Butter
  • Fried Eggs
  • Fried Quail Eggs
  • Guacamole
  • Cream Cheese
  • Jalapeño peppers
  • Pickled Peppers
  • Pico De Gallo
  • Spicy Salsa
  • Chili
  • Crumbled Bacon
  • Tiger Sauce
  • Flame Roasted Red Peppers
  • Shishito peppers
  • Sauteed onions
  • Fresh-Cut Red Onions
  • Diced Scallions
  • Grill Your Own Fajitas

Authentic fajitas like you will often find in a Mexican street market are typically beef that’s seared off on a griddle or grill top, with vegetables offered as part of the condiments. The meat is served in a soft tortilla, for you to dress as you see fit. It’s a typical street food that you can take with you as you eat on the go.

Though there are certainly refined options. Depending on where you are in Mexico beef might be replaced with other meats like pork. Though this is trending into the world of street tacos.

In the United States and Canada, fajitas tend to be thought of as being either beef or chicken with green sautéed green peppers and onions. They tend to be served tableside by a waitress in a logo-encrusted uniform, who brings them still sizzling on a platter.

You can do something very similar right at your own home grill. Though it does tend to work better if you have a gas griddle or a cast iron griddle for the vegetables. You can then marinate a variety of meats in separate bins. Beef skirt steak, sliced pork tenderloin, chicken tenderloins, deboned chicken thighs, and jumbo shrimp are all great options to offer your guests. You can then soak them in specific marinades or offer the marinades as a sauce.

Custom Grill Side Kabobs

Traditional kabobs started out as a Middle Eastern way to quickly cook tough pieces of goat meat. Since coming to the Americas in the 1960s, kabobs have evolved into a versatile way to cook a wide variety of meats. This includes pieces of beef sirloin, chicken tenderloins, jumbo shrimp, and even chunks of pork tenderloin.

One of the things people often get wrong when grilling kabobs is mixing the meat and vegetables together on the same skewer. Not only is there a cross-contamination concern with meats like chicken and pork, but different types of food get done at different times.

For example, by the time a chicken tenderloins is safely cooked through to an internal temperature of 165 degrees, the cherry tomatoes next to it will have burst into dripping burned skins. On the other end of the spectrum, a 31/35 shrimp is going to be an overcooked rock by the time a thick cube of zucchini is cooked to tender.

To address this issue is to make each ingredient on its own separate skewer. As they cook through to perfection, you can put them in a warmer or a separate low heat grill. Then offer people bowls rice or soft noodles like linguine, with a variety of warmed sauces. If you want you could even offer tortilla wraps.

Your guests can select the type of bowl or wrap they want, fill it with the meats and vegetables they like, and dress it with whatever sauce they prefer.

A Day At The Beach

For many people, a day at the beach just wouldn’t be complete without grilling out. While hot dogs and hamburgers tend to be at the top of most people’s lists, with the right portable grill, just about any cut of meat is fair game.

The key is to find just the right portable grill. A lot of public beaches these days are either outright banning charcoal grills, or putting severe limitations on where and how they can be used. So, be sure to check the local regulations.

Though these days, modern gas grills that conveniently burn propane are also a very convenient way to grill at the beach. All you have to do is connect the gas cylinder, fire it up and you’re ready to introduce meat to clean-burning flame. When you’re done the grill cools down quickly, and you don’t have to deal with any ash or worries about how to safely deal with slow-burning embers.

The Best Portable Grills For A Day At The Beach

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A Tailgating Party

The warm sunny days of summer aren’t the only time for a great grilling party. College football games, NFL football games, soccer matches and other events in the fall through the winter are also great times for fans to gather and share their favorite grilled foods. While you need a great portable grill or compact smoker for these occasions, there’s also a lot of other little things that you need to bring with you. This includes things like folding tables to hold the foods you’re making, as well as giving you a place to eat. Warming bins made from heavy-duty aluminum foil can also help you hold over side dishes and foods that get done early. If you happen to have a generator, or your chosen tailgating spot offers electricity, you might want to also think about a hot plate or a crockpot.

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