The weather is finally getting warmer and that means it’s time to dust off the grill and welcome summer 2014 the right way, with an outdoor barbecue for your friends and family. But the first grilling of the season adds a little pressure. You can’t just pull your grill out of the garage and throw some burgers and hot dogs on. You need to do this right.
Here are our key ingredients to a successful kickoff to the grilling season.
Before you can start cooking, you need to make sure everything’s ready. After you break out the utensils or get some new ones, don’t forget to clean your grill, which more than likely has been gathering dust all winter.
Now that the boring prep work’s out of the way, it’s time to start cooking. If you’re trying to start the summer off right, you should branch out, because you can cook just about anything on the grill. Barbecue staples like steak, chicken and sausage (and, yes, burgers and hot dogs) are great, but you have a chance to make your party really stand out.
Pizza: You read that right–you can cook a pizza on the grill in under 5 minutes. Because of the quick cooking time, you need to go easy on the cheese and sauce, and stick to very thin or pre-cooked toppings. If you make your own dough, it’ll be easier with a little less water than usual. Serious Eats has an excellent walkthrough of the process.
Kebabs: Like pizza, skewers can let your guests customize what they’re having. A make-your-own-skewer station lets guests assemble exactly what they want, and also makes the cooking process more collaborative.
Pork tenderloin: Healthiness probably isn’t your first priority at a barbecue, but if you’re looking for a middle ground, this lean cut of pork is excellent grilled and cooks relatively quickly. It takes well to a huge variety of rubs, marinades, and sauces, letting you get creative on the way to wowing your guests.
Seafood: Like most meats, seafood is particularly excellent grilled. More delicate fish can be tricky, but meatier varieties like salmon, swordfish or catfish are hard to mess up. Properly grilled scallops or lobster tails will virtually guarantee your guests come back the next time you invite them.
A parting gift for your guests, like a customized glass or coozie, will help them preserve the memories of the awesome barbecue you put on. They’ll also appreciate the thoughtful gesture (though they might appreciate the food even more).
If you haven’t finished all of your spring-cleaning projects, your patio might not be the cleanest-looking thing in the world. Take the time to clean up mud, grit, leaves and anything else, then help say goodbye to winter with some summer-themed decorations.
However you approach your barbecue, be sure you have time to kick back with the beverage of your choice and enjoy whatever it is you’ve cooked up. What are some of the essential ingredients that make your summer cookouts a success? Be sure to let us know!