How to Plan & Host the Perfect Summer BBQ Party

Nothing says it’s summer quite like a BBQ party with your best buds! We wanted to thank our close friends for supporting us by showing off our mediocre kitchen skills and cooking for them. Sure, you can buy some burgers and hot dogs, invite some friends over, and call it a BBQ party — or you can take it a few steps further with some basic planning, a well thought-out menu, and impress your friends with your amazing cooking skills. Here’s everything we've learned about planning BBQ parties based on hosting the 2018 Mediocre Chef Summer BBQ Party.

Step 1: Plan Your Party

The first thing that any good BBQ party is going to need is a guest list. We already decided that we were going to go all out with our menu (more on that later) so we decided to invite a large group of friends in order to spread out the cost.

  Our cover photo was misleading. We didn't serve hot dogs or burgers.

Our cover photo was misleading. We didn't serve hot dogs or burgers.

These days, the easiest way to organize an event is through Facebook, so that’s exactly what we did. We created a private event and invited our guests. We had no idea what day would work best, so we asked our friends. Creating a poll with a few possible dates makes it easy to see what day is the best day to host your party. 

Now that the date and time is settled on, you can move on to Step 2.

🍖 Mediocre Tip: You can also utilize polling to determine a lot of different things for your event. For example, we used it to set the entry fee as well (because we couldn't afford to feed everyone out of pocket). Knowing our budget in advance helped us determine what we could afford to put on our menu.

Step 2: Create a Menu

The menu is the most important part of planning your party — food can make or break a BBQ party. Nothing is worse than going to a party only to find out that your only option is an overcooked burger or a sad hot dog.

Create your menu in advance and share it with your guests to generate hype around the party! We used Canva to easily create our menu:

  Our over-the-top menu.

Our over-the-top menu.

When creating a menu, consider the following:

  • Do your guests have any allergies? Any dislikes?
  • What are you comfortable cooking?
  • How much time do you have to dedicate to preparing food and cooking?
  • Do you want to make dessert?

We knew that we had a few gluten-sensitive guests, so we planned to make a majority of our food gluten-free. As mediocre chefs, we felt pretty comfortable in the kitchen, and had tried most of the recipes we wanted to create for this BBQ party in advance, so we felt confident in serving them to our guests. In terms of time… well, we kind of failed planning that. Because our menu was way too large, we spent a lot of time cooking (more on that below). Learn from our mistake: plan a smaller menu and make more of each dish, instead of making too many items.

As you can see by our menu, we didn’t have a standard BBQ party — there were no burgers, hot dogs, or crappy store-bought potato salad. To make your BBQ party stand out, make your dishes from scratch! Need ideas? Take inspiration from food blogs (like the one you’re currently reading *cough* *cough*), Tasty videos, whatever — have one or two items on your menu that are unique.

🍖 Mediocre Tip: Want to copy our menu? Keep on reading — we link (almost) all of the recipes we used later on in this post! P.S. - You’re crazy.

Step 3: Estimate Cost & Buy Ingredients

So you know how many people will be attending and what you want to cook. Now you need to price everything out. We aren’t going to lie, this is going to take a bit of work. Break down the ingredients for all your recipes into two categories: stuff you already have and stuff you need to buy.

For the stuff you need to buy, head out to your grocery store and start writing down prices. Either take a picture, or (if you’re like Trevor and are secretly an old man trapped in a young person’s body) grab a notepad and a pen and physically write the prices down. Once you’ve done your field work, head home and start crunching the numbers. This rough estimate should give you a good idea of what kind of costs to expect. If you're pretty confident that you can make a solid estimate, you can skip this step.

Now comes the tough part: do you charge your guests an entry fee? There are definite pros and cons to doing this. We opted for a $10 per person fee in order to help offset the cost of the party. If you’ve got money to burn, by all means, don’t charge people. But we’re two young millenials in a terrible economy — we need to save as much money as possible.

help me i'm poor

If you decide to charge people an entry fee, make sure it’s reasonable. If it’s too high, people won’t want to pay, and if it’s too small you might end up paying for most of it out of your own pocket.

So you’ve estimated the costs and settled on an entry fee (if applicable). Now you need to buy everything. We were fortunate enough to be able to go to Costco to purchase the majority of our ingredients and cut costs. By the way, make sure to make a master ingredient list. And make sure that you’ve double and triple checked it. We guarantee that you’ll forget something and be making a last minute trip the day of to purchase it.

Sidenote: We're not sponsored by Costco — but we want to be!

wink

🍖 Mediocre Tip: If you really want to save money, wait until certain ingredients are on sale, buy them, and store them for later. This only works for non-perishables and stuff that you can freeze (such as meat), but it can do wonders for your wallet.

Step 4: Prep & Cook

If you made a huge menu like us, you’re likely going to have to prepare a few dishes the day before so everything is ready the day of the party. Have anything that needs to be marinated? Get that marinade started the night before the party. Do multiple dishes need time in the oven? Plan ahead so you don’t run out of time!

🍖 Mediocre Tip: If you plan on showing off your culinary prowess to other people who couldn't attend, don't forget to take pictures of your food! We forgot to take pictures before everyone dug in (with the exception of a few things that were made the night before), so we're missing a few photos or have photos of the crumbs that were left behind.

Here’s a quick rundown of everything we made:

Steak and Veggie Skewers: skewers are a labour of love — they’re a bit of a pain in the ass to assemble but are a big hit at parties. 

BBQ Pork Ribs: don’t have enough space on your BBQ for everything you want to cook but want to include ribs on the menu? Cook your ribs in the oven! It’ll take time, but it’s worth it.

bbq ribs

Marinated Chicken Breasts: it’s good, it’s simple. Just make sure to burn out all the salmonella, or else your guests will get food poisoning, and no one wants that.

marinated chicken breast

Corn on the Cob: no recipe here, although there are tons of corn on the cob recipes that can help you shake up this side dish. We opted for a simple pesto and garlic butter to dress up our corn beyond the usual butter, salt, and pepper.

Potato Salad: we love recipes that build upon each other, and Jamie Oliver’s potato salad recipe does just that. You can make this salad super simple or dress it up a bit more. We added the herbs, lemon, bacon, and yogurt to our salad, and opted to not include the bread crumbs.

potato salad

Macaroni Salad: this is a recipe that Trevor’s mom has been making since he was but a wee lad. It’s so good that after eating it, the memory will haunt you for years to come. Unlike standard macaroni salad, it uses Miracle Whip and zesty Italian dressing in combination to give your tastebuds a major kick. Say NO to bland mayo — this recipe is light and tangy. Cucumber, cheddar cheese, and bell peppers makes it extra fresh.

macaroni salad

Coleslaw: this recipe has been passed down from Brittany’s family. Heat vinegar, celery seed, sugar, and mustard in a pot (yes, it will smell up your kitchen). Once it has cooled, pour it over your coleslaw (shredded cabbage, carrot, and red onion). This coleslaw recipe is a welcome change to the usual mayo-based coleslaw. (We might have something against mayo. Maybe.)

homemade coleslaw

Caesar Salad: we didn’t have time to make our own caesar dressing, so we opted to make our own homemade croutons instead to make a better-than-average caesar salad.

Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread: we made this recipe with gluten-free flour and it turned out great! For an extra kick we used a shredded tex-mex cheese mix that we had on-hand in addition to the jalapenos.

jalapeno cheddar cornbread

Mini Cheesecakes: this recipe was stolen borrowed from a reddit user that has since been lost to the annals of time. It’s just an individual cheesecake cupcake with a chocolate graham cracker crust and an absolutely delicious raspberry compote drizzled on top. It was a major hit!

mini cheesecakes

Brownies and Ice Cream: this brownie recipe is simply thebomb.com. It has ruined boxed brownies for us and is definitely worth the extra work! Serve with ice cream for an award-winning dessert. The ice cream was store bought — sue us.

brownies and ice cream

Dill Pickles: we went out of our comfort zone a bit and made homemade pickles — it was our first time making them and they turned out great! Only downside: you have to make these three weeks in advance of your party and hope that they turn out.

homemade pickles

🍖Mediocre Tip: Don’t underestimate the amount of prep needed. For our monstrous menu, both of us spent 3 hours the night before, as well as 2 hours in the morning of prepping food. That doesn’t count the actual cook time — which for the record was around 5 hours. A smaller menu will mean less prep work, but there will still be some. Plan ahead so you’re not behind schedule and rushing the day of.

Step 4: BYOB or Make Drinks

Since we’re poor we asked our guests to bring their own drinks. The main benefit of this is that 1) you don’t have to shell out a ton of cash on alcohol and 2) everyone gets to drink what they want to.

If you’re Elon Musk and have the money to pay for everyone’s drinks, we recommend making a summer sangria or peach bellinis. Or go crazy and buy a keg of beer if that’s more up your alley.

Step 5: Finishing Touches

Being a host is more than just saying “come over and eat food” and providing said food. Think about how you can make your party enjoyable! Here are a few party tips:

  • Ensure you have enough seats for everyone.
  • Set your WiFi password to be something really simple that you can easily tell guests. You can even go a step further and rename your WiFi to the name of the party.
  • Have board games and card games for people to play. Or if you have a lawn, outdoor activities. Don’t have any games? Ask your guests to bring some!
  • Decorate! This is something we’re guilty of not doing, but we were too busy slaving away in the kitchen.
  • Make recycling easy — have a bin easily accessible so people can deposit their empties and make clean up easier.
  • Ensure that your home is clean! Tidy up before guests come over. Pro tip: double check that the guest bathroom has enough toilet paper.
  • Have a lot of food? Set up a buffet area so guests can easily serve themselves!
  • If you have one, prepare your guest bedroom so it’s ready for people stay in. If not, have blankets and pillows handy for people to crash on the couch.
 Delicious food.

Delicious food.

And lastly: make sure you have a BBQ, duh. You don't have to shell out a couple thousand on a BBQ, but a good quality BBQ can make a huge difference, especially when cooking large batches of food on the grill.

BBQ parties can be as complicated or as simple as you want them to be. Sure you could be the lame people who serve cheap burgers and hot dogs, or you can impress your friends and family with your mediocre culinary knowledge by throwing a unique BBQ party menu that has more than three options.

Disclaimer: Even though we talked a lot of shit, we don’t actually hate burgers and hot dogs. They’re just a little… overdone. Be creative and go outside of your comfort zone. Cook some meat that doesn’t come in a mystery tube or is premade and frozen.