Plan a Summer Barbecue

Four friends enjoying a day at the pool.
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A summer barbecue is one of life's simple pleasures. In addition to showcasing fresh, seasonal food, it allows us to enjoy the great outdoors while mingling with our friends. What could be better?

Setting the Stage

Since it's a barbecue, guests will expect you to keep things casual. Let them know that tee-shirts and shorts are the extent of your dress requirements.

Set your table outside with colorful placemats and informal dinnerware.

Plates should be large enough to fit sandwiches, kebabs, corn-on-the-cob and salads, all of which take extra room.

Lucky you, if you have a flower cutting garden. If so, right before your party you can fill pitchers with your fresh-cut treasures from the garden. If you don't have a green thumb, you could use annuals purchased inexpensively from your garden center, or even your supermarket. Transplant them into simple, terra cotta pots, and set them down the center of your table. After your barbecue, you can always transplant them in your yard for a summer full of color.


Sometimes the food is enough to keep your guests busy at a summer barbecue. But if you're planning an extended party, there are so many fun outdoor activities that it would be a shame not to invite your guests to play along. For example, you can provide equipment for any of these summertime games, provided your yard is large enough to accommodate them:

  • volleyball
  • croquet
  • badminton
  • bocce
  • horseshoes
  • ring toss
  • frisbee
  • softball

The Menu

Plan a menu that includes summertime favorites, namely the food you miss while surviving on winter root vegetables. The number of items you add to your menu should depend on the expected number of guests as well as the time you have for cooking for the party.

If you have any question about how much to serve you can find answers in Estimating Food Quantities for Your Party .

Starters: Grilled rum and pineapple kebabs would be a delicious way to start your barbecue. Likewise, a salsa made with fresh, local tomatoes is irresistible served with tortilla chips. One of my favorites is garlic shrimp, but since they go fast, make sure you've prepared enough.

The Main Event: Depending on where you live, your definition of barbecue is going to vary. You can serve burgers and hot dogs; Carolina Ribs with Red Pepper Sauce; Pulled Pork; Cajun Teriyaki Grilled Chicken Sandwiches; Grilled Portabella Mozzarella Vegetarian Sandwiches; Grilled Seafood Kebabs; or even Grilled Lobsters in Basil Butter. Mix and match, but just make sure the food is cooked outdoors on some type of grill to tease your guests with the aroma as their meal is prepared.

Salads: You'll find some guests prefer a traditional salad such as potato or macaroni. But with the growing awareness of grains and the availability of summer produce, you can add excitement to your menu with salads such as Israeli Tomato and Cucumber Salad; Greek Quinoa Salad; or Couscous Salad with Dried Cranberries and Pecans.

Dessert: Pies are all the rage at a summer party because fruit is at its peak. Offer a selection of favorite summer pies such as cherry , blueberry , and peach to keep your guests coming back for more. And speaking of more, remember to provide the ingredients for the perennial campfire treat, S'mores, for both younger and older guests.

Beverages: Summer favorites include lemonade, beer, sangria, and iced tea.

If you'd like to find more of Donna Pilato's advice on hosting parties and entertaining friends and family you can visit her at The Delicious Dozen.