Summer’s barely begun and, already, you feel it slipping from your grasp! Every time you go outside you spend $100! You have anxiety about winter’s imminent return! Who will release the song of the season??
We hear you — it’s a lot of pressure. But as the summer forges onward, remember, there’s still ample time to lean in. How, you ask? Look no further than your own backyard: Throw a BBQ.
For starters, a backyard barbecue screams capital-S Summer. It's like Vitamin D in activity form. And at the same time, it’s an easy excuse to drag everyone you love — and a handful of people you like okay — into one convenient outdoor space. Plus, hot dogs.
So, in the interest of easing your seasonal panic (and your rapidly accruing debt), we’ve compiled all the most brilliant, original, DIY tips for throwing the summer BBQ of the season. Read through, send a quippy invitation email to all your friends/friend-adjacent-companions, and get ready to go down in summer hosting history.
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Potlucks are old news — enforce a BYO-hors d'oeuvre rule.
Any potluck-style event typically yields one of two results: Either everyone arrives armed with tortilla chips and jarred salsa, or all the actual food is cold and unimpressive. That said, requiring your guests bring something is a big help when it comes to fronting the cost of a party — and ensuring that you've got a top notch spread on offer.
This time around, make the rule BYO hors d'oeuvre. Assign everyone one meat, cheese, or crudité option — an easy request to accommodate no matter their culinary skill level — and with minimal effort on your part, you’ll have the amuse-bouche spread of the gods. Bonus tip: Save the leftovers to serve with fresh fruit and raw honey for an ultra-luxe dessert plate at the end of the meal.
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Skip the heavy booze and serve up summer spritzes.
Balling on a budget can take many forms, but needless to say, martinis are not a BBQ staple. So rather than spring for overpriced booze — or settle for a 30-rack of light beers — consider the spritz. Snag a top shelf wine like Kim Crawford rosé, add sparkling water and ice, then top it off with a garnish (might we suggest a sprig of rosemary?). A spritz will take longer to toss back than a thimble of olive-tinted gin, and it's half seltzer — so your guests will stay hydrated all afternoon.
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Go all in on sauces and toppings.
Hot dogs are objectively delicious (don’t @ us). But like with most things, they come in a variety of qualities, ranging from the famed “dirty water dog” to the more luxe variety of pasture-raised, barrel-aged dogs on offer at your local New American café.
If you’re looking to maintain your grill-master clout without abandoning your standard-issue franks, we have the secret: Add some sauce. Bust out your top-notch mustard, shredded cheese, cooked onions, artisanal ketchup, you name it. The more impressive the toppings, the more impressive the meal. That's all there is to it. Like Jesus turning water to wine, it’s your way of transforming hot dogs into HAUTE dogs.
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Step up your lighting game with paper lanterns.
In case you haven’t heard: Ambience is everything. And there’s nothing that will instantly transform your space quite like mood lighting. Stock up on paper lanterns at any local grocery or craft store, and fix them over just about any lighting fixture you have. Bring your standing lamps outside, hang up your string lights, and cover all your LED bulbs with your paper lanterns.
You can dispose of them after the event, but for the time being, they’ll turn your garden into the sort of place where you and a romantic conquest might venture for luxe hot dogs on a date.
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Choose your proteins wisely.
A good grilled steak can probably change your life, but this is neither the time nor the place. You can still make protein the center point of your BBQ (and elevate your own status as a culinary prodigy) with plenty tasty meats that do not skew into filet mignon territory.
If you’ve got the time, slow-cooked brisket is a crowd-pleaser — and it's easier to buy in bulk than steak of even burger meat. For those adverse to red meat, try grilled chicken, shrimp, and mushroom caps. In a similar vein, opt for veggies that are in season — they'll taste better and they'll be far easier to find at your local supermarket.
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Serve skewers in place of burgers.
Skewers tend to live in that delicate, optimal space between snack and meal. They’re easy to prep en masse, light enough to munch on, and still hearty enough to satisfy your hungriest guests. Even better, they’re your go-to way of making a little meat go a long way. Think about it: One grilled chicken breast can be spread among four or five skewers, when dispersed among charred veggies. Beyond chicken, try proteins like tofu and shrimp, and arrange them all on the biggest platter you have for your guests’ snacking pleasure.
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Repurpose household items for outdoor entertaining.
If you’re lucky enough to have access to a backyard, a rooftop, or a patio, odds are you don’t also have a flawless set of matching lawn furniture. That said, you likely have plenty of things lying around that will be more than helpful for your soiree.
Set up your folding beach chairs around that old kiddie pool that’s been collecting dust since your frat formal, and fill it with ice and canned beverages. If you’ve got an expanse of grassy space, lay out your best gingham blanket and call it a picnic area. Shlep any stools you’ve got lying around the kitchen and use them to hold platters, lanterns, and those magic little candles that keep mosquitoes at bay. Fill your metal trash can with chilled bottles of wine, toss flowers in empty jars, secure your paper lanterns, and pat yourself on the back for your tremendous DIY efforts.
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Grill your dessert.
You already have wooden skewers, the grill is fired up, and dessert is a nonnegotiable. Isn’t it obvious? Grilled dessert skewers! Scrounge up some fresh fruit and whatever else you have in your pantry — citrus, marshmallows, dried fruits, pound cake — slide it onto skewers, and grill it up. Like with meat, most sweets will taste better with a little char. If you’re not a dessert person, another drink won’t hurt; take any excess grilled fruit, and muddle it at the bottom of a spritz or cocktail of your choosing.
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