What’s more fun than grilling out with friends – especially on a warm summer evening? No much, unless you are the cook. Unfortunately, one of the most heard complaints about hosting a cookout is the cooks do more cooking than enjoying the party. It is hard to fix appetizers, grill the meat and enjoy your company all at the same time.

b2ap3_thumbnail_DSC0301-150x150Here are some tips to avoid that this year, to keep the cookout easy and enjoyable for everyone – even the cook.

#1 Plan Ahead

If you are going to host a cookout, plan your menu days in advance. The name of the game is to have fun (even at your own cookout), so planning as much as you can ahead of time will help you accomplish this.

#2 Serve Appetizers

Appetizers and small finger foods give guests something to munch on while they wait for the main course to come hot off the grill. Keep appetizers small – especially if you are serving a variety of food. Why not try a vegetable or fruit tray with a low-calorie dip? This doesn’t have to be difficult; just order a veggie tray from your local grocery store.
Punch is always a refreshing drink at a cookout where there will be children and adults. If the punch is meant to be sparkling (adding soda), chill the punch first (without the soda) and then add it just before the guests arrive.

#3 Punch – A Knock-Out Idea!

This way, your punch won’t lose its fizzy kick while in the fridge.

b2ap3_thumbnail_DSC0282-150x150#4 Pre-Cook Chicken

Keep in mind that chicken takes a long time to cook on the grill. To eliminate the long grilling time, you can pre-bake your chicken before the party – and heat it up on the grill just before being served. Not only will this reduce the overall grilling time, but it will also ensure that your guests don’t fill up on everything else – while waiting for the chicken.

#5 Side Dishes

When you take a little extra time to prepare, a backyard cookout can flow smoothly and be just as fun for the cook as it is for the guests.Side dishes and salads can be prepared a few hours before the cookout even starts. Side dishes are usually good for at least an hour and salads for two. This cuts down on the amount of prep-work you, as the host, need to do once the guests arrive – allowing you to sit and visit with your friends and family while the meat is grilling.