A cookout is a great way to get all of your neighbors involved in an activity. It's also a chance for you to show off your cooking skills and enjoy some competitive games. So, fire up the barbie and start planning your menu!
A cookout can be held anywhere, but it's more fun with a backyard (or even better, garden) and warmer weather. The menu should be simple to make and include your favorite foods.
If you want to show off but don't want to spend too much time cooking, stick with the basics. You can also bring a spread of finger foods and desserts that can be set out on trays - especially if children are attending.
Fire up a pizza oven
If you have a wood-fired pizza oven, invite your neighbors around to make their own pizzas and set out a spread of toppings. To get the best results, follow these tips to make the perfect pizza:
1. Use a good pizza dough recipe
Neapolitan pizza dough is a particular favorite and makes for a thin, light base. The trick is to prepare this in advance and make sure that you roll out the dough so that it is very thin.
2. This is a team effort
The best part of having friends over to make pizzas is that you can get everybody involved in making the pizza. It's no fun trying to do it all yourself - when everyone mucks in, you can have a production line.
Organize a barbecue feast
If you don't have a wood-fired pizza oven, then fall back on a firm favorite, the BBQ. You can buy cheap cuts of meat (or better yet, use organic meats that are sold at a discount) from your local butcher and ask your neighbors to bring side dishes and salads. This is a great way to cater for a large number of people and not have too much work on your hands. You can spend more time socializing with your visitors.
Important tips for barbeques:
1. Patience is key
It's all too tempting to start cooking too early. If you wait for the charcoal to really catch light and then wait until they look white all over, you will have a much better cooking experience and less chance of burning the outside of your food and undercooking the inside.
2. Marinade, marinade, marinade
If you want great-tasting, tender meat that falls off the bone, you have to marinade it. This doesn't have to be complicated and can be as easy as a sauce of oil, vinegar, and herbs. Don't bother using plastic bags - just put the meat in a plastic container and pour in the marinade. Make sure that you leave enough time for the meat to soak up all of the flavors.
3. Have lots of salads and sides
Let's face it; it's not often that people want to eat just steak, chicken, or sausage from the grill - so make sure that there are lots of different ingredients set out for them to help themselves.
Cookouts are a great way to get your neighbors over to your home and enjoy a meal. No matter what you decide to serve, some tips can overcome the common problems of cooking on an open fire, such as burning the food or under-cooking it.
If you do have time to spend in the kitchen, then obviously, you can have more fun with sauces and side dishes - but don't get too carried away. The important thing is that everyone has a good time and enjoys eating together!
Tasty appetizers, finger foods, and desserts are an excellent idea for cookouts because they can be served buffet-style, allowing guests to serve themselves while mingling.