Whether it’s sweetly glazed pork in the deep South, vinegar soaked pulled pork in North Carolina or smoky, slow-cooked beef briskets in Texas, one thing is consistent everywhere: it’s got to be cooked by somebody who cares.
A love for the craft is what sets the best barbecue masters apart, no matter what ingredients they use. It’s a style of cooking that takes a lot of time to do right, both grilling it to perfection and spending years experimenting and refining the process to get the ideal result on the smoker.
Here are some things to consider when preparing a great barbecue.
First and foremost, the meat you serve has to be amazing — not just good, but so mouth-watering and delicious that your guests will want to tell all their friends about it.
A big barbecue meal is no time to experiment. The meats you serve should all be something you’re comfortable and confident preparing for a group, so pick your best recipe and grill or smoke it to perfection.
If you’ve got the skills — and the need to feed a big enough crowd — it’s a good idea to offer a wide variety of meats, from chicken and pork to sausage and ribs. Variety is always nice, as long as you serve the best.
Just remember that the bigger selection of meats you serve, the more hardware you’ll need to cook it and the more planning you’ll need to do to ensure everything is ready and waiting for your guests at the perfect time. Juggling lots of cooking times can be a challenge for all but the most experienced backyard cooks.
Look for side dishes that won’t overpower the main focus of your barbecue, the meat. That means you should generally stick with the tried-and-true classics like beans, potato salad, cole slaw, corn and hushpuppies.
Light summer salads are a good option for your health-conscious guests, offering some balance to the heavier dishes that typically dominate barbecues. And throwing some veggies onto the grill, such as asparagus or squash, can be a delicious way to eat healthier.
The drinks you pick with a barbecue meal will really set the stage for your guests, so pick them based on the atmosphere you’re looking for.
If you’re throwing a family-friendly party, lemonade and soda are always a hit with kids. Adults may want cold beers for a laid-back get-together or margaritas and cocktails if you want to add some class.
Another popular trend is looking for a local flavor. Think about going to a unique local brewery or shopping for small-batch craft beers to offer a real variety and more distinct flavor.
DRESS IT UP
Look for ways to dress up the appearance of your barbecue, too. Nice tablecloths can be a good place to start, but it’s also fun to look for interesting serving dishes. Creative shapes and colors for bowls can really elevate the style of your barbecue, taking it from bland to memorable.
In the end, creating a great barbecue is all about showing you care. From your passion about cooking the perfect meats to making each and every guest feel warm and invited, you’ll be creating lasting memories that are about much more than a meal.