The Maven’s Top Five Tips for a Successful Cookout

Hiya Dolls!

Well, I guess we haven’t yet met? Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Karen Kennedy. I run a little event planning company called Small Potatoes and I’m the Circle City’s Maven of Merriment. What, you may ask, does that mean? It means that I can throw a party like nobody’s business. It means that I’ll always have a tip for you on how to entertain even the most serious of groups. I’m the girlfriend you can always turn to for an expert opinion on what to serve or how to handle a sticky social situation. After more than 25 years in the entertaining business, I’ve seen it all.

So, let’s throw a party, shall we?

Here’s Today’s Topic:

The Maven’s Top Five Tips for a Successful Cookout

As the weather (theoretically) turns warmer, our thoughts turn to firing up the grill and having a “cookout.” It sounds like a great amount of fun for all… throw some burgers and brats on the grill, catch up with friends, have a cocktail and relax… right? But if you don’t follow the Maven’s tips, you’ll end up a sweaty and harried mess, slaving over the grill as your guests are arriving and fending for themselves, you won’t get to chat with anyone, and you’ll never get to relax and enjoy the party.

Here are my top five tips for a successful cookout.

  1. Grill your proteins 30 minutes before your guests are due to arrive, put them on an oven-proof serving dish and keep them covered in the oven on low. (Don’t overcook!) Then go powder your nose and pour yourself a cocktail.
  2. Don’t try to grill too many things. It might seem like a great idea to also do corn, potatoes or other sides while you’ve got the grill fired up, but you’ll never get away from the heat. If you must have that flavor, start them on the grill but finish them in the oven.
  3. Set up a lovely buffet on a kitchen island or other counter top the morning of the party. Use a festive tablecloth, a nice vase of flowers and a few boxes or crates to give your table some vertical dimension. Gather all of your condiments into one basket that you can pop onto the table. Decide which platters and bowls you’re using and label them with a post-it note so you’re ready to plate and serve later. Also make sure you’ve got a serving utensil for each one!
  4. Decide on a signature cocktail that can be made ahead in a dispenser. Put beer, wine, soda and bottled water in a big tub and ice it down for self-service. Make it clear to your guests as they arrive that they are welcome to help themselves. (And you’re always going to need more ice than you think! The rule of thumb is two pounds per person.)
  5. When people ask if they can bring anything, say yes! Desserts and side dishes are great things to delegate. (Appetizers are risky to delegate because you’ll be stuck with nothing to offer if those friends run late.) Don’t worry if what they bring doesn’t complement your menu perfectly or is store-bought.

The Maven once asked a guest not known to be a cook to bring dessert to a lovely dinner party and that guest brought a package of Oreos! The Maven simply arranged those Oreos on a silver platter, garnished the platter with a sprig of fresh mint and poured each guest a small glass of milk. All of the party guests exclaimed with delight that it had been years since they’d had an Oreo and thought that “cookies and milk” was a clever and divine dessert.

Remember, every party is perfect if everyone, including the host, has a ball! See you next time, Dolls!

Got a question for the Maven, or eager for more party tips?
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