Help me BBQ


Summer may in the rear view, but I’ve been tasked with planning a BBQ for ~40 people later this month, and I’d love any pro tips as I’ve never “catered” for this many people before. I should note that I’m using BBQ as shorthand for “a bunch of people get together and casually eat in an outdoor setting.” It’ll be pretty informal dining-wise, grab-n-go style.

I’m still in the early stages, so any ideas/past successes are welcome. Below are some of the categories of thangs that I imagine’ll need to be sorted. I want the food to be good, but I also don’t want to feel crazy busy like a 10-year-old southern boy in Master Chef Jr. catering a backyard dinner for some of Gordon Ramsay’s closest friends.


  • One large gas grill. May be able to bring another smaller one.
  • Will have easy access to oven & microwave
  • May be able to use one or more slow cookers
  • Disposable plates/cutlery/cups


  • Meat(s)
  • Vegetarian option


  • Salad (green, potato, etc.)
  • Veggie
  • Dessert(s)


  • This is being covered separately

Bonus points for incorporating any Halloweeny themes.



Could someone loan you a smoker? If so, the day before you could do several pork shoulders. That’s a lot of people for using just a couple of grills.

Regarding salad, I used a new, plastic, green dish pan that I filled with mixed greens and set up a “salad bar” for toppings. Huge platters of fruit. Both got refilled multiple times.

PS: I’m no pro :slight_smile:

1 Like

crudités with Gjusta hummus :heart_eyes:

1 Like

+1 on @catholiver’s suggestion. Pork shoulder is fantastic on a smoker if you can get your hands on one, and it’s a very forgiving cut of meat. You can also find slow cooker or oven recipies like this one, this one, or this one. They can be done ahead of time and kept warm in a slow cooker so you can enjoy your company.

Tri tip is another option for meat. I cooked several on Saturday for a crowd. I’ve done lots of marinades over the years, but I’ve found that a simple Santa Maria-style seasoning (I like this one) works best. Put them on over medium to high (depending on how hot your grill gets). I flip every 7-10 minutes until they are medium rare and then slice across the grain and serve on it’s own or for sandwich filling (dinner rolls work well for this).

I’m also not above throwing burgers and dogs on the grill if that fits the occaision. I’ve always found that the food, although an important element, is secondary to the company at this type of party.

1 Like

Thanks @catholiver & @OCSteve! I’ll look into a smoker. And definitely agree that burgers & dogs/sausages may be a solid/the best option to minimize the chaos.

Or just skip the crudités all together and hand out Gjusta hummus & spoons.


If you’ve got access to a couple slow cookers, you could do a pulled pork type thing the day before and shred it into hotel/aluminum pans and cover with foil. Then reheat in the oven. I’d probably do 2 large slow cookers full. For serving, put out buns, pickles, cole slaw, etc so people can assemble their own pulled pork sandwiches. For the vegetarians, you could do veggie burgers on the grill, or marinade sliced tofu and grill it.

For sides, I like traditional sides for BBQ. Potato salad and/or macaroni salad can be made 1-2 days before. Coleslaw only takes a few minutes too. Mac and Cheese would be a good option too, and can be served hot or warm. A veggie platter with ranch or blue cheese dressing would be a nice simple veggie side/app. Or you could do a roasted corn/green chile type salad with sour cream, green onions, and red bell pepper. Serve it cold – it’s very refreshing.

Dessert wise, you could do mini brownies with ice cream. Do a DIY sundae bar and put out chocolate sauce, sprinkles and whipped cream so people can make their own creations.


You could also do pork or beef for “tacos.” Won’t take nearly as much meat. Just set it up as a DIY with lots of topping including rice and beans. Just a thought.


That’s a lot. Make your life simple. Don’t try meats and dishes you’ve never done before. I’m a good cook. But for that many people I would get the sides at a restaurant.

Cook your meat in the morning ahead of time and warm in the oven. The visual of the dad with the funny apron manning the BBQ while his friends stand around drinking beer and shooting the breeze is only on tv. Manning the BBQ while trying to entertain guests is a nightmare.

Don’t do a taco bar or anything that requires a lot of chopping, assembling and requires a lot of bowls for fixings. I tried it for 30 people. I was in tears.

2 meats and some turkey dogs for kids and whatever vegetarian burger thingy that’s simple. Remember vegetarians hate their meals cooked on a meaty grill.

Making ice cream sandwiches with store bought cookies and keep in freezer is great. But you could also just buy tubs of ice cream.

5 lbs of ice per guest. Sounds like a lot, but it’s not.

Do as much as possible ahead of time.

Enlist your friends. And If you can, hire a housekeeper for the day.

Try to remember, not everybody is like us crazy food talkers. They won’t be expecting you to be Bobby Flay. Even my chef friends say they’re just thrilled to eat a meal they didn’t have to cook.

Get these at Cost Plus or a party store. Keeps the flys at bay.

Have fun!!!


Is it all grown-ups, or are there kids?

Here is what my brother does: Goes to Gelson’s (normal people go to Costco)and buys a bunch of chicken breasts, boneless steaks and fish fillets. Day of party, it all goes into a big sous vide vat. Then he grills a platter of chicken, a platter of steak and a platter of fish, one after the other. Since the meat is pre-cooked, you’re just giving it a quick sear, so it goes fast.

I usually make carne asada, it’s thin, so you can make big piles of meat very quickly. I buy black beans and rice and salsas and all that stuff the day before, place it in my own serving dishes, and put it out day of party. Maybe add some garnishes or extras to make it look like I made it. Smile and say “thank you” when people compliment your rice or salsa or whatever. :wink:

Set the tables and decorate the day before the party, I can’t stress that enough. Just like the holidays, anything that can be pre-set, even food that doesn’t need refrigeration, should be ready to go, so when you wake up day of the party, you can focus on important things like, “omg, I forgot to get 200 pounds of ice!” And, “Where are my bracelets I was going to wear?? My outfit is ruined!”

Have fun. :slight_smile:

1 Like

Also, what @TheCookie said about hiring someone, do that if you can. Even a local teenager or two can make a big difference with clean-up, refilling food and ice containers, emptying trash, etc.

1 Like

Whaaaaat? That’s how just about all of my BBQ’s go, minus the apron and nightmares. However, I’ve been doing it for a long time, and I started small. 40 people is a lot, but can be manageable. I totally agree with not experimenting with something new for that kind of crowd. My best advice is to stay in (or close to) your comfort zone and have fun.

1 Like

LOL… I knew there would be some pushback on that one. But you have a lot of experience @OCSteve.

At least have the meat mostly done by the time guests arrive. So you’re mostly just taking it off the grill, and you can still look like the tv dad in the funny apron at the grill.


Woah. Jackpot! Thanks so much @boogiebaby @TheCookie @Bookwich. Some great shtuff here.

@boogiebaby - Definitely think I’ll be doing the pork slow cooker for one of the options. I’ll have some time the day before to prep, so I like the idea of getting it set and then just having to warm it up a bit day-of. And those side suggestions sound like solid options.

@TheCookie - Now I’m scared! Kiddinggg. This is great advice. It’s becoming clear that the more I can do ahead of time vs. a la minute, the better. Noted on the ice front. And great idea about the ice cream sandwiches! Heck, maybe I’ll just go buy a bunch of IT’S-IT Ice Cream Sandwiches and spare myself the assembly.

@Bookwich - I was considering carne asada! Good thoughts. And love this advice, since I’m definitely prone to the “yeah, well x could have been better” blah blah blah [quote=“Bookwich, post:9, topic:4420”]
Smile and say “thank you” when people compliment your rice or salsa or whatever. :wink:

@OCSteve - I want to be your BBQ grasshopper, sensei.

1 Like

Good tips @Bookwich. And ditto on the carne asada. Marinate it the night before in @President_Mochi’s special recipe (I used it, it was delish) or you can buy it inexpensively already marinated from a Mexican market. Then cook it on high very quickly. Marinating meats first is important. Lessens the chance of drying out, especially flap meats & chicken breasts. Unless you sous vide like Bookwich’s bro :wink:.


So many great ideas here!

I agree with @TheCookie. Keep it simple and have fun.

Thank you, @President_Mochi. I’m not a pro, but I’m happy to help as much as I can. I’ve always tried new things out on family and close friends and expanded on that. I was the second kid on my block to get a Big Green Egg, so I invited the first kid over and had him teach me.

I always figure if it’s a total disaster (I can’t remember having any, but I have been less than thrilled plenty of times), there’s always pizza delivery.

I love @Bookwich’s sous vide idea. I’m dying to buy a circulator and start cooking with it, but I’m trying to be good and wait until Christmas.

I’ve also had good luck with the carne asada and chicken tacos.


YES. Very much considering this.

Unfortunately no sous vide at the moment, but maybe I’ll charge a nominal cover fee for the BBQ and buy one with the profit :money_mouth: :hamburger: :money_mouth: :hotdog: :money_mouth:


Now you’re talking. You’re getting it down. Preparation, preparation, preparation.

I got the ice tip from a party planner. You want to have enough for coolers and refilling your guest’s drinks. So 5lbs per guest.


[quote=“President_Mochi, post:1, topic:4420”]
Bonus points for incorporating any Halloweeny themes
[/quote]Jack O Lanterns?


So, lanterns full o’ Jack Daniels?


Hi @catholiver -

I determined if I ever again did tacos for a big party I would call Taco Man. That’s probably why I will never be able to afford going on a world tour of Brooklyn, Rio, Copenhagen & Patagonia like you!!! Did I leave anyplace out?