Bacon-wrapped jalapeno-stuffed dove breasts sizzling on the grill. Succulent smokey Sweet Sourbon-Glazed duck just starting to caramelize. Venison tenderloin fillets seared to perfection. These are the mouth-watering sights, sounds, and smells you might expect at a BBQ held by the hunter who eats what they hunt. You know, the one who always seems to be hunting. The one with the back patio kitchen dreams are made of, who stands over the grill like a maestro directing a symphony.
We all know that person, or if we don’t, we wish we did. They always have enough fresh meat to share. Always offering some venison breakfast sausage, deer jerky, or fish fillets. And it’s all organic!
Maybe this person is you. And if it is…we happen to love deer sausage. If it’s not, maybe it should be.
You could be the one having those barbecues every month that people wouldn’t miss for the world. It does take a little work, but it’s not rocket science.
So how do you become the master of the backyard wild game BBQ? Well, first you must go hunting. As often as possible. Sounds terrible, right? If you already hunt, you just need to figure out how you can hunt more. If you don’t yet hunt, look in to getting started. Or learn how to barter with your friends who have more wild game meat than they know what to do with.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume you hunt at least once each year. If you hunt more, that’s even better. It’s possible to have monthly barbecues off of one hunt, but you’d be the luckiest hunter on earth if you pulled that off each year. We all know it can take a lot of work and many trips to find the animal you’re looking for and bring it home. So hopefully you hunt several times a year.
Think about your hunts. What could you do differently to bring home more meat on each hunt. Go for longer? Choose times when multiple species can be targeted together? Maybe you could go bigger. I hear moose steaks are out of this world.
Whatever you choose, you need to work backwards to see how much meat you need. How many guests do you want to have at each event. Lets say 30 people at each party. How much does each person eat? Personally, I can overeat bbq to the tune of a couple pounds, and you probably know someone like me. But you probably also know a few people who prefer to just nibble while at parties and socialize instead.
So, average it out. Half a pound of meat per person is a good rule of thumb - assuming you’re cooking some sides and veggies to go with it. Which, you definitely should. Good sides can really stretch the distance of your meat, and they make it a well-rounded meal sure to leave guests happy. More on that later.
Now, how many of these killer backyard barbecues do you want to have over the next 12 months? Once a month is doable, but it helps to start slow. So we'll say every two months. that would be six events, 30 people each, 1/2 lb of meat per person. Do the math, carry the two.. You’re going to need at least 90 pounds of meat that you reserve for these events and these only. Think you can do it? We think you can.
Figure out when you can hunt and what animals you can get to reach that number - Plus, whatever amount you still want to keep for yourself. Can’t give it allaway, of course. How much do you need? How many trips will it take? Time to plan them and start booking. Throw an extra one in, just to be sure you have enough.
Next, we need to see what you’re working with on the patio. If you already have the barbecue station of your dreams out back, you’re all set. Or, if like most of us there’s a thing or two you would change about it. There’s no better time to get started, than now.
Everyone’s setup is different, but you know there are a few things you’re going to need. The first, and most obvious, you need a grill. But not just any grill, you need one with the appropriate amount of space for cooking for 30 people. Will you do meat in one course, or serve it in “rounds” every 20 minutes or so?
If you plan to offer one main course of grilled meat, you’ll need a grill with enough fire-kissed surface area to cook everything at the same time. Some pieces will go on sooner than others, but they’ll all be coming off around the same time. You can stagger and cover with foil, but then you’ll end up with widely varying meat temperatures for each guest’s plate.
If you plan to use a smaller grill, we suggest serving meat a la carte, at intervals of 20-30 minutes. Make it finger-friendly, since people will be standing and eating while served a sample of each course. Use small skewers, toothpicks, and small carnival trays to make it easy on them. Nobody likes trying to hold a cold beverage while juggling a plate of food, eating, and then trying to take a drink without dropping it all for the dog to devour.
If you prepare your meat with lots of sauces, beware. Not everyone has a camo apron on like you do. You want to make it easy for them to eat without making a mess of their nice clean party clothes. Add sauces before meat is finished on the grill. It will thicken the sauces up, caramelize some of the sugars, and make them less drippy when served. If you like serving au jus or other thin sauces, we recommend carrying a bowl of the sauce with you for guests to lightly dip when they take their skewer from you.
Now that you have your grill and your grilling plan, you need to figure out what happens before you grill and where you’re going to do it. Every good backyard chef needs a staging area, whether it’s a professional chopping block with cabinets and drain rails, or a portable table with a big cutting board, you have to have a place to prep your meat.
Inevitably, some prep will occur the night before each barbecue. Marinades and rubs sometimes need to sit overnight depending on the recipe, and you’ll do whatever it takes to get the best flavor out of those. So, for that you’ll just need permission to make a mess of the kitchen temporarily.
On grilling day, though, you need a preparation station near the grill dedicated to cutting, seasoning, tenderizing, glazing, bacon-wrapping, skewering, or whatever it is you need to do in your meat’s last minutes of being raw. What makes a good station?
Cutting boards, either one giant ones, or a few of varying size from small to large. If they have drain rails on them, even better. That helps to keep the juices from each different meat separate, for taste and for sanitation. It will also help you keep your apron nice and clean for the rest of the day.
Knives - We could talk knives for hours. But we won’t do that. Just get some good knives, and make sure they’re sharp as a razor the night before you cook. Set up a place to store them outside on your prep station. Don’t have enough space? Not enough drawers? Magnets work wonders. You can buy a magnet strip designed for hanging knives, and mount it on the side of your station. Or if you’re a DIY-er, you can get some neodymium (rare earth magnets) to make your own. Not only will your knives stay secure and out of the way, they’ll look pretty damn cool hanging there like you’re on a cooking show.
Next gather your utensils. Tongs, spatulas, giant forks, pokers, meat hooks (yes it’s a thing, just get one and thank us later). Decide where you’re going to place them. Think about where you’ll put them when they’re not clean anymore, covered in raw juices and spices. You probably wont want to stick them in a drawer. A great alternative is to install some hooks on the side of your station. Some grilling stations come with them already, but others you’ll have to add. You can pick up the right hooks at any home improvement store. Depending on what your table and cabinets are made of, you’ll need different screw threads, and possibly some nuts to secure the hooks. Tell the guy in the hardware aisle what you’re doing with what materials and he’ll know what you need.
Next, figure out where you’ll store the other essentials. You may need foil, wax paper, shrink wrap, skewers, bags and anything else you need to keep your meat rubbed, sauce marinating, and bacon wrapped. If your station doesn’t have drawers, consider buying a cabinet you can bolt onto it, or slide under the table. Having these things at your fingertips makes life so much easier than running back indoors to grab that other roll of foil you forgot the last time you darted in there.
Hooks for hanging, shelves for storing, and trivets for laying are essentials. These things increase your capacity without taking up additional room, and they will help your station stay organized and clean. They help you look and feel like a pro without any additional effort.
All set up to grill? Good! Now it’s time to plan the party. The food is the focal point, but what really makes a party is the group of people that attend. You want to have your favorite people, in the right number, with a good mix of personalities. Getting them there is the goal, not just inviting them. So how do you make sure you get a great turnout?
Whatever effort you put into inviting guests will pay off in spades. We suggest keeping it simple, and adding a personal touch. Everyone is used to evites now, and they have the added bonus of being very easy to send in advance.
Pick a good name for your party. You don't have to have a theme, but you can if you want. The allure of delicious bbq will usually get everyone looking forward to your event, but a mouthwatering event title never hurts.
The personal touch takes a little time, but in my experience, it is so worth it. What is it?
A simple phone call before you send out invitations. Remember when we used to call our friends all the time? And had to wait by the phone for them to call back if we missed them?
Calling people these days catches them off guard. They'll be thrilled to hear from a friend rather than a robo-caller for once. And you’re calling with some of the best news they could hope for on a Wednesday. You’re throwing a top notch barbecue with food they can’t even buy, and they’re invited!
This does two things. One, it lets your friends know they really are important to you. You took the time to call. You really want them there, so you went the extra mile. This makes people feel good, and it strengthens relationships more than the automated mass invite. Two, it makes them way more likely to come - More likely to put it on their calendar right then, and more likely to remember when the day comes around. There’s a lot of noise out there, and people have busy schedules. You’re rising above all that by contacting them personally. Added bonus: You get to talk to your friend!
Wow, that was easy, wasn't it?
Later, when your backyard bbq is only a few days away, you can send them a text telling them you’re looking forward to seeing them. Of course, you actually have to mean that, but we’ll assume it’s true if you’re still reading this. Who doesn’t look forward to seeing their friends at their barbecue…?
"Are you suuuure it can't all be meat, though?" Yeah, we're sure. Google "meat sweats." Although we'd generally be just fine with nothing but this ^^.
Just kidding, we googled it for you. Ahem: "Meat sweats" is the mysterious condition whereby, after ingesting a generous helping of meat, you begin to sweat like a fat man in a cake shop. First identified by competitive eaters, for whom the malady is an occupational hazard, the meat sweats are thought to be caused by the combination of adrenaline and protein.
Preparing and cooking side dishes for 30 people is a lot of work on top of what you’re already doing. Do you want to spend an extra day before the bbq prepping sides, and then juggle cooking them on the day of? We highly recommend recruiting an assistant who knows how to cook, if you do it this way. Better talk to your significant other, friend, or neighbor who owes you one and make sure they can commit to it.
But sides don’t just add to your workload, they add to the amount of space you need. Your kitchen and outdoor cooking space can only hold so much food. Your refrigerator can only hold so much veggies along with your rubbed or marinating wild game meat. Having an extra fridge and freezer in the garage always helps. Your countertops can only host so many cutting boards and mixing bowls. Having a kitchen with a lot of counter space is crucial. By the way, trivets are your friend!
And your oven…? Can you bake six different pyrex pans full of veggie and cheese goodness in one run? Can you cook it all and keep it warm so it’s perfectly ready at the same time your grill full of meat is ready?
If you think about all these and say, “no problem, got it covered,” then by all means go ahead and make your own sides. Make the best sides your friends have ever tasted.
If you’re a little worried you might not have the space but you still want to do it, consider having a few select friends make something. This can be especially helpful if you know what people are good at making. Your friend who makes the best macaroni & cheese this side of the equator can bring that. The neighbor who is always baking fancy dips in giant bread bowls can make sure your guests have something to snack on. And your sibling who makes the only salads you’ll ever eat, because they’re just so damn good. Well, she can be responsible for everyone’s intake of fresh greens.
And you can handle the rest. Fill in the gaps with a few special dishes that won’t take up a ton of space or time in your schedule leading up to the party.
If you would rather not make sides, you can outsource it completely. BBQ potlucks are pretty common, since feeding so many people is a big undertaking. You simply let guests know, right up front, that you’re cooking up the best grilled game meats they’ll ever have, and you’d love them to bring a side dish or snack to share.
If you want to motivate them even more, consider having a contest for best side dish and best appetizer. Let people vote anonymously by dropping a piece of paper in a fish bowl. Tally it up at the end and give the winners a parting gift. It doesn’t have to be big and fancy - the fun is in the friendly competition anyway. Do make it something they’ll enjoy using, though. It’s hard to go wrong with a decent bottle of wine or champagne. Try to pick something that anyone at your party would enjoy, regardless of gender.
To make sure you don’t end up with five mac & cheese dishes and no salads, use a Google sheet to coordinate who is bringing what. Put some examples of dishes everyone likes, and people can claim one of those. Others can add their own if they’re more adventurous. Most importantly, it allows you and your guests to see that there’s already enough of any one thing coming, so that everything gets covered without too much overlap. It also means you don’t have to spend a bunch of time coordinating - your guests will coordinate for you.
When it’s time for your BBQ party, if you’ve followed all of these tips, you should be all set. But, the day before, try to make a checklist anyway. Make sure you have everything you need, including time. Consider asking someone to help you if you need it. They can enjoy the party, but they’ll know they could be asked to help at any moment and they’ll be ready to jump in and assist. Sometimes you need a hand carrying food, opening doors, or monitoring the grill while you run inside.
Once again, make it easy on your guests. With the appetizers and sides you prepare, make them easy to serve and eat. Placing them in trays, cocktail cups, or on skewers goes a long way. You can even use washable serving cups so you don't have to keep buying more!
Washable reusable serving cups your guests will love. You can use them again and again, pleasing your wallet and reducing trash in the process!
Let's break this into two categories, shall we? At every party, it's good to have a mix of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages for your guests to enjoy. We recommend basing your selection on the season, weather, and what food you'll be serving.
For example, in summer a lemonade and iced tea bar is a staple. You can get more creative, of course, but it's hard to go wrong with these. Don't forget to include a water pitcher! Sometimes a big cold glass of H2O is the only thing that will quench the thirst on a hot day.
As for alcoholic drinks, the options are endless. There are a few good rules to follow, though:
Always have a crowd-pleaser available. Two of them is even better. A crowd-pleaser is something the majority of your guests will gladly drink. Something that is refreshing and goes down easily, generally with a low alcohol content. A lighter beer like a lager or a blonde is one example. For those who prefer wine, a good simple white wine and red wine on hand is hard to beat.
Is it just us, or do these cold beers look insanely good right now?
You can make a special light, refreshing cocktail as well, but it's more challenging. It's a lot harder to judge who will like it, how much you will need, and how much to make every hour or so - And then you have to make another batch. Also, it's much harder to keep cocktails fresh at an outdoor party, compared to wine or beer. You'll need a solution for melting ice in drinks, if you go the cocktail route!
After the party, be sure to thank everyone for coming. If someone took pictures, send them out by text, post and tag them, or share them in your Evite. Let them know you’ll be doing another one next month, and you’d love it if they came again. If they brought food, be sure to tell them how good it was. Ask them for the recipe. Tell them you’d love it if they made it again next time.
That’s it! You have everything you need to kick off your very own backyard barbecue party series. Get started planning now, and thank us in 10 years when you celebrate the anniversary of the first one.
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