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A more interesting cookout?

We are having a cookout for 25 or so people, mostly adults though it's for my son's first birthday. I'd like to go beyond the usual hamburgers and hot dogs, but I don't want too much more work. As creative as I usually am in the kitchen, I'm drawing a blank here. Grill usage and fork-and-knife avoidance are probably best. My mother suggested kebabs, but I don't know -- I just can't get excited about that. I suppose I could swap out ground beef and dogs for something more interesting -- buffalo and sausage. Or ... thoughts? Side dish suggestions welcome too.

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  1. How about tacos or quesadillas? You can have a couple of different fillings (one meat, one veg) and serve with with refried beans, Mexican rice, guacamole or salad (all quite easy to make in advance).

    1 Reply
    1. re: Paula76

      Or fajitas. If you do tacos, you could add fish tacos to the mix.....

    2. Beef, pork or chicken satays. Bratwurst chunks on skewers. Grilled pizzas.

      1. Make kebabs, but kebabs in the sense of highly spiced ground beef or lamb pressed around the skewer and grilled. It's a middle eastern and Indian/Pakistani thing. Serve it with raita or tzatziki and grilled pitas or naan.

        This is a recipe for kibbeh (lebanese kababs): http://www.ifood.tv/recipe/kibbeh_on_...

        This is for a minced lamb kabab with papya in it: http://www.ifood.tv/recipe/kakori_kab... (for mutton just use lamb


        This is cubed meat kababs but with a very interesting marinade made with ground cashews: http://www.ifood.tv/recipe/hussainy_k...

        3 Replies
        1. re: Morganna

          This sounds divine! I'm having a cookout this weekend and this sounds right up our alley. Thanks for posting the recipes!

          1. re: Morganna

            How about chicken tikka - take a whole bunch of legs and breast pieces, score and leave overnight in a yogurt marinade flavoured with chillis, salt, cumin, fresh and dry coriander, turmeric and a pinch of asoefetida. grill over a hot abrbeque. Veg option can be done using paneer, same marinade and served with grilled bell peppers and onions

            1. re: waytob

              don't forget the ginger and garlic.

          2. Kebabs are fairly labor intensive, you've got to cut everything to size, make sure they're skewered, then you've got to grill them all piece by piece, etc. If you go the American way which is vegetable and meat all on the same skewer, you're not going to get a great quality product. It may be pretty, but it's not the best that it could be because items cook at different rates: you'll end up with raw onion and dry meat. Something like Morganna suggested would be easier.

            My suggestion is to cook something large. This way you only have ONE thing to cook (maybe 2 with 25 people) and your prep time is cut waaaay down, and serving is super easy too. I'm thinking something along the lines of a whole pork loin or a whole fillet of beef if you want to get fancy. You could also entertain the idea of a leg of lamb or if you're interested in smoking, you could toss a couple of pork shoulders on the smoker.

            The overall point is that 25 people is a lot to cook for so think reeeeeal hard about the logistics of everything and be realistic. For example take the kebab idea. Let's assume that each person has 3 kebabs. What's 3 times 25? Right, 75! That's 75 things to grill. Now I'm not saying that my idea is the best in the world, but compare 75 things on the grill compared to 2 or 3 things.

            2 Replies
            1. re: SQHD

              I like the cook-something-large idea. I have a smoker and a big charcoal grill so plenty of room. Two people keep kosher so I'll have to figure out something for them. I am making an elaborate cake, so I think I will skip the homemade rolls!

              1. re: SQHD

                I often serve kebabs at large parties - especially when I have not idea about individual's likes or dislikes. I make beef, lamb, and chicken. Each skewer holds about 1/2 lb of type of meat that has been cubed (1-1 1/2) and so each will feed 2 people. The beef gets a dry rub, the lamb is marinated, and the chicken is simply brined with some herbs.

                For a party of 25, I'd suggest making 6 beef, 4 chicken, and 4 lamb skewers. Use two or more grills or accept that some meat will be cooler. For service, remove the meat from the skewers onto large trays to that people can choose the amount, the doneness and the types of meat they like. I also like to serve a large selection of dips/sauces that complement each type.

                Since this is fairly plain meat, nearly every side goes well. I like a pilaf since can be made as a large batch in the oven, it keeps warm until service, and does not suffer from being at room temperature. A fruit salad made of mangoes and/or papayas with greens is easy, looks exotic, and can be made ahead.

                As SQHD notes, planning in advance will made this a fun event for you and everyone else.

                Recipes on request.
                Happy eating!

              2. A few pork shoulders can be put on 8 hours before you wish to serve. Very tasty and very easy. You will not have to stand over it while your guests are arriving.

                1 Reply
                1. re: phantomdoc

                  yup--feeding 25 folks with a cook-to-order menu on a home grill set up is likely to cause heartburn for the chef. limited grill surface area and the time constraints of serving folks more or less at once can make one nuts. a pulled pork sandwich buffet is an awfully good solution--you can go nuts in private before the guests arrive. good slaw. if you want to flex your cooking muscles, add some home made sandwich bread or buns to the menu.

                  shh, don't tell anybody, but with a one-year-old as the center of attention, i'd be tempted to engage an on-site grill caterer. you didn't hear that from me, though.

                2. How about pit beef sandwiches? This is a Baltimore specialty that is essentially seasoned, thin-sliced, rare roast beef served on kaiser rolls with a horseradish sauce and lettuce/tomato/onion. Grilling the beef over a hot fire gives it a great, somewhat smoky outside crust while cooking the roast through to rare or medium rare depending on your taste. Sides would be the regulars like coleslaw and potato salad, watermelon and sweet tea.

                  Raichlen's recipe in this link makes 8 (probably big) sandwiches out of a 3lb. top round roast so you could probably get away with 3 total roasts:

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: CDouglas

                    very nice idea, cdouglas. i want to try this, but worry that carving and then chopping by hand will allow too much of the good, rare meat juice to leak away. have you attempted the hand carving method?

                    1. re: cimui

                      I dream of owning a deli-slicer but the wife thinks it will take up too much space on the counter so I rely on a 12 inch, hollow-ground slicer. I let the roast rest for longer than the 5 minutes Raichlen advises and carve it on a cutting board with a moat around the perimeter. Those juices can be brushed onto each side of the roll before assembling the sandwiches or just drizzled on top of the meat before adding the top bun.

                      The slices of beef are still juicy but you will get some juice-loss when carving.

                      This link has a photo of the finished product with BBQ sauce instead of horseradish. That would be a good alternative.

                      1. re: CDouglas

                        i think i'd have to stop at just carving the meat and not chopping it, too. hopefully that doesn't completely, er, "inauthenticate" the taste. this is a recipe i want to try. thanks so much for posting it!

                        1. re: cimui

                          Pit beef is sliced not chopped like pork shoulder. The thinner you can make the slices the better. The contrast between the charred, smoky crust encircling the pink inner meat is what you are going for.

                          I hope you enjoy.

                  2. All of the above and a little more :) How about a "mixed grill"? You could do a whole pork loin and one or two boneless, butterflied legs of lamb and some really good sausages. The pork could be cooked ahead of time. The lamb to medium rare probably takes only 20 minutes. The sausages can cook while the lamb is resting. BIG bowls of fruit and tossed salad. Store bought bread and a sheet cake birthday cake. If your grill has one of those racks above the grill, you could even do foil packs of vegetables. We're in Vidalia onion season and they're so great cut in half horizontally, brushed liberally with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, s&p, and put cut side down in a foil packet. When we have big parties, we always take the route you're considering. Galvanized wash tubs (we used to have horses) with ice and drinks outside. Baskets of chips and bowls of dips. A crockpot full of Costco meatballs with their teriyaki-style sauce (I was stunned how fast THOSE went at a party we had a couple of years ago. It was the day after our daughter's wedding and we had about 50 over so kept our cooking to a minimum.) Just a *few* thoughts :)

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: c oliver

                      Hell what time is dinner??? I am there!

                      Reminds me when we catered my fathers wedding...we wanted easy and yummy.

                      Started with 15 lbs of large shrimp boil that we just set in the middle of the table on newspaper and while guests arrived they could help themselves

                      Several racks of BBQ ribs, chicken kabobs abd Asian beef sticks served wtih a warm grilled potato salad with olive oil, panchetta, chives, basil, parsley, tomatoes and some grilled veggies, very simple and easy...even though it sounds like a lot of work it really wasn't

                      1. re: bermudagourmetgoddess

                        I'd have never left the shrimp bowl!!! Well, except to dash over and snag a FEW other things. Your version of potato salad appeals alot. Growing up on the traditional with boiled eggs and tons of mayo, I'll go forever without eating THAT again. But yours sounds great and I intend to plagiarize, ok?

                        What I love about this kind of party is that with plenty of planning and organizing, it's the easiest way to accommodate a large group and still have it feel special. And a HUGE garbage can for discarding all the disposables, right? And also having some young people around to handle cleanup. A great reason to have children is that they grow up and become useful :)

                        1. re: c oliver

                          Having a casual BBQ tomorrow night and think I will do the shrimp thing again!
                          So easy so good.

                          We came up with it becasue my father's best man at the wedding can not eat mato...so we just "hooked it up" ....please share what ever great twist you put on it.... I am from a Southern Family and now live on Bermuda (where potato salad is served often) and I too can care less if I ever eat mayo laden potato salad again...we don't have kids, but our other "kids" do a lot of clean up for us

                          1. re: bermudagourmetgoddess

                            I've fixed a salad bar a couple of times especially if I had kids attending who might not like some of the more "exotic" things. It was fun to have a big bowl of greens and then in little bowls, even divided bowls, every manner of topping and several types of dressings. And the leftovers went into zipping bags so I had all manner of salad makings for several days after.

                            1. re: c oliver

                              I used to be a party planner so I have this cool taco trolly cart that I like to set up for kids or make and grill your own pizza (with adults helping of course)

                    2. For some reason, I got an Asian inspiration with your question.....

                      How about grilling meat, tofu and mushrooms to put into Asian lettuce wraps? You'll just need to put out washed lettuce leaves, slice the "meat" component when it comes off the grill and have a sauce and a "filling salad" of shredded carrots, scallion, bean sprouts and diced water chestnuts ready to go on the side.

                      Summer rolls are also nice at a cookout- cool and a little unexpected at a "cookout", but the rice paper wrapper and a filling that includes mint and Thai basil is GREAT if it's a hot day.

                      As a side dish, you could go with a cold peanut noodle salad with lots of fresh, crunchy vegetables.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: 4Snisl

                        I would agree with the poster about pork shoulder. While I have not personally done it on the grill I bet it would be great. Then you have amazing pulled pork sandwiches with nice rolls and tangy coleslaw on the side, it will be a huge hit!

                      2. One idea might be grilled boneless chicken breasts (which could be made into sandwiches) with an interesting condiment like a homemade tomato onion jam. Here are two recipes where the tomatos are either tomato paste or sun-dried tomatoes:




                        The kids would like the chicken plain and the condiment adds a different twist for the adults. And it's easy.

                        1. I've done a marinated, boneless leg of lamb on the rotisserie and served slices of it with good pita or flatbread and tzatziki sauce, shredded lettuce, etc. for make-your-own gyros.

                          16 Replies
                          1. re: choco_lab38

                            My two cents...grill halved romain heads drizzled with olive oil for grilled Caesar's. They are showstoppingly delicious. Just a couple minutes per side. You could grill chicken breast to top as well.

                            Grilled stone fruits like peaches are wonderful atop vanilla ice cream. Pineapple grills well too.

                            1. re: scuzzo

                              Have had grilled escarole in that fashion.

                              If you have an ice cream maker check the chowtips video about keeping frozen Margaritas without unnecessary dilution.

                              1. re: scuzzo

                                Prithee, what does a half romaine head look like after being grilled 2 minutes each side?

                                1. re: Veggo

                                  Escarole gets somewhat smaller and charred on the cut side. I douse in olive oil/balsamic vinegar before grilling on gas grill.

                                  1. re: Veggo

                                    It's a mix of some char on the edges, some wilted parts and some crunchy parts. It's really, really delicious! All my friends have raved!

                                    1. re: scuzzo

                                      Cool, thanks. I always like something new, and wasted space on the grill is wasted space on the grill. I have a variety of spatulas on the ready.

                                  2. re: scuzzo

                                    I make grilled romaine all the time. It is a fave with all my friends. I drizzle with evoo, s/p cut side down then flip and I add a mix of parm and bread crumbs and sprinkle on top. It slightly melts and then I serve with either a creamy caesar or my favorite a good balsamic.

                                    I love grilling radiccio or romaine. It is amazingly.

                                    1. re: scuzzo

                                      scuzzo, i love your "grilled caesar" idea. do you use a traditional caesar dressing?

                                      1. re: alkapal

                                        You can cut 1 romaine heart in 3 pieces which is what I love for individual servings. Fun to serve the whole thing that way. A red pepper dressing is also as great dressing with crumbles of gorgonzola, very pretty and amazing flavor. Red peppers roasted, shallots, red wine, olive oil, parsley, s/p and a roasted hot pepper for some spice, use what is native in your area. Serve the dressing over the grilled lettuce. Top with grilled gorgonzola, goat cheese is also a great serving with this.

                                        1. re: kchurchill5

                                          i'm a huge gorgonzola fan. i'm tasting (in my mind) your roasted red pepper vinaigrette with shallots and gorgonzola crumbles. thanks, now you've made me hungry! ;-).

                                          1. re: alkapal

                                            It is just a simple red wine vinaigrette, nothing fancy, a few roasted red peppers, s/p, I like a little basil, not necessary and I do put a little shallot, just a bit, olive oil and stir. A basic vinaigrette with gorgonzola which I love. I not a big bc fan but gorg I can handle. It is heaven over the grilled romaine.

                                            Salad, skirt or flank steak some salad and a nice big baked with sour cream of course. A couple of cold beers too. Then I'm a happy camper.

                                            1. re: kchurchill5

                                              I"ve just used basic caesar dressing, but I must say this red pepper and gorgonzola combo sounds great! I might puree the roasted red peppers for a nice red dressing.

                                              1. re: scuzzo

                                                It is a nice twist but still good and not too strong. I love the grilled romaine, but cold and just chopped up is equally as good.

                                      2. re: scuzzo

                                        I make grilled romaine almost weekly. I make a traditional caesar usually. But also good with just a simple balsamic

                                        Here is a hint. Drizzle evoo, s/p and grill cut side down, then turn over, top with a mix of a little evoo, dried bread crumbs and parm. top on the cut side as the bottom grills. Just cover and grill another minute. The parm and bread is amazing on it. Crunchy not over done. perfect. Fresh blue cheese is also great with this. No matter what it is perfect. You can even make it on a stove top griddle if necessary. It is perfect every time and so easy.

                                          1. re: scuzzo

                                            Always good and takes 4 maybe 5 minutes tops. 3 romaine hearts can serve 6 people, a little parm and perfection. I topped this with grilled pork loin seared and cut and then drizzled the blue over it all. Also some grilled onions and portabellos right on the grill with the pork. An entire grilled dinner in 20 minutes. A nice slice of bread and dinner in a flash.

                                    2. For a "more interesting" cookout for that many adults, I go right for the suckling pig roast, with a side grill of kosher beef brats for your kosher guests and items for the less adventuresome.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: Veggo

                                        Veggo, what kind of home setup does one need to do a whole suckling pig? If that were the only meat (I only hang out with adverturesome gentiles!) how many would it feed? Just how big is one and do you have to mail order it. That seems like SO much fun.

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          In days of old (70's) I had to shoot them, dress them, and hang them in wet burlap for a few days, and then had to saw and weld metal, and dig, but today there are portable contraptions one can rent to roast a pig, that have a frame, spindle with tines, motor drive, and a big pan for the briquette/charcoal fire. You made me laugh about the "mail order pig". No, you want a freshly butchered piglet, maybe 45 pounds dressed out, and it will feed 25 adults. If you call rental places and butchers, each is likely to have a source for the other. I guarantee it makes a better memory than a hamburger or a pimento cheese sandwich at the neighbor's house.

                                          1. re: Veggo

                                            Well, maybe not one of YOUR soon-to-be-famous PC sandwiches.... I think the idea sounds great. Not just good food but the memories also as you say. If I arrange to do this at some point, I'll followup with you for more tips.

                                            We once knew a man who raised a turkey that got to be 50 or 60 pounds. Obviously wouldn't fit in the oven. Dug a pit and tried to cook it that way but couldn't keep it going. By then it was ruined. But it was over the weight limit to put in the trash. So he had to freeze it in pieces and work it into the garbage over a few weeks. I always laugh over that memory. I briefly entertained raising lambs for slaughter when we first moved from SF to rural Oregon. Pre-purchasing I had a sane moment and knew that I would name them and put them and look into those big brown eyes and they'd be the oldest mutton in the county. Too soft-hearted but love to eat others successes.

                                      2. One of the easiest general approaches is to just grill up a bunch of large pieces of meat (or your buffalo and sausages), thinly slice them up as they come of the grill - separating the very rare, rare, and medium. Make up different dipping sauces - from a sweet toasted sesame oil and soy sauce to HOT chile sauces. Cook a lot of rice. Make ahead loads of different Japanese style quick vegetable pickles/salads (e.g., eggplant, cucumber, carrot & diakon, spinach). Dead simple, although I usually end up slicing meat for a couple of hours. You can use disposable utensils and dishes.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                          Sam is on point here- grilling for a large group is cumbersome. When my PA golf group did the ox roast for about 200 guests, I was in charge of the meat. I started the day with a pretty good shock of hair, but by dark people were asking why Telly Savalas was flipping meat and not mingling with the crowd...Who loved ya, baby.

                                          1. re: Veggo

                                            I've been there done that for about 100. Didn't know that was what caused my hair loss...
                                            But, back on topic, if I can manage, I have marinated chicken in advance and have done whole briskets. Hot dogs are too easy and I hate doing cheap pre-formed hamburgers so I may buy ground meat and season and form them the evening before.
                                            No rest for the wicked if you're the wicked pitmaster. Just get a slug of beer every once in a while and keep workin' till you run out.

                                        2. A slow boil is what I would do. You can rent a big turkey fryer or just a couple of large pots on a grill work. It feeds tons of people. And you don't have to do all seafood. Do the slow boil which is easy and no clean up. Newspaper on the table and then grill some good marinated chicken of kabobs which I love. But yes, Make them unique, Not just pepper, onion and chicken boring kabobs. You can make some great marinated kbobs with some spicy seasoning which are great and kids love them because they are easy to eat. Another fun thing is I make shrimp or chicken kababs and serve it with a bun. They can slide off the shrimp on a nice bun, add some tomato lettuce and aioli (herbed mayo) and it is perfect.

                                          For the boil, corn potatoes, even artichokes (frozen are fine), sausages a couple of flavors, add some bread for people to put the sausage on, add some shrimp and maybe some mussels or clams. It is great, easy to make, hearty, feeds a crowd.

                                          Sides I would do simple, a couscous salad or no mayo potato salad, fresh fruit is always great (kabobs again, but great for a BBQ) easy to eat.

                                          For salads, I like to make my salads boats. I make a simple chopped salad, use whatever, onion, cucumber, lettuce, tomato, etc. but chopped. Then toss with a simple vinaigrette and stuff in small lettuce leaves. Had held, no forks, easy. I always make some without dressing so they can add their own. A big pot of soup. Plastic spoon and disposable mugs are inexpensive and great with a spicy white bean or black bean chili or a creamy potato soup.

                                          Another side, broccoli, red pepper and cauliflower in a spicy creamy vinaigrette. Holds up well, easy and fresh tasting.

                                          1. How about Korean short ribs known as Kalbi

                                            1. Costco in my area has a fantastic marinated pollo assada. It is all natural with nothing added. It grills up very quickly and would be great on a plate or as tacos. They also have carne asada that could be a hit too. Get their prepared guac, and you have no work to do.

                                              1. What about kebabs brushed with a peanut satay sauce and grilled for a different flavor?

                                                You could skewer chicken pieces, and then chunks of veggies: onions, red peppers, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms. Brush them with the peanut satay sauce and grill, and have some crockpots of white rice to serve them on.

                                                But..........having now read other posts, which I didn't do before posting my response, doing a few "big ticket items" would probably be way easier for those doing the cooking. :-)