Labor Day is summer's last hurrah. If you know a mean barbecue chicken recipe or two, the Labor Day BBQ might be one of your last opportunities for showing it off. Soon there will be school bake sales, classroom volunteerism and countless nights spent being the homework helper. The beginning of September is therefore the perfect time to do a BBQ. So what does the old hand at hosting these cookouts know that you might want to pick up?
1. Make a Guest List and check it twice
Before you buy the food for your killer barbecue chicken, plan your guest list. Avoid wasteful spending by knowing how many adults and children you will cook for on Labor Day.
2. Assign Tasks to Guests
Potlucks have taken over the Labor Day BBQ scene. While I adore a good potluck, there is just something not quite right about inviting friends and family members to a grilled food event and then asking them to bring the dishes. Besides, I love to make my favorite barbecue chicken recipe one last time during the summer, so I also like to stay in control of the menu. Nevertheless, there are plenty of other tasks that guests could (and should) take on. As simple checklist enumerates the items visitors could bring:
- Paper goods (plates, napkins and cups) and plastic ware (tablecloths and forks, knives and spoons).
- Extra lawn chairs.
- Board games for adults or toys for the children.
- Music; who knows, one of your guests might fancy herself a hobbyist DJ!
3. Set up the Menu
BBQ ides run wild from grilled vegetables for side dishes to the ultimate barbecue chicken recipe handed down from your mom (or dad). I like to buy 15 pounds of chicken legs and thighs, immerse them in the Thanksgiving turkey brine championed by Food Network's Alton Brown, and grill them after a four-hour soak on a medium-hot grill for about 20 to 30 minutes. Turn the legs once, halfway through the grilling process. If in doubt, grab your food thermometer and verify that the internal temperature has reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit before serving.
As a purist, I like to serve sauces on the side. Once again, the Food Network offers plenty of inspiration. Tyler Florence makes a sauce that is to die for. Store-bought pineapple salsa is another tasty topping option. The advantage of the leg and thigh menu is the kid-friendly aspect of serving this chicken. Consider your side dishes next.
- Melon is a favorite for adults and kids.
- Macaroni and cheese goes well with chicken dishes and kids love it.
- Asparagus risotto is for a more grown-up taste, as are grilled asparagus spears.
- Grilled corn on the cob.
- Broccoli stir-fry with pineapple or ginger.
- Polenta, mashed potatoes or creamed corn add strong tastes to the chicken without overpowering the meat.
- Garlic bread is a crowd pleaser.
- You can never go wrong with a big green salad and onions, tomatoes and cucumbers.
4. Set up your Food Table with Food Safety in Mind
Since you do not want to get angry phone calls from ill guests after the Labor Day BBQ, it pays to think through your food storage and serving options with care. Keeping chilled items cold and cooked foods hot is a must. Add to this the necessity to keep ubiquitous flies from descending onto your barbecue chicken like vultures, and it becomes clear that there is more to the serving table than an assortment of handy dishes and serving platters. Invest in some chafing dishes and use pots in ice-cube-filled tubs as food receptacles for cold items.
5. Plan the Kids' Entertainment
As a parent I know that unattended children will find plenty to do; usually it is not anything I would approve of. Make sure your children -- and youngsters attending as guests -- will have plenty of art items, craft supplies, toys and games to use. Hire a college student -- there is bound to be one, hungry for a few bucks and a great meal, in your circle of friends -- to entertain the youngsters.
6. Keep Guests hydrated
Will you serve alcohol? Some do a BBQ with only soft drinks while others incorporate wine and beer into their Labor Day BBQ. Whatever you choose, make sure that there is plenty of water and juice for everyone. Consider limiting access to alcohol during the early hours of your barbecue to ensure that nobody pairs copious alcohol consumption with full sun exposure.
More by Sylvia Cochran