The Game Plan: Long Weekend

The Game Plan: Long Weekend

The coolest hosts don't have a trick up their sleeves. They have a game plan.

Long-weekend gatherings during this time of year are all about the grill. And that's really the only heat you want to be feeling when you're host of the big day. By following our game plan, you'll sail into the event like a seasoned pro, with time to kick your feet up before your guests arrive (gasp!). Follow this check list to make sure things come together easily.

Two weeks before - or even more

  • Plan your menu. Consider things like the size of your grill before you commit to cooking everything on it. You may want to plan on a few Best-Served-Cold Appetizers so you can keep the crowd happy while you flip burgers. And if you really want to impress your guests, check out these 5 things you probably didn't know you could grill.
  • Pull the cover off your barbecue and check it. If this is the first event of the season, you might even want to do a practice run to make sure it's running smoothly after that long winter. Grill a batch of these Mixed Grill Peppers and eat them on salads and pastas all week.
  • Pull out your barbecue tools from the back of the shed and make sure you're stocked with charcoal and wood or propane.

A week before - or even more

  • Write your shopping list, including any food and non-food essentials you might need: condiments for burgers, patio-appropriate glassware (we're big fans of mason jars ), mosquito coils and hey, why not drink umbrellas?!
  • Think about serving pieces and pick up or borrow anything you may not already have, including platters for grilled vegetables and a pitcher for that punch.
  • Prepare anything you can make ahead and freeze. Fun and frozen desserts like Stefano's Key Lime Ice Pops are perfect make-ahead treats for a casual backyard event.

Three days before

  • Shop for everything except the ingredients that need to be purchased fresh.
  • Plan your music playlist and get the outdoor stereo rigged up.
  • Make any homemade condiments you'll be serving like ketchup, salsa verde for this Seafood Mixed Grill, or the dipping sauce for this grilled chicken.

Two days before

  • Get any prep work out of the way like making the pizza dough if you're throwing that on the grill.
  • Set out your patio furniture.
  • Plan where the bar station will be. Make sure you've got an ice bucket or cooler if you'll be keeping the drinks outside.

One day before

  • Shop for any ingredients that need to be purchased fresh.
  • Chill the beer, sparkling wine, or spirits for your cocktails.
  • Marinate meat that can take a 24-hour soak, like this Giant T-Bone Steak.
  • Wash vegetables so they're ready to prepare. With most vegetables, you can even prepare further by cutting them and storing them covered with wet paper towel, sealed in an air-tight container.

Two hours before

  • If you're serving a drink in a pitcher, mix that up now.
  • Begin assembling the dishes.
  • Shape your burgers and keep them in the fridge.

An hour before

  • Finish assembling any last-minute dishes.
  • Fill up the ice station.
  • Set out the mosquito coils, napkins and cups.

  • 30-45 minutes before

  • Turn on the music.

  • Fire up the grill.
  • Put on your barbecue apron and pour yourself a drink. You deserve it! You're done with time to spare for soaking up some backyard rays before your guests arrive.

Follow our game plan and your backyard bash will be a breeze. Now all you need are the recipes below:

Drinks

Fresh Berry Sangria
Stefano's Spiked Lemonade
Classic Piña Colada
Pineapple Rum Punch
Classic Margarita

Food

Mexican Grilled Corn
Grilled Corn with Chive Butter
Grilled Shrimp Tacos
Grilled Figs with Amaretto
Grilled Hanger Steak with Parsley Chimichurri
Grilled Seafood Salad
Grilled Cheeseburgers with Smoky Bacon
Grilled Bratwurst with Warm Cabbage & Apple Slaw
Grilled Sardines with Italian Salsa
Grilled Pizza with Ham and Mushrooms
Greek Meatballs
Gouda-Stuffed Turkey Burgers
Lamb Burgers with Feta and Mint Spread
Nacho Cheese Burgers