How to Organize A Potluck Barbeque

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Whether it's for a family reunion or a neighborhood block party, the potluck barbeque is a great way to have a meal together, sample everyone's best summer dish and minimize the stress for the host or hostess of cooking and providing a meal for a large crowd. Here are a few tips to have a smooth potluck barbeque.

Things You'll Need

  • Lists for planning guest list and menu
  • Barbeque and Utensils
  • Thank-you Gifts
  • Extra Utensils for Serving and Platters for Serving.
  • First Aid Kit (for injuries)
  • Plan your menu. Plan to ask your invited guests if they have a specific dish in mind or if they would like a suggestion. It's a good idea to have a loose menu plan so that you don't end up with too many salads and no meat or too many desserts and not enough beverages. Split the menu into sections so you can ensure you have enough:
    -main dishes
    -salads
    -desserts
    -beverages
    -equipment such as paper plates, cups, cutlery and napkins.

  • Offer your guests the ability to choose what they would like to bring. If you have too many of one dish, don't be afraid to ask a guest who is a close friend or relative if they wouldn't mind bringing something else. Your party can only withstand a certain number of potato salads. If a guest can't decide what they will bring, ask them to at least provide you with a category for planning purposes.

  • Give your guests who claim to be unable to cook the opportunity to contribute drinks or equipment to the party so that they are still pitching in but don't feel that they have to cook. Tell them it's perfectly fine to bring store-bought food as well. While homemade is nice, it's better to make your guests feel welcomed despite their lack of culinary talent.

  • Make labels with your guests' names on them and label the bottom of each dish in order to label their bowls or serving dishes so that if a dish is left behind after the party, you know who to return it to.

  • Ask guests to label food with allergenic ingredients in the case of dishes with nuts. If you have any guests who are highly allergic to nuts or other food such as shellfish or eggs, ask all your guests to label their dish with the ingredients. You can use small place cards in front of each dish to also identify the name of the dish and who made it so people can ask that person for a recipe or can pay their compliments.

  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold to minimize the risk of spoilage or food poisoning. Many potluck organizers will equip their party table with many large bowls of ice to place salads containing mayonnaise in. A power outlet outdoors for the plugging in of buffet servers or crock pot slow cookers is a good idea as well to keep food safe and flavorful.

  • Put different types of dishes on different tables with plenty of serving spoons if possible so people who want to merely top up their drink don't have to wait in line with those serving themselves and to minimize congestion or cross-contamination of hot and cold or main and dessert dishes.

  • Clear clutter several times throughout the party to minimize the mess. Ask a friend or co-host to help you periodically with refilling needed items and clearing trash. By placing one or two garbage bins in the food area, many guests will help clean up during the party as well.

Tips & Warnings

  • Have extra platters available for guests who forget to bring them.
  • Supply plenty of food storage bags so guests can share leftovers with one another.
  • Consider a thank you gift to give guests for attending. A small token of appreciation is a good idea, especially because you have asked guests to bring food with them.
  • Have activities planned for kids or for guests so the bbq is about activities as well as food. You can find plenty of party game ideas online.
  • If alcoholic beverages are consumed at the party, be prepared to help guests get safely home or stay overnight if they are unable to drive. Ask guests that are drinking to give you their car keys at the beginning of the night.

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