Outdoor entertaining when I can cook on the grill is my favorite part of warm weather evenings: Al fresco dining feels more festive and drinking, well, it’s just more fun outside. Grilling is typically easier than cooking in the kitchen, but grilling for a crowd can be a tad stressful. Second guessing cook times and temps, knowing what dishes can easily feed the troops—it can be a lot to think about when all you really want to do is fill up that margarita glass.
My advice? Keep it simple and rely on the grill for no more than two items that you can pair with a few prep-ahead or quick-cook sides. With these easy recipes for entertaining, you can focus on more of what you want: Having fun and eating well with family and friends.
A quick note before we get started: Be sure to pay extra close to attention the yield of these recipes and double or triple them depending on the number of guests for whom you are cooking.
Grilling for a crowd: Easy-peasy side dishes
* Corn on the cob: Here are 4 ways too cook corn on the cob, including on the grill.
* Grilled asparagus: Wash, trim, toss with a little bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and throw on the grill.
* Grilled portobello mushrooms.
* Grilled potatoes: Precook baby potatoes, season, and finish them on the grill.
* Grilled baguette slices: Rub with fresh garlic and butter (or, even better, make-ahead compound butter), grill, and try not to eat before others can have some.
* Salad: Dress up fresh greens with one of our favorite spring salad dressings or make the gorgeous Heirloom Tomato Corn Salad at One Hungry Mama (above).
Grilling for a crowd: Easy, crowd-pleasing recipes
Grilled Chicken for a Crowd
Good for: prep-ahead, quick-cooking, kids
Grilled Chicken for a Crowd at Cook the Story (above & very top) had me at “the easy make-ahead way.” Christine and I share a similar frustration with barbecue chicken: it always seems to induce stress in our husbands and, therefore, us. Timing can be tricky and it requires careful attention so that the skin doesn’t burn before the meat is fully cooked. Christine’s secret is to slowly cook the chicken in a low oven so that it’s nice and juicy, and then caramelize on the grill right before serving. In the words of Ina, how easy is that?
Kid-Approved Carne Asada Tacos
Good for: prep-ahead, quick-cooking, kids
Juicy, flavorful, and a cinch to make, the Kid-Approved Carne Asada Tacos at Momtastic will make one hell of a taco party. Fresh citrus, cilantro, and a touch of cinnamon and jalapeño (don’t tell the dragons) pair beautifully with the meaty flavor of flank steak. And taco parties are great because, at least in my world, the fresh toppings count as sides. You can go as homemade or store-bought as you like, but do everyone a favor and make your guacamole from scratch.
Chimichurri Shrimp Kabobs
Good for: prep-ahead, quick-cooking, non-meat eaters
The Chimichurri Shrimp Kabobs at Dash of Delicious are the perfect recipe if grilling for a crowd makes you uneasy. The make-ahead chimichurri sauce is what your friends will be talking about—it’s one of those sauces that’s easy but still makes you look like a badass cook. Completely seed the jalapeño–or use less–if you have mild leaning guests or you plan on sharing with kids who aren’t into spicy food yet. Skewer the shrimp that morning, and with a cook time of 5 minutes, you won’t have to be sweating over the grill all night.
Shrimp Boil Skewers
Good for: prep-ahead, quick-cooking, kid-friendly, vegetarian-adaptable
Or… you could go with the Shrimp Boil Skewers at Serious Eats for an all-in-one party on a stick. The shrimp, corn, sausage, and potatoes can all be prepped ahead of time and simply seasoned and cooked when the grill is nice and hot. Make a few skewers without sausage, or replace the fish and meat with bell peppers and Portobello mushroom chunks for a vegetarian option. A big bowl of seasoned rice is the perfect accompaniment.
Grilled Sausage with Peppers and Onions
Good for: quick-cooking, kid-friendly
There’s a reason why you can find simple fare like hot dogs and sausages sizzling in backyard barbecues and street fairs across America: they’re easy and deliciously satisfying for all ages. I love the Grilled Sausage with Peppers and Onions at Cravings of a Lunatic because it’s one of those non-recipe recipes. Kick up the fun factor by serving various small batch mustards if you can find them. We love the gourmet mustards from Green Mountain.
Ice Cream Sundae Bar
Good for: everything and everyone!
The Ice Cream Sundae Bar at The Inspired Room is perfect, except for maybe one thing: There’s no way I’m buying or filling those cute mason jars with ice cream (no matter what I tell myself). If you’re like me, here’s a tip: Portion ice cream ahead of time by freezing scoops in a muffin tray lined with colorful cupcake liners. You can bring out the muffin trays little by little as the kids and guests line up; no need to worry about extra ice or melting.