Michelle Davis and Matt Holloway are Thug Kitchen, the New York Times best-selling authors of Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a F*ck, Thug Kitchen: Party Grub, and Thug Kitchen 101: Fast as F*ck. They write occasionally for TASTE about health, cooking and how to avoid food poisoning your backyard BBQ guests.
‘Tis the season for sunburns, cervezas and cookouts. From backyard BBQs to block parties, summer means cooking and eating outside with people you only mildly enjoy and, of course, mosquitoes. Worst of all? Most of your friends can’t cook for shit. When it comes to summer party food, it’s usually just a bunch of prepackaged bullshit from the store, and that just ain’t right. Parties are about having a good time, not about eating a bunch of garbage that you’re going to regret, like jars of onion dip and limp hot dogs. There’s no reason to let your next BBQ get loaded down with trans fats, artificial everything, and a shitload of sodium. That’s why we’re here: to keep you from suffering with subpar summer snacks at your next party. Never again. Here are a couple rules to keep in mind when it comes to throwing an outdoor bash.
1. If you’re hosting, then you’re in charge of the main dish
You’d think this would be obvious, but if we get invited to one more party where we’re expected to bring everything for the grill plus drinks, we’re gonna loose our fucking minds. That’s not a guest, that’s a roommate. If you’re hosting, then you’re in charge of whatever the main dish is gonna be. THIS SHIT IS NON-NEGOTIABLE. Can’t cook? Don’t host, motherfucker.
2. Don’t give people food poisoning
Again, obvious, but people are damn reckless. Don’t leave that mayo-covered potato salad and pasta out in the sun for hours unattended. Wash your fucking produce. Like, wash that shit twice. Make sure there’s enough ice to keep perishables cold. If you’re cooking meat, but you’re brushing that chicken on the grill with the liquid you just marinated it in, we’re gonna come over and pour that bacteria bathwater right down your goddamn throat. Avoid cross-contamination for all your non–meat eating guests too; meaning, don’t use raw meat tongs all over the corn and other veggies. Otherwise you’re gonna have guests wrecking the bathroom from the gut grenades you’re serving up.
3. Feed people before they get too sloppy
From the jump of the party you gotta have all the food out, or at least cooking within an hour. Nobody hesitates when it comes to day drinking at a BBQ. It starts with jokes about cracking beers at 10 a.m. but ends with blacking out by 4 p.m. No amount of Ruffles can save your ass when your uncles get drunk because you took two hours trying to figure out how to light the grill. A hungry, drunk crowd will turn on you real quick, so don’t set yourself up for failure. Prep everything ahead of time and start cooking when people are showing up, otherwise shit will hit the fan later.
Honestly, that’s really all you need if you’re hosting. People don’t care about decorations or shit like that. They want free food, good company and cold drinks—so if you’ve got those bases covered then you’re gonna kill it. But maybe you’re a guest and not the host—what the fuck are you supposed to do then? We’ve got only two rules for that.
1. This is about community, so don’t show up empty-handed.
It’s not your party, but BBQs and block parties are peak communal dining—so you gotta carry your weight. You got lots of choices from napkins to coleslaw, so check with the host and find something to match your budget. You’re a grown-ass adult and showing up with nothing is not an option. The only thing worse than bringing nothing is bringing a single serving–size bag of chips to eat alone while asking the host when the food is gonna be ready. Yes, someone actually did that to us—she knows who she is and she hasn’t been invited back.
2. You’re in charge of your own diet.
Watching calories? Gluten-free? You won’t eat anything that casts a shadow? Whatever diet you’re subscribing to these days, it’s on you to bring food to eat if standard summer grilling food like burgers and potato salad won’t cut it. Your friends and family don’t give a damn about your food choices when you expect to be catered to. So bring a big bowl of something like a pasta salad or a shitload of lil’ sandwiches for yourself dressed up as a side dish for the whole party and just be grateful if anything else on the table works for your diet. Trust us, we’re vegan as fuck. Get over yourself and get cooking.
No matter your role at the party, if you help cook some homemade food and act like a decent person then you’re gonna have a grill-out to remember. Need some help with the menu? Whip up a batch of BBQ Bean Sliders with Celery Seed Slaw from our book Thug Kitchen: Party Grub and show people you’ve got some goddamn standards. Need a dope side? Here’s the recipe for grilled corn, ‘cause we can’t just leave you hanging like that. Buy the book though, shit is more lit than a BBQ pit.