This time of year, every party's a barbecue, and the invitations often ask guests to bring something to throw on the grill. What's the appropriate etiquette here? Should guests expect to deliver their raw goods for the host to cook (even if food keeps arriving all day) or should they plan to take over the grill themselves? Does a host need to be the grill master, cooking everyone's frozen veggie burgers and raw shrimp, or should guests volunteer? Also, are there any rules surrounding what sorts of things you should bring to throw on a grill for a big party?
Curious how to handle this, Tired of Grilling
Dear Tired of Grilling,
With this kind of casual entertaining, there really aren't hard-and-fast rules. It depends greatly on common practice among a group of friends or within a geographic area. The size and location of the party plays into things too.
Often a bring-your-own-food event happens because there isn't so much a host as an organizer. A year-end party for the kids baseball team is one example that springs to mind, or an office get-together at a park not organized by the company but by co-workers who want to socialize. At these events, come prepared to cook your own, although I've found there is usually someone who either fancies themselves a grilling expert or uses being busy tending the flame to avoid talking to people (or both) who is more than happy to cook up stuff for everyone.
If you're thinking of throwing such an event, please be prepared to tend the grill. Guests are nice to offer to hop in and offer some relief, but as the host you do need to take up some of the labor of entertaining. And yet, because you've asked people to bring their own, if someone wants to cook their shrimp a certain way, you need to let them.
Honestly, I've never been to a party where there is a grill and there aren't plenty of people who would happily flip the burgers, but maybe that's just a sign that I'm hanging with the right crowd.
I'm curious what other people have to say on this one. Do you put together or attend lots of BYO grilling parties? Who cooks?
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About the Author: Molly Watson honed her ability to guide others in tricky situations by telling her little brother the best way to do everything. See what she has to say beyond dining at Ask a (Sensible) Midwesterner. Catch her work as a recipe wizard at Local Foods.