Grilling Big for Labor Day

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Labor Day is coming up. Those of us lucky enough to have outdoor living spaces will undoubtedly find people gathering on our patios this weekend (whether we invite them or not!). Labor Day is one of those holidays where we simply plan to grill big.

What’s “grilling big?” It’s taking a simple meal for a family of four and multiplying it to feed forty. If you haven’t risen to this challenge yet, have no fear. Any small grilling practices can go big. But you may want to take this opportunity to go really big and cook something that would seem crazy to do for a weeknight family dinner.

The typical foods for big parties are hot dogs and hamburgers (turkey and veggie burgers too). These old stand-bys are especially great when hosting a lot of children. Kids like serving themselves; burgers and hot dogs are easy for little hands to manage. Buns, chips and side dishes are great items to assign to guests who insist on bringing something to the party.

The adults, though, would most likely welcome some “wow” after a long, hot summer of typical BBQ fare. Think of meals in terms of scale. What can you make that’s physically big? Ask your local butcher for recommendations or search the web for large main meals.

A whole hog, for example is an amazing main dish many people haven’t ever seen in person but is very simple to cook. Now, we’re not talking getting a 300-pound West End Fair winner; get one that fits on your grill or spit, 50 pounds or so, depending on the size of the crowd. A whole pig takes time to cook, but it’s a stick-it-in-there-and-wait, easy-peasy meal that can feed four families at once. The local butcher can help you choose a good one and give you insider tips.

Whole birds bring “big” to your picnic. Make a few whole chickens at once. You can smoke them or try out the “beer can chicken” fad. Search Pinterest or other social apps for recipes for “easy beer can chicken.” Look through the top-rated recipes and go for it!

A large rack or two of ribs can definitely invoke awe from guests. We’re accustomed to seeing ribs presented in small batches. You may have to construct a tray out of cardboard covered with tin foil to hold it, but imagine how amazing an entire, uncut rack of ribs would look on the table!

If over-the-top dishes aren’t for you this time, you can still make the meal memorable by presenting easy-to-make-for-the-masses foods that aren’t as common. Pulled pork sandwiches are crowd-pleasers, and you can add your own personal flair to them and offer up a “sauce bar” Steak sandwiches are another option. You can get chopped steak at the grocery store but if your budget allows, ask the butcher for the good stuff. Rib eye steak can be sliced thinly enough to eat on a roll. A small-but-big-punch dish is kebobs - meat cut in cubes, marinated, skewered with vegetables and/or fruits then grilled. Kebabs can get pretty fancy. The bonus is they are easily served - one kebab per plate. Stack them on a center tray and allow guests to serve themselves.