If you're hosting a cookout as a way to entertain guests, good choice! BBQ cooking recipes are favorites with just about everyone. BBQ cooking will make things a lot easier on you, too. It's always pretty easy to take charge of the grill or smoker. It seems that men especially like this type of cooking. Personally, I think this goes back to the caveman days, when the males hunted down wild game and cooked it over an open fire. Whatever the reason, take advantage of it! If you can get hubby or some other male to handle cooking the meat, that will be one less thing for you to have to do. Of course, you might want to make the sauce, yourself, by using some tasty BBQ cooking recipes.
If you have the meat taken care of, get help with the side dishes. I don't know how it is in your part of the country, but around here, guests always ask what they can bring to a party or get-together. Don't be shy. Of course, don't ask them to bring some complicated or expensive dish like lobster thermidor. Suggest they bring dishes like coleslaw, potato salad, pasta salad, or other cold foods. All you'll have to do is to take care of bread, beverages, and dessert.
Breads for cookouts is easy! Just split loves of French or Italian bread, spread them with butter, sprinkle on a little garlic powder or garlic salt, and wrap them in foil. The loaves can be warmed on the grill or in the oven.
For desserts, most of these can be made the day before. If you don't want to go to the trouble of baking, buy cakes, pies, and/or cookies at the bakery. Of course, ice box pies are easy to make, so you might want to consider a couple of those. If you choose to buy a pound cake or angel food cake, offer sliced fresh fruit and whipped cream for guests to help themselves to. You could set up a small area as a dessert bar. Include slices of cake, chocolate syrup, sliced strawberries, sliced peaches, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and whipped cream. Another cookout dessert idea is homemade ice cream. If you have an electric ice cream churn, homemade ice cream really isn't hard to make, and it won't require your constant attention.
The next thing you'll need to address is beverages. When we have an outdoor event where kids will be included, we set up three coolers. One is filled with canned soft drinks, bottled water, and ice. Another is filled with canned beer and ice. The third cooler contains juice boxes, Capri Sun drinks, and/or Mondo Coolers. Kids won't be constantly asking for someone to make them a drink - they can help themselves! Ice down all the drinks the morning of the party or the night before.
A few days before your holiday cookout, hit the dollar store or your local party store for paper plates, napkins, plastic spoons and forks, and plastic tablecloths. Eat outdoors on picnic tables or patio tables, and place large trashcans near each table or eating area. Cleanup will be a snap!
If you use these holiday ideas, your cookout will be fun and practically stress free. Your guests will pick up on that, too, and everyone will have a great time!