Check out these 5 tips for organizing a great barbecue kitchen

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If there’s one thing to love in summer, it’s barbecue. At no other time of the year can you walk through your neighborhood and smell the delicious grilled meat passing by. Then you walk another block, and there it is again. If you want to bring the barbecue home, there’s no better way to do it than a good old-fashioned summer barbecue. And we have five tips for making your kitchen the one everyone will come back to next year.

1. What type of barbecue will the contestants make?

Coal or gas? Smoked or open flame? Kansas City or Texas style? When you think of barbecue, you might have a specific image in your head, but not everyone comes to your party with the same idea. For some people, that might be exciting. You would see a diverse approach to the recipe that everyone cooks, but it would also be hard to judge. There is a big difference between smoked meat and grilled meat. You can encourage people to bring their own region-specific barbecue style, or you can standardize it.

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Whichever direction you go, you need to decide early. Competition is fun, but the most important part of a cooking contest is that the results are tasty. You want to give your contestants plenty of time to prepare, so let them know early if they’re allowed to bring a Memphis dry rub or if they have to make a Carolina mop sauce.

2. Choose the recipe

Now, that doesn’t mean you tell everyone exactly what to cook, but you should at least choose the cut of meat and a potential spending limit. These are two practical decisions you need to consider well in advance of the day to ensure everyone has an equal chance. Choosing the meat is one of those fun decisions you can make on your own or with input from others. Make sure you choose a relatively common cut but also delicious – shoulder, ribs or rump are good starting points.

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For the price limit, keep it within reason, but remember that the cheaper you go, the more creative your cooks can be. If your competitors only have $50 to spend, they have to choose between a quality cut of meat or higher quality ingredients. The ingredient price limit also prevents anyone from buying their way to victory. You might have amazing cooks, but it’s not really fair if someone drops wagyu beef on a grill when everyone else just arrived from Sam’s Club.

3. Decide who is on the list and what they bring

The guest list is important for any party, but for a barbecue, it is essential. There are two types of people who will come, other than your cooks: guests and judges. Guests can be anyone: friends, family, lucky colleagues. The important thing is that your guests know that they are going to be put to work. The grilled meat is excellent, but it’s not a complete meal. If you want sides, the best place to get them is a guest potluck. Make sure everyone contributes as part of the fun.

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Even if you’re just hosting the occasional cooking contest, judging is a big job. They must be confident in their opinion because food is controversial. Pay attention to someone who has barbecue experience. You want a little more informed opinion than “I liked it” and a little more articulate than “it was bad.” If your kitchen becomes an annual event, you could even have last year’s contestants be next year’s judges.

While you probably want the judges to make the final decision, that doesn’t mean the rest of your guests aren’t entitled to an opinion. For added fun, you can have an official winner and a meat of the people decided by a vote of the rest of your guests.

4. Provide the best barbecue equipment you have

Your competitors can bring their own tools, but they can’t have everything with them all the time. You don’t have to provide each cook with a separate grill, but you can certainly let them use the best of your equipment.

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This 30 Piece Ultimate BBQ Tool Set is the catch-all for the preparation of the barbecue. Anyone need a spatula? You got one with three gorgeous stainless steel edges. Anyone having trouble turning their meat? The long handles of these stainless steel tongs can keep their hands safe and their meat mobile. It even comes with a stainless steel salt and pepper shaker!

All tools are made from high quality stainless steel and fit in a canvas carry bag for quick set up. If you really wanted to go all out, you could standardize the equipment that all of your cooks have. Get one for each of them so everyone has an incentive to compete, tools to use, and a reason to feed yourself something really delicious.

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5. Have something else to do

Nobody likes to sit around and be hungry. Before and after cooking, organize fun games or party events. You want to keep your guests busy so your cooks aren’t distracted, and you also want to keep the energy going. Plan lawn games like horseshoes or football. Keep everyone busy before the meal so they’ll be good and hungry when the time comes.

Then, once the dust has settled and the winner has been chosen, plan some gentler activities. You can host a cocktail hour, break out some board games, or even roll out a big screen for an impromptu movie night in your backyard. Give people a chance to settle in, munch on leftovers, and celebrate the winners who may not have done much but cook for the past few hours.

Prices subject to change.

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