Details.com editor James Oliver Cury tackles controversial food-and-drink-themed etiquette issues every week.
Think cookouts are all about freedom - cook what you want, how you want, when you want? Yeah, sure, if you’re cooking for one. But if you’re hosting or attending any cookouts this season, and hope to see these people again in the future, you are bound by a surprising number of codes of conduct. Ironically, these issues come to the fore as Independence Day approaches.
Now’s the time to stare down any hot topics so you know where you stand on each. Below are the ten key questions you will inevitably need to ask your host, or answer for your guests, before a single coal or burner is lit.
1. Must I invite the neighbors?
Your next-door neighbors will know you’re having a cookout and they will have to endure the smells (hopefully good ones) and sounds (loud music, drunk revelers, the glorious hiss of beef hitting hot metal).
So you have to ask yourself: Do you want to get on their good side (or at least avoid their bad side)? And would you like to be invited to their party? Bottom line: No, you don’t have to invite anyone, but it’s way more complicated than, say, deciding if you’re obligated to invite your neighbors to your Proust reading group.
2. What should I wear?
Again, the default answer we’d all like to see is: Whatever you like, but there are two scenarios to consider. If you’re the host, remember that what you wear sets the tone. If you’re a guest, take a peek at the host’s Facebook page for pics of prior parties or just ask them what they recommend - there’s no shame in that. It’s better than wearing your old Great Adventure getup - concert tee and cut-off shorts if your hosts were thinking more Great Gatsby.
3. Is it best to bring meat, beer, or a side?
Some barbecue forums suggest that guests should play it safe by bringing side dishes like cole slaw, chips, guacamole, or dessert. That said, no one will cry foul if you show up with a six-pack of decent beer. But here’s the best answer: Ask your host (or as the host, be clear in your invite) about what’s needed. I use Evite.com when I host a party, so I can keep track of who’s coming and help folks decide what to bring, should they ask.
4. Can I bring my own sauce to a party?
Sure, but the unspoken suggestion with a move like this is that you are anticipating inferior options - and that’s kinda rude. Of course, if it’s a gift jar and you’re recognized as a barbecue master, it could be accepted as thoughtful or at least enthusiastic. Bring enough to share with everyone or don’t bring it at all.
5. How about my dog?
Not unless you ask first. If in doubt, don’t.
6. Is it wrong for me to tend the grill if I see the host is preoccupied or doing it wrong? (Can I flip a burger if he's not around?)
Unless the meat is literally burning, do not step in to save the day. Because, really, who the hell are you and why are you touching someone else’s stuff?
7. As a host do I have to offer a veggie option?
No, and you don’t have to have chairs or water or a clean bathroom either. Spend the extra five or ten bucks and spring for squash, cucumber, onion, asparagus or other vegetables, and you’ll not only be prepared when a vegetarian arrives, you’ll make an easy, excellent side dish for meat eaters, who might just learn how good grilled veggies actually taste.
While you’re at it, consider having fruit on hand too, like pineapple, peaches, or melon. And how about oysters, sardines or brownies or the grilled corn in the gallery above?
8. Will it bother the neighbors if I use my stinky/smoky charcoal grill...on the teeny patio of my apartment building?
If it’s OK with your building’s management, or your neighborhood association, then it’s OK to do. Of course, you’ll feel better if you invited the neighbors (see topic #1) and if you give them advance notice of your plans. If they still complain, then you have issues that extend beyond grilling etiquette (or perhaps you need to learn how to use your equipment). See also this telling rant.
9. The invitation says 4 p.m. What time should I get there?
In big cities, a 4 p.m. start time means: “Get here after 5 p.m. unless you don’t mind being the first one to arrive.” But it depends how long the event goes. Get there too late and you run the risk of missing out on the food altogether. How bothered will you be if they run out of brisket or buns? Ultimately, it’s a gamble and only you know what’s worse: Being early or hungry.
10. Can I bring up the fact that “grilling is not barbecue” to my hosts who think they’re fancy because they have a shiny electric Weber Genesis E-310?
No. Leave the politics of barbecue out of the backyard. (But feel free to argue them here.)
Got an etiquette question Cury can address? Share it in the comments below.
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Help! My neighbors stink at grilling!
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Risk a brisket on the grill this summer
A vegetarian may show up at your cookout. Do not be alarmed.
Rule of slaw
- All grilling advice and recipes on Eatocracy
Umm, I personally love all of those, but fish are not vegetables. Vegetarians don't eat fish. I've heard the term "pescetarian" for those who eat fish, but no other animals. I've thought about going in that direction myself sometimes.
sorry, this went in the wrong place – was meant for Iroy.
mexican corn is the bomb! ever since i made some at a cookout for friends, i've been required to make it at cookouts ever since. people loved it! you joker corn pros just need to try it.
Put your money where your big ignorant mouth is an cough up a recipe.
haha!! "ignorant!" hilarious. just follow the recipe they used, dork. it's pretty much on point.
People really need to be told this stuff ?
Arrive an hour AFTER the time stated?
Start time is START time. Not an hour later. I start cooking at the hour given or slightly before so that the food is ready within 30 min after the start time.
Did they really include 'what to wear' on the list?? They aint never been to no bbq.
Here's a good rule: If you say you're going to bring fruit salad, bring fruit salad, not fruit to prepare in your host's kitchen, using your host's utensils, etc. Nearly all my friends have done exactly that, including one friend who promised potato salad, showed up 2 hours late and started cooking potatoes in my pot which I had to wash in order for her to use it. There was no talking her out of it. In the end, I had to abandon her to attend to my other 20 guests who'd already eaten. Then, after she brought warm potato salad out to share with folks who were done eating and all about burning marshmallows on sticks, I had to clean up after her. WTF???
My god, that's my sister-in-law!
Great post! It is really inconvenient when people come over for a pot luck planning to put things together in my 1969 kitchen, built back when builders just assumed kitchens were going away and everyone would be doing Chicken Pot Pie from the supermarket. NO. This is a bigger rule than anything CNN posted.
... I have had people who have SEEN my kitchen still try to do this. Sigh.
Do NOT cook corn on the cob in the fashion described in this article and photos. Remove it from the husk. Baste it in butter. Put on some salt and peper lightly. Wrap it in tinfoil. Cook on the grill IN THE FOIL so it doesnt burn. Turn the corn in the foil half way and looks cooked. Perfect every time
you just haven't tried Mexican corn. sucks to be you.
Corn is best grilled with the husks on.
Oysters is a really bad suggestion in JULY.
I think that pretty much any of these and other like questions can be answered with "Ask the host".
That corn looks awful with those overcooked, dessicated kernels that look taffy chewy. Just peel the cobs, lightly oil them, put them over the medium-high coals, cover with wet husks, close lid, turn cobs a few times, done in 10 min or so. Also kernels should have a nice wet "pop" when you bite into them; not a flaccid squish like corn from a can (don't steam/boil cobs before grilling).
My parents would completely wrap the veges in foil. It kept the moisture in. No mention on wood chips.
Hey, JERK- WOMEN CAN AND DO grill. In fact, in my circle, I cannot recall the last time I saw a male grilling. So how about either go back to 1976 or get with the times and use gender neutral pronouns. You idiot.
6. Is it wrong for me to tend the grill if I see the host is preoccupied or doing it wrong? (Can I flip a burger if he's not around?)
You know he meant both. To critique because lack of gender neutral pronouns probably takes the winner of late for most "nitpicky."
I bet, man or woman, you probably don't get too many reinvites to these cookouts
It must be so hard for her, staggering through the world with all those chips on her shoulder. Someone should get her some guacamole.
I grew up on a dirt road....yes, REAL country....and every so often my mom would invite some friends over for a cookout. None of these "rules" even applied. We just invited our friends, they came and we all just hung out, had a nice meal. I think people often try to make things far more complicated than they need to be!
I often have bbq/grill out (yes, both. I know the difference) and I invite the neighbors I like, my vegetarian friends know there will be veggies and sometimes black bean burgers with a disposable grill mesh to grill them on (so no touching charred meat) and a few relatives with Celiac so gluten free hot dogs and brats are what we buy in general anyway, with sturdy lettuce leaves to use as buns, if desired, or on the hot dog or burger for those that do use buns. Beer, I provide some, people bring others to share. I also make kool aid for the kids and have plenty of soda and bottled water around. I do the grilling/smoking myself. My husband can grill, but cannot bbq/smoke.
Not really sure how a teaser related to cookout etiquette relates to a pictoral on how to cook corn to appeal to a certain demographic.
LOL...That is the worst way to make corn....Who is the clown that wrote this article.....Pull husk back...remove silk...wrap husk back around corn...soak in cold water for 10 min...throw on hot grill for 10-15 min...husk retains water and keeps corn moist and also make natural sugars come out of the corn....no butter needed....ITs AWESOME!
Yep. That's what I do. Except I use a little olive oil and salt and pepper. BOOM
The VERY FIRST question that MUST be asked is, how much beer do I get?
I always assume that however much alcohol you have on hand is how much you intended for me, personally, to consume.
Growing up, we never invited our neighbors and nobodies nose got bent. You only have to invite them if it's going to be a really big and noisy party. If you're particularly close friends with them, sure, but if it's only you and another family or two who don't live on the same block, it would probably be awkward for all involved.
Nobody invites me (good), and I wouldn't go if there was alcohol (beer or otherwise) anyway. Back in the day, both parents cooked (Dad in charge of the meat, Ma everything else). When I was old enough, I was expected to help even if I was at another BBQ if only to set the table and bring the salads outside from the kitchen. Real etiquette rule #1...ask what you can bring and what you can do to help?
I take exception with number six...I feel that I absolutely have to help cook, especially since I am more of a master griller than any of my friends. I consider it my duty to help, and usually my friends appreciate the benefit of my expertise.
Wow .... all that and your modest too? Impressive.
With a login name reminiscent of "Busy Body", it's not surprising he is full of himself. No wonder nobody asks him to help cook....
Where is it written that only guys are supposed to cook outside? Yet, us ladies cook the same dang food in a proper oven the rest of the year?
Talk about overdoing it. The only thing corn on the cob needs is lots of butter, salt and maybe pepper. If the corn is well grown, it will be sweet and juicy which adds to the taste. If it tastes bitter, it wasn't well grown or its old and should go in the garbage. You don't need all this extra stuff.
<- few up in a corn farming community.
Thank you Melissa for your down-on-the-farm expertise! I am just a Chicago girl but even I was sitting here laughing to myself over those pictures........a whole lot of work for a piece of corn! Hahaha! That is the beauty of beautifully ripened produce- you don't need much to allow it's natural goodness to speak for itself! : ))
Here's a statement from someone who probably only eats corn out of the can. Corn on the cob (we always got the sugar and butter kind once they were available. Everything tastes better from the grill including vegetables. Still no mention on using wood chips.
I always offer a veggie option, it's called "you can f*ck off!!"
I should not be laughing at this.
I cannot, however, say that I blame you.
These weren't 10 Commandments; they were 10 questions. The answers didn't even really make sense, especially if you come from a rural area. Perhaps it should have been retitled: "10 Dilemmas for the Urban Host," 'cuz really, the rest of us are just enjoying ourselves and our friends and a good meal.
I agree. This sounded more like etiquette for a cookout with strangers or distant acquaintances. If you are planning a simple cookout with friends or family, these are all questions that seem totally irrelevant.
Also, if you bring beer, common sense says to leave the remaining beer for the host and guest when you leave. Don't bring too much, don't bring too little, and always leave a couple.
Agreed. I usually will bring 2 6-packs when/if I bring beer. One six of something generic "for the masses" (Sam Adams, Miller 64, Michelob, or the like) and then something a little more upscale or 'uncommon' (Carlsberg, Grimbergen, Rochefort, etc.). I find that to be generally appreciated.
That's what I always thought too, Dustin. I had a cookout and a friend brought over a 30 pack and ice so I offered him one of my coolers. When he left he took the leftover beer AND my cooler. I laugh about it now.
Grilling has become more and more difficult as dietary needs are more prevelent then ever. I went out and bought myself a Hot Dog cart and now serve up Hot Dogs and Chilli for my parties. I always have a nice pasta salad and assorted sides as well. Parties are fun and I don't have to slave over a hot grill all day, worrying if the food is burning.
#7 is stupid. it's a BAR-B-Q. you're not obligated to make any vegetarian anything. you're barely obligated to have any side dishes. if you're a vegetarian going to a bar-b-q, you should expect to have to bring your own food or just hope there are enough side dishes to fill you, or else expect to go hungry, idiot.
Ditto for food allergies. BYOFood. As a considerate host, who has many vegan friends, I always have vegan and gluten-free food available, but if in doubt, it doesn't hurt to bring your own in a small cooler.
The only rules to a good BBQ are those of the Host/Hostess, they're opening their home to you. Be polite to them and their other quests, enjoy some good food, good drink and good company.
I have always known the people in the city do things different than country folk, but I had no idea that things have gotten so far out of hand that a man who wants to get outdoors & do some Grilling with friends has so much to consider. A few basic rules that will get you invited back are 1) Always tell the cook the food was great. 2) Always help serve & clean-up (Thank you Texas Mama) 3) Always ask what can I bring, if the host says whatever you want, bring something for his wife.4) serve yourself last.
You are the only person here I would willingly invite to my party, Mikey. You seem to have the "rules for being a good guest" down pat.
A gracious host sees to it that all of his or her guests are provided for (asking people to bring their own entree and drinks, as one commenter said she does, is unbelievably cheap). A good guest come with something nice in hand, be it a contribution to the meal or a gift for the host. The objective is to make guests feel welcome and hosts appreciated.
On the vegetarian issue: keep the smart a** snark to yourself (I'm talking to you, James Oliver Cury). If you resent vegetarians so much, don't invite them. A GOOD and GRACIOUS host provides a range of food that can be enjoyed by people with limited diets. If you need to know in advance about diet restrictions, ask in your (tacky) e-vites for guests to let you know when they rsvp. However you decide to handle this, do not make a big deal out of someone refusing grilled flesh at your party. I am vegetarian and have actually been served an empy plate at a dinner party because the hostess wanted to make a point.
If you are having trouble seeing vegetarianism as anything other than an affront to you and your grilling skills, try to remember that for some it is a religious practice to avoid meat.
Wow. Another angry vegetarian telling people how to act. So if you are having a dinner party should you make sure to have enough variety to feed carnivores, vegetarians, gluten free, diabetic, nut allergies, other allergies (seafood? Garlic?, Onions?), vegans, those on various diets (Atkins, South Beach, raw food....), low cholesterol diets or anyone with lupus?
Get real. I try to accommodate my guests as well as I can without making 13 different main courses because everyone micromanages their diet nowadays. My wife says I go too far out of my way trying to navigate through everyone elses eating trend (seriously, why is EVERYONE allergic to gluten all of a sudden?) How about, if you have a peculiarity in your eating habits, you pick around the food that is served without complaining, or stay home.
Well done, Dave. Well done.
It has to be a lack of protein. That can make people angry.
Dave, if you're having a dinner party and you invite someone FOR DINNER, it is reasonable for them to expect that you will have at least something on the menu they can actually eat. If your menu is mainly burgers, it's not hard to throw a couple of portabella mushrooms on the grill next to them. (Get extra, though, because you don't have to be a vegetarian to love them!)
An iron deficiency has been known to cause irritability. You should eat copious amounts of delicious red meat as soon as possible.
Go back and re-read what he wrote. Or did you see "No" and skip right to the comments? He's actually sticking up for vegetarians.
I don't believer your empty plate story. Nice try.
Thanks, Fiona, for amply illustrating why people find angry vegetarians to be PIAs at barbeques. If you have special needs, cover them yourself. Don't demand that the world accommodate your self-entitlements.
We always do a partial-potluck: we make a slew of side dishes – various make-ahead salads – and dessert. We request that our guests bring what they want to grill and what they want to drink. Those are the two things people are pickiest about, and this way, they can make their own choices.
This is the way to do it. Plus, with folks bringing their own meat it makes for many hands and much hilarity around the grill.
Rule #1: Know how to cook well and do it! If you get all of these other details right that is fine. But you gotta know what you're doing if you invite people over. I'd much rather have good ribs but be dressed a little different than have dry ribs that are stuck to the bone while feeling properly attired.
Also, when it comes to vegetarians it is good to have some sort of entree available to them so they get to participate in eating grilled food. But vegetarians should be reasonable about letting veggies be cooked on the same grill as the meat. I know some vegetarians who refuse to eat grilled egg plant unless you clean and sanitize the grill after meat was on it or you use an entirely different grill. Come on, if a little drip of charred fat from the previous patty is still on the grill that doesn't make you a heretic for eating a vegetable that is then grilled in that same spot. Nor does it mean you will experience all of the health risks associated with a diet heavy in red meat. Everyone can be accommodating.
Gee, you are free with the judgement, Zac. Suppose the vegetarian who you think is too fussy for not wanting charred fat and blood on his veggies is Hindu. Dies that help you get it? Because it's really not that hard.
No one expects you to run two grills. How about preparing grilled veggies under the broiler and preparing them as a room-temperature dish?
How about not expecting everyone to be as into your way of life as you are. You know damn well if you invited a bunch of people over for dinner you would not cook a steak just for them.....right? No, they would have to put up with your dolphin shaped tofu loaf. You are very me-centric.
Don't worry about it, Fiona. You probably wouldn't want to go to these guys' parties anyway. How about you and I get together for portabella burgers and veggie kabobs? I'm not a vegetarian but I think we'd get along fine.
Ann, you seem to be a reasonable human being. You would probably get along with everyone here. From past experience, Fiona does not follow your rational sensibilities.
In big cities, a 4 p.m. start time means: “Get here after 5 p.m. unless you don’t mind being the first one to arrive.”
Um... NO! If I say be here at 4:00pm then I expect you to arrive between 3:45 – 4:00 Showing up an hour late is RUDE! and chances are you will not be welcome to stay.
Yeah, this one really toasts my buns! I would even say 3:45 – 4:15. I usually put out snacks around 3:45 in case somebody arrives early. I'm also not waiting to serve my mains until everyone arrives. If you're an hour late, you're probably going to miss out. As for traffic, it happens...so plan for it. For me, it's far easier as a guest to arrive early and greet everyone that shows up than to suffer the embarrassment of showing up late and having a party full of people staring at you as you walk in.
Whoever wrote this article is confusing a "party" with a "dinner party". For a party you show up "fashionably late"; for a dinner party you show up on time – latest – else risk not getting fed at best.
I've been complaining to my husband all day about how rude it is for the same friends to be late over and over again! That "show up an hour" late run is 100% off base. Oh yeah, I'm from one of America's biggest (and hint: finest) cities. Your time is NOT more important than mine.
In MO, IL, and IN 4:00 means about 4:01 to 4:30, at least in my circles. If they wanted there before 4:00, they would have said so.
It's time for a Texas tip or too.
Here in Texas, it is considered quite friendly to bring a bag of ice. Nice surprise for the host. Especially if the ice is from Sonic and it's nice and crushed and you have a big bottle of tea or lemonade or if children are attending...snowcone syrup. It's just a nice thing to do. With cups. Or just bring the ice...
And it's also considered helpful, if you just walk up quietly and say, "Put me to work, what can I do to help?"
That might mean filling cups or spraying sunscreen on kids or whatever. But offer to help. Don't just sit there staring at the feller at the grill.
We have a neighbor who excitedly invites everyone to his BBQ's or Q's and we all go and it's great fun. BUT, you know that if he invites you at 5pm, you're not going to eat until 10pm. Why? BECAUSE HE DOESN'T LIGHT HIS MESQUITE WOOD OR CHARCOAL UNTIL, OH, AROUND 6 OR SO AND YOU'RE EATING RAW MEAT IF YOU DON'T WAIT UNTIL 10PM. HE TAKES FOREVER. Sorry for screaming, but have your coals nice and hot BEFORE guests arrive...have a test run if you must...but manning or womaning the grill is all about timing and you can always add coals, but you can't rush them...
That would be two. HAAAA. Not too. Or maybe too...too much advice on grilling. haaa.
Sing it TexasMama! I think we must be kin.
I agree TMama. I bbq for friends all the time. When friends ask what they can do, I usually say "...you can go get me a beer, and get one for yourself while you're at it, then enjoy yourself". Always ask to help...you will almost never end up working, but always ask.
One of my rules when throwing a BBQ party is: Never invite picky eaters. You gradually figure out who these people are – they whine and complain that they can't eat this and they can't eat that or they critique every dish that is present – even the ones they don't eat! So, if any of you stop getting invites to cookouts, well... try to be a better guest and don't give the host a hard time.
I'll be the first to admit that I don't really know what I'm doing when grilling. I clean the grill, cook, then clean again, and hope the food isn't over/under done.
I always welcome people telling me I'm doing it wrong. How will I learn otherwise?
I, on the other hand, am Argentinian and I'm really good at both grilling and BBQing almost anything, so my friends often will ask me to tend the grill for a few minutes, and they often forget about it and I end up cooking the whole thing. I don't mind it as long as they bring me a glass of wine or a good beer :-) but sometimes I just like to sit down and chat, specially if I dressed nice thinking I was not going to be doing all the work.
In the first place "Who are u to be an authority" to make these ten rules of barbecueing . There are no such rules in doing so as long the food is cooked, presentable, edible during serving ===everything is ok regardless how you cook your food. The dog is out of question. Dogs are animals and they shouldn't be included where people having enjoyment. Time of arrival is crucial and it should be considered serious because if the invitation is 4 pm if you are decent person you should commit your group to arrive on time or else you will be eating almost left over food and besides the host is little bit upset with you for being late had missed host food service presentation time. Coming late means loss of respect in my book.
dang brotha', don't botha to bees invitn' me!!
I have hosted a few Barbcue's, I think to tell you that CA is the one with the Best BBQ sauce. It does not use Pesticides, it doesn't use coal fire and plus Webber is a great grill, I have a magic Grill. It doesn't pollute the Eco System. Vegitarians are welcome at my house and plus they can use what's left over for Lunch and they will be back for more. I have served food like that and it disappears real fast. So Good BBQ Pros and Cons. No use of Foul Language. I usually toss that person out fast do it quickly and Quietly without anyone noticing. I have plenty of Beer.
What a worthless flaming turd of an article. Looks like becoming a writer isn't really difficult after all.
I'm gonna have to ask whoever asked Question#2 to surrender their Man-Card.
Check E-vite.com for what to bring? Check Facebook for clothing tips? It's a cookout. F**k you for digitizing it. Grab a dessert, put on some casual clothes, and fuc***g go.
Amen, Brother. Amen.
#7. As a vegetarian it is very considerate to offer a portabello mushroom or eggplant to put on the grill, but dont feel obligated. We know we are in the minority and will gladly bring our own. If not, we are usually content to eat sides...all while secretly judging you and your fat bellies! haha ;)
How about fish? If you live on the coast, or where there's good fishing, a nice fresh catch of whatever swims would work for me (but please remove the bones for me first). Swordfish (when it's on sale) is a favorite, so's haddock, rainbow trout.
Part II of my response:
6: I'll ask the host if he or she needs help flipping things. I will never say I know a "better" way. That's condescending and it is THEIR party. Yes, if they get distracted, I'll save things from burning, and have done so (and was thanked). Otherwise it is their show.
7: I think veggies are great at a grill party. I also do have a few vegetarian friends and I love the challenge. I think a good diversity of food at a party helps make the party. But, I will note, if vegetarians want TVP options, they can bring their own hexane-purified food. I will grill it, but not provide any money towards the purchase. (Most of my vegetarian friends prefer real food, fortunately).
8: Does not apply, here.
9: Anywhere from 4 pm to 5 pm. On time or 30 minutes or ALMOST an hour late. Otherwise drop me a line that you have to be late. I'm not in a big city.
10: "Grilling is not BBQ" - no, it isn't, but I leave that for online academic discussions, not around the grill, in face. Besides you get a lot of folks that say, say, only Kansas City BBQ, or only Texas BBQ, or only Carolina BBQ is the Real Thang, and I'd rather just simply have fun without academia while outside gnoshing down!
1: You only need invite the neighbors if A) you are good friends, B) you are having a LARGE and noisy cookout (mine tend to be small and intimate, and there are enough trees between me and them, that I can base my decision on item A).
2: I wear casual comfort wear like shorts, unless the invite specifies other. This has always worked.
3: Bringing sides seems to be best (without consultation). For grill food, you never know if they have enough grill space in advance. Depending on the party, maybe wine or beer, but I prefer to do sides since I am driving.
4: I have never done this.
5: I would never bring a pet without first asking, and I would never sound put out if the answer is NO. Nor would it affect my decision to attend or not. I don't take the critter to work, after all, and for most of us that is 8 hours a day or more gone from home.
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