BBQ in a park - sounds simple enough right?
April 14, 2009 1:10 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to host a recurring BBQ/picnic at a local park for around 10 people. I've never done this before. What do I need to know?

Some specific questions:

1. There are BBQ grills/pits at my local park. Nothing fancy, just a grate over a metal box. I have seen people cooking on these but it doesn't look very hygienic. How do I cook safely?

2. What kinds of entertainment go well at a park? Kites, soccer, football - anything else I'm not thinking of?

3. What are some good side dishes that complement burgers and hot dogs?

4. Anything else I should know about organizing BBQ/picnics at a park?
posted by abdulf to Food & Drink (33 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
1. Bring a wire brush and/or heavy-duty tinfoil.

2. Frisbee.

3. Potato salad.
posted by jon1270 at 1:16 PM on April 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Depending on whether or not you and your party is interested in consuming adult beverages you should see your local rules and laws regarding as such (if you are at all concerned).

Agree with potato salad, and bring chips.

Maybe you could set up badminton?
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 1:19 PM on April 14, 2009

3. Baked beans, potato salad, cole slaw(all pre-made or store bought, of course). You could make smores over the coals after the meat is done cooking. Make sure to have plenty of condiments, and a wide variety of drinks for your guests.

4. You might want to check with your city and see if you can reserve the park, or an area in the park, for your party. Even if it's technically required, you may be able to have your party without obtaining the permission, but if you have reserved it, then you have the right to ask anyone using the equipment/area to vacate if you have the area reserved.
posted by owtytrof at 1:20 PM on April 14, 2009

Take whole, unshucked ears of corn, soak them in water, wrap them in foil and throw them on the grill for about 30 minutes. It's the best corn on the cob you'll ever eat.
posted by kimdog at 1:21 PM on April 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

You may also need a permit to use the space, depending on where you are... go around the area and check for signage.. if there are local laws to be followed or permits required, all info should be posted somewhere, or check your town/city/village website.
posted by MattScully at 1:22 PM on April 14, 2009

Watermelon. Also grilled corn on the cob: prep by peeling back husks, removing silk, rubbing with butter, salt and pepper, replace husks, yum!
posted by teragram at 1:24 PM on April 14, 2009

2) Ladder Golf.
posted by studentbaker at 1:36 PM on April 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

2. Bocce.

3. Try the corn thing.
posted by box at 1:42 PM on April 14, 2009

2. Washers=awesome. I also recommend a Frisbeeā„¢ as well as a football.

3. Definitely some chips, perhaps with some ranch dip. Fruit salad is great in the summer. Just make sure you give it some time to sit after mixing so all the juices can get together and make sweet love.
posted by friendlyjuan at 1:43 PM on April 14, 2009

If you are new to cooking over charcoal, get one of those chimney-with-a-handle gadgets to help start the charcoal (they're pretty cheap). Start the coals ~45 minutes before you expect to eat. This allows 20 minutes from time of ignition for the coals to be ready for cooking, and another 10-12 minutes to actually cook the burgers and dogs.
posted by mosk at 1:53 PM on April 14, 2009

Get a churn and hand-crank some ice cream - everyone gets a turn at the crank. If not, there may be AC power around someplace and an electric church could probably be set up.

Whether you do ice cream or not, bring plenty of ice!
posted by jquinby at 1:53 PM on April 14, 2009

1. I've used these grills many times without health consequence. Get the fire nice & hot and scrape off as much crap as you can. Invest in a charcoal chimney to start your coals -- much better than lighter fluid & no nasty smell or taste.

2. Frisbee, football, softball/baseball + a few gloves.

3. Some of my favorite things to grill include: asparagus, green & red bell peppers, thinly sliced sweet potatoes. These go well with anything, and are a little healthier than your typical chips'n'dip. You can prep ahead of time by snapping the tough ends off the asparagus, slicing the peppers into ~3" thick wedges, and slicing the sweet potatoes. Toss everything in a plastic container with a bit of olive oil, salt & pepper. The asparagus & peppers take about 10-12 minutes, maybe a little longer for the potatoes. Beers.

4. If you're having this for a bunch of people, often what we will do is "everyone bring a dish to share and BYOmeat/veggie burgers" If you are hosting, perhaps you can provide buns & condiments, or everyone can just take turns bringing meats to grill.

Re: reserving shelters -- my town typically charges like $10-15 to reserve a shelter, and they are quite large for what you'd be needing for 10 people. Usually we've had success just using one of the grills in the middle of the park w/o a shelter, and it hasn't been an issue to get a few picnic tables. YMMV depending on how busy your local park is.
posted by sararah at 2:01 PM on April 14, 2009

Veggie kabobs are a good compliment to meat and allow your veggie friends to eat too.
posted by chairface at 2:08 PM on April 14, 2009

The grills are plenty hygenic. You can clean them with a ball of tinfoil if you need to.

Bocce rocks. They may have a horseshoe setup. Kites can be good.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:14 PM on April 14, 2009

do not use the fast start charcoal get the plain stuff. & use the chimney thing. Kiabasa & brauts. cheese & crackers. chicken legs.
posted by patnok at 2:41 PM on April 14, 2009

Potato salad:

8 or 10 redskin potatoes
3 or 4 eggs
bunch of green onions
1 lemon
mustard (any kind you like)
salt and pepper to taste.

Cook your potatoes, boil your eggs, chop your onions.
Mix with lemon juice and a little zest, chopped potatoes and eggs, onions, mayo, mustard, salt and pepper. Chill.

As for the park grill, fire that thing up and let the heat burn off what ever was on it from last week. Then just brush it off with a grill brush and get to cookin'

This site has some great BBQ recipes, some might work for a park grill.
posted by nola at 2:53 PM on April 14, 2009

Scout out your preferred reserved spot first for bathroom facilities.
posted by Morrigan at 3:01 PM on April 14, 2009

2. Hula hoops.

4. Make sure it's advertised as a "bring something" barbecue. You'll share the costs (yay!) and be panic-free if someday 15 or 20 people are showing up.
posted by whatzit at 3:05 PM on April 14, 2009

Oh, and if you want to dominate the BBQ, either slow cook a pork shoulder or make a good chicago dog.
posted by craven_morhead at 3:27 PM on April 14, 2009

Bring some baby wipes or "wet wipes" to wipe off yuck.

Some sort of bug dope, and a homemade hornet/wasp trap, since the little buggers love to ruin picnics.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 3:40 PM on April 14, 2009

Thirding the charcoal chimney - great device. The 426 five-star reviews (out of 462) are well-earned.
posted by DavidNYC at 3:42 PM on April 14, 2009

Baby wipes.
posted by hermitosis at 3:42 PM on April 14, 2009

Don't forget litter bins both for recycling and food waste, and extra bin bags for the tidy-up afterwards... it's a public space afterall. Oh, and try to ensure chicken bones don't get left around where they might splinter in a small animals throat :)

Lot's of ideas of things to cook on wooden bbq skewers here
posted by dirm at 4:01 PM on April 14, 2009

3. Pasta and bean salad, pitta bread and dips, cherry tomatoes, peppers to cut up, fruit that doesn't need cutting up, other snacks to tide people over if they're early or late and miss the BBQ proper.

4. Make sure that there are public toilets somewhere in the vicinity (and bring toilet roll just in case they run out). Don't forget a bottle opener / corkscrew / knife (or a swiss army knife / leatherman to cover all bases). Bring more plastic (reusable) glasses, plates, knives and forks than you think you'll need - you'll use them. Cool box - be ruthless - keep it for things that you can't eat or drink slightly warm. If you keep food in the shade, you'll be okay. Rose wine tastes better warm than white wine does. And definitely get everyone to bring something!

Enjoy! If it's something that is going to turn into a regular event, you'll figure out what works and what doesn't...
posted by finding.perdita at 4:43 PM on April 14, 2009

Make sure you keep any mayo-based side dishes cold until just before serving. You would hate to be known as the guy who gave the whole group food poisoning.

Soccer is always fun at a park, as is frisbee. Bad minton would be awesome if you have a set.

No lawn darts.
posted by JenMarie at 5:46 PM on April 14, 2009

Oh yeah, and maybe bring something to play music (ipod or boombox).
posted by JenMarie at 5:48 PM on April 14, 2009

For desert, take unpeeled bananas, cut them lengthwise, not all the way through, stuff them with chocolate and put them on the barbecue until the chocolate melts. Then you have yummy gooey chocolate and bananas!
posted by carolr at 5:49 PM on April 14, 2009

Response by poster: For the chimney starter thing - how do I dump the coals onto the park grill? The grate can't be moved aside, so I would have to empty them out horizontally?

This is what I'm working with.
posted by abdulf at 6:35 PM on April 14, 2009

From the looks of that pic, it appears that you can move the grate vertically. Hopefully you can get the grate high enough that pouring out the coals isn't too awkward. It may be difficult, though, if you can't just dump the chimney upside down - I've used those sorts of grills, but never with a chimney.

The chimney still might be worth the investment. I think most folks consider the price eminently reasonable, and even if it doesn't work with the park grills, if you ever do any grilling with an ordinary BBQ, you'll be glad you own it.
posted by DavidNYC at 6:59 PM on April 14, 2009

For fruit salad, try out rujak, a spicy/sour/sweet fruit salad from Indonesia. It uses pineapple, cucumber, apple, mango, banana, and, well, other forms of fruit as they are available. The flavoring involves chili, shrimp paste (roast the shrimp paste, it's not safe to eat it raw), palm sugar syrup and tamarind paste. It's fantastic, and a bit out of the ordinary.

As for potato salad, try one with apples. It gives it a nice crispness inside the softer potato.

Kebabs are good for bbq. You want to avoid messy or hard to eat food due to limited clean-up facilities. Tandoori chicken, lamb marinated with balsamic vinegar and rosemary/basil/thyme, or even fajita on a stick (chicken or pork with lime, tequila, cumin, chili pepper, garlic, oregano, alternated with bell peppers and onions) works well for sliding the food off of the skewer onto grill warmed tortillas.

Also, last thing, white bread. Toast made over the embers of a dying fire is one of the greatest tastes/mouthfeels I've ever experienced. It's fantastic.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:10 PM on April 14, 2009

A pair of heavy duty tongs are useful to have in conjunction with the chimney fire starter thing too - you can use them to place the coals once you've gotten them under the grill. Also, maybe after you've been doing this for a bit, consider investing in a dutch oven. Easy to make impressive desserts for a group - one of my favs is a couple of jars of applesauce dumped in the bottom and then sprinkle a box of ginger bread mix over the top. Don't mix or stir. Pop the top on and set it over some of your hot coals and also add coals to the top and let it cook while you make and eat dinner. If I remember correctly, each hot coal is equal to 25 degrees of heat and you want it to bake at about 350, so do the math. Me mail me if you want more specifics.
Consider having people bring their own lawn chairs - much more comfortable than picnic benches.
posted by jvilter at 1:00 AM on April 15, 2009

1. Heavy duty tinfoil.

2. Badminton or volleyball (the park might have nets and balls you can borrow or rent, or buy a cheap set from Wal-Mart), horseshoes, a squirt gun battle would be awesome, frisbee, kickball. Bring a stereo (battery operated) for music and ask everyone who comes to bring a CD.

3. Potato salad (I made this recipe the other day, it was delicious), Macaroni salad, fruit salad, baked beans, grilled onions to top the dogs and burgers (Slice up a couple of onions, place in the middle of a square of foil with a couple pats of margarine or olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fold up the foil into a packet but leave a steam hole and pour in a few tablespoons of water. Then just place it on your hot grill for about ten minutes.), chips, etc.

4. Make sure to bring stuff for clean up (garbage bags, wet wipes, etc.)
posted by katyggls at 1:27 AM on April 15, 2009

A couple of others suggested stereos; go easy with that, especially if its an especially idyllic or crowded park. Go enjoy the outdoors; don't feel the need to drag the indoors outside with you.

Also, (4) bug spray, depending our your latitude.
posted by craven_morhead at 6:38 AM on April 15, 2009

« Older Online Photography Display System   |   vancouver product and brand design studios... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.