Did you know that 79.1 million Americans have grilled in the last year according to the U.S. Census Bureau? One of America’s greatest traditions is barbecuing in the backyard on a warm summer day. The smell of fresh roasted corn and chicken roasting on the grill are memories that most of us all have from childhood. After decades of friends and family bonding at backyard barbecues, Americans aren’t slowing down any time soon: 75% of Americans own an outdoor grill or smoker.
Despite its popularity, pulling off a successfully BBQ isn’t all fun and games. We can learn a lot from Katniss Everdeen, the Hunger Games hero, about conquering the challenges of backyard barbecuing. Watching her friends and family be captured and killed, hunting squirrels for lunch and convincing 12 districts to rebel against the oppressors of the Capitol takes strategy and a whole lot of courage. Although Katniss’s challenges in Panem and the perils of backyard barbecuing may not be the same, there is a lot we can learn from this fearless warrior – Here is the Hunger Games Guide To Backyard Barbecuing:
Even before being pulled into the Hunger Games arena, Katniss was a rebel and illegally hunted food outside of her district’s parameters to sell on the black market. Sometimes, you have to do whatever it takes to survive. At a backyard barbecue, the one who holds the tongs holds the power and is commonly referred to as the grill master. But does he REALLY know how to sear the perfect steak or properly cook a medium-rare burger?
Grilling like a boss requires having the right tools. Tongs are the best option for flipping meat because they won’t poke holes in the protein. When grilling smaller vegetables like asparagus, it is recommended to bundle them together with a grill clip so they don’t roll through the cracks. If kabobs are on the menu, use a kabob basket to keep the skewers in order so they cook thoroughly and evenly.
If your grill master doesn’t come prepared with recipes and marinades, don’t assume he’s the expert he claims to be. Don’t be afraid to poke around and ask questions about his time and technique strategies. Timing is tricky when grilling meat, and an experienced grill master will have a plan to cook the food to the right temperature and serve it in a timely manner. Remember, it’s your backyard barbecue and your reputation is on the line, so do whatever it takes to assure that the food is prepared to perfection.
PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS
After years of hunting with a bow and arrow, Katniss wisely chose this as her weapon over the more intimidating axes and spears. If grilling isn’t your forte, then allocate the meat to someone else and focus on the side dishes. In addition to having perfectly grilled protein, tasty side dishes are essential to an outdoor barbecue. From traditional sides like coleslaw and mac and cheese to healthier options like salads and freshly cut fruit, side dishes add color and flavor and are an excellent way to place your own unique stamp on the food presentation.
DON’T LET ANYONE INTIMIDATE YOU
Although she was just a frumpy girl from the coal mining district, Katniss wasn’t intimidated by the privileged men and women from the Capitol. Grilling requires confidence and quick decision making. However, when something goes wrong, like a grease fire, and the grill master has lost control, don’t be afraid to make your voice heard. If you see him going in with a bucket of water to extinguish the grease fire, do whatever you must to stop him because everyone knows that water only makes the explosion worse, right? It turns out that they don’t. It could be their instincts kicking in or just lack of fire safety knowledge, but throwing water on a grease fire only exacerbates the flames and is very hazardous. Run, jump or scream as loud as you can when you see the grill master making a poor decision that could endanger the lives of your guests and the integrity of your food.
PUT YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY FIRST
Katniss volunteered to play in the Hunger Games in place of her younger sister. When push comes to shove, nothing is more important than family and friends. Take the time to send out e-vites to your friends and family and kindly request a rsvp indicating how many people will be joining them. This will tell you how much food to buy and how many pitchers of drinks to make. This also ensures that your intended guests don’t lose out on your delicious burgers to random uninvited strangers.
The #1 grilling holiday is Fourth of July when 87% plan to turn it up! Memorial Day, Labor Day and Father’s Day are other popular days spent grilling up.
PLAY THE FIELD
Backyard barbecues aren’t just about hot dogs and potato salad. Outdoor games are crucial to the turnout of your summer event and are the stuff memories are made of. Popular backyard games include egg tosses, water balloon tosses, horseshoes, and frisbee tosses. Beware of your competitive friends and family who play dirty to win. A person’s true nature is revealed in the backyard games!
MAKE A FASHION STATEMENT
Katniss stood out in a mockingbird-shaped dress, representing the symbol of the rebellion when appearing on the pre-Hunger Games talk show. How do you make your barbecue stand out from the others on the block? Pick a theme! Whether it’s a luau or a country hoedown, decorate your yard with party favors and other DIY crafts to give your party a little flair. Don’t be afraid to ask your guests to wear a costume!
DON’T BE JEALOUS
Did your sister just throw the most epic outdoor seafood extravaganza and your Fourth of July barbecue is next week? Instead of being jealous of her fancy event, use her flawless execution as fuel to make your grilling party one that no one will ever forget! Instead of getting angry when Katniss’s rival tried to steal her man, she acted like she didn’t care. Pay attention to what worked for your perfect sister and what her guests loved most, and apply those tactics to your party planning. Jealousy won’t get you anywhere, but inspiration will launch your creativity to pull off the most memorable backyard barbecue ever!
Although the stakes are higher playing for your life in the Hunger Games than they are for hosting a backyard barbecue, many of the same strategies apply to succeed. Confidence, planning ahead, and knowing what to do if something goes wrong are key elements to winning at the Hunger Games or your summer outdoor cookout. Backyard barbecuing is one of America’s favorite traditions, and whether or not things go as planned, may the odds be ever in your favor!