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Try your Hand at a Neighborhood Cook-off this Summer!

Everyone loves a great summer cookout with friends, but why not add a fun spin on things and have your friends over for a summer cook off the next time you want to have a party?  A little friendly competition can add an extra layer of excitement to your get together, will give you a break from slaving over a hot grill and let everyone enjoy some good food! 

Chili cook offs are common, and always a hit, but there are plenty of variations that you can choose if you’re not a chili fan.  You can have your guests try their hand at creating a mouth watering burger, using whatever ingredients they can get their hands on, or have them create their own barbeque sauce for chicken, ribs, or pork.   Another fun option is to have a bake off and see who can make the best down home apple pie!  Once you’ve decided what type of cook off you’ll be having, you can move on with the rest of the planning process!

Let everyone know they need to bring their A game for a summer cookout and cook off with cookout invitations that come preprinted with all your party information.  Along with all your party info, like date, time, and location, make sure your guests know what dish they’ll be expected to cook and what ingredients you’ll be providing.  And be sure to mention they’ll need to come prepared with any secret ingredients they might need for their dish! 

The day of your cook off you’ll want to make sure you’ve got all the ingredients your guests will need prepped and ready to go.  Have everything ready and waiting on one long table, with all the ingredients clearly marked so your guests can find exactly what they are looking for.  All vegetables should be cleaned ahead of time, but leave the chopping and dicing to the guests.  Keep everything stored in the fridge until just before the cook off starts, and then keep anything that might spoil on ice during the cook off.  If your ingredients table is going to be outside, consider some fabric food covers to keep the bugs out. 

Provide each contestant with their own chef hat for the occasion, and, in your capacity as referee, you might want to don a referee apron so they’ll recognize your official capacity!  Since everyone will need their own work station, make sure you have enough counter or table space for everyone.  Borrow folding tables from guests or neighbors if needed.  Be sure each station is stocked with the basics like knives, spatulas, plates, and other essential utensils.  You may also want to see if you can borrow an extra grill or two from a friend or neighbor if you’re expecting a lot of people to compete in your summer cook off, otherwise, you’ll have to have your contestants cook in shifts! 

Keep your sides simple since everyone will be filling up on the contestants’ dishes.  Potato salad, raw veggies and dip, corn on the cob, and pasta salad are crowd pleasers that can be prepared ahead of time and will go well with any grilled dishes.  Set everything out buffet style and let everyone help themselves.  Assign each contestant a different colored plastic serving tray and place a glass jar in front of it.  At the start of the meal, give each guest some marbles. After sampling each of the contestant’s dishes, the guests can vote for their favorite dish by dropping their marble in the jar that corresponds to the dish’s jar.  At the end of the meal, whoever’s jar has the most marbles will be crowned the winner!  Be sure to have a prize for your winner, like a fun turkey apron or a gold #1 award trophy.  Or, if everyone’s cook off creations are delicious, you can just crown everyone the winner and deem your party a complete success!  At the end of the night, have all the contests write down their recipes so they can share their cooking secrets with everyone.  Not only will your guests go home with full bellies, but they’ll also have some new recipes to try, which means everyone will go home a winner! 

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