If your resident backyard chef is anything like my husband David, Labor Day weekend equals one extra day of summer vacation. It's the perfect time to fire up the barbeque to smoke brisket, ribs, sausage, and pretty much whatever else isn’t nailed down in the refrigerator and freezer.
Why not do as we do, and share the bounty by hosting a Labor Day feast? We find it’s the perfect time to catch up with family and friends to hear all about vacation adventures from the summer that was as we look ahead to the new school year, football season, and the crisp autumn sweater days that are surely and hopefully right around the corner.
From our backyard to yours, here are our top tips for keeping a Labor Day Feast fun for all. This even includes the hosts, because really, who wants to labor on Labor Day?
- Make it an easy, no-fuss affair. Invite family, friends, and neighbors within sniffing distance of your fire to join the fun. If they ask if they can bring anything to share, say yes. Who doesn’t love a good potluck picnic?
- Hit the Farmer’s Market at Chestnut Square on Saturday morning to grab fresh produce. Make your favorite summer salad to share with your guests. Don’t forget to pick up a watermelon or two, as I don’t think it’s legal to have a backyard bbq without one in the State of Texas.
- While you’re out, grab the stuff you’ll need to whip up a batch of your favorite cookies, or no bake summer dessert. If the thought of laboring on Labor Day weekend is abhorrent, drop by your favorite bakery, and grab a box of goodies to share instead.
- Like to decorate? Do it only if you consider it fun. Now is a great time to go back and look over all those cool party ideas you’ve pinned to your Pinterest bulletin board under the heading, “Someday I Will Have A Party." If that doesn’t inspire you, keep it simple. Decorate using whatever red, white and blue stuff you have on hand. Mason jars, filled with water from the tap and flowers and foliage gathered from your yard, or from an inexpensive assorted bouquet sold at any grocery store in town make perfect centerpieces. As a matter of fact, mason jars are also ideal for storing knives, forks, spoons, napkins, sweet tea, dessert … you get the picture. As a matter of fact, read on to see how else we use mason jars at our get togethers.
- Cover tables with old white sheets or inexpensive tablecloths. Fill mason jars with colorful Sharpie markers. Encourage guests to sign, date and decorate as they wish. Re-use year after year. Kids and grown-ups alike will love finding signatures and contributions to the tablecloth mural for years to come.
- Scatter a few old quilts or blankets about the yard. Find whatever games you have on hand, such as checkers, cards, bubbles, side-walk chalk, hula-hoops, you name it, and place in these ready-made picnic areas for guests to enjoy.
- Make sure the King or Queen of the Grill knows how many people are coming and plan your menu accordingly.
- It’s a 3-day weekend. If you can prepare a dish ahead of time, do so. You’ll have more time on party day to enjoy your guests.
- Speaking of planning ahead, inspect and prepare your grill beforehand. If using propane, have a spare tank. If using charcoal, have an extra bag or two, and if using wood have plenty of that too. Nothing says BBQ fail like having to make a trip to the store while food is on the grill.
- Purchase quality meat from your local meat market. Always purchase the highest quality meat you can, and if possible, at least choice-grade for beef. Starting with a quality product helps ensure a better final product.
- Allow adequate bbq time. According to my resident King of the Grill, allow 15 hours for a 12- to 13-pound brisket, 12 hours for a 10-pound pork shoulder, five hours for baby back or spare ribs, and three hours for beer can chicken. Be sure to check out the video below to see how the Food Network's Down Home With The Neely's do their beer can chicken.
- Have a rainy day plan. Don’t let Mother Nature shut down your show. Have umbrellas for manning the grill and an indoor picnic contingency just in case.
One final tip from our backyard to yours, whatever you do, don’t forget to step away from the labor. Enjoy your extra day off making memories with your family, friends and neighbors. You’ll be glad you did. Happy Labor Day!