13 Sizzling Tips for Summer Entertaining

Words: Crush

Summer is the season to kick back, enjoy the sun, and invite friends and family over for some good ol’ fun. But hosting can sometimes be daunting; the good news is that with a few tips and tricks, you can host a fantastic summer gathering without sweating the small stuff. Here are our best summer entertaining tips that’ll make your next get-together a breeze!

Remember, the point of entertaining is to have a great time with friends and family – it’s in the name.

1. Plan Ahead

Planning is your best friend when it comes to stress-free entertaining. Think about your guest list, create a simple menu, and make a to-do list. Don’t overcomplicate the food, a braai is usually your best bet. Think ‘easy’ and ‘tasty’ – you can’t go wrong.

Picking a good time is one of the most important deciding factors; as much as you love your friends and family, no one wants to stand on their feet all day. Make sure you start early enough to give everyone time to mingle before you serve the food. You also don’t want hangry guests, so plate up at least 2-3 hours after their arrival.

2. Prep Starts in the Kitchen

Chop those veggies, marinate the meat, and set the table early the day of or the night before if you want to make things easier for yourself. You don’t want to be sweating it out in the kitchen while your friends are having all the fun outside.

3. Keep it Simple but Elevated

If you’re not braaing, one-pot dishes are great; they require minimal effort and pack a bunch of flavour, plus you don’t have to fuss with a million and one food elements apart from sides.

Braais are another story, especially if you’re having a bring and braai, which can be a group project. Spare yourself the time and stick to your staple dishes like braaibroodjies, salads and mains – focus on flavour and you can elevate any dish.

Store-bought, pre-marinaded meats and sosaties can often be heavily seasoned with an insane amount of sodium. Infuse maximum flavour into meat dishes with homemade marinades. Make these Chicken Thighs with Bourbon BBQ Sauce, or these Chilli Rocket Pesto Lamb Chops with Yoghurt for a fresh flavour.

The same goes for salads, you can convert staunch salad haters with a good dressing. Take advantage of extra ‘hands’ in the kitchen like your microwave to nuke veggies, and your air fryer to crisp and warm up food just before serving; toss ingredients into a blender for a quick dressing. That way, all there’s left to do is assemble everything before serving guests.

4. Food for All Tastes

Bear in mind that some of your guests might have dietary restrictions or preferences. Have a few vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free options available to cater to everyone’s tastes. It’s a thoughtful touch that shows you care about your friends’ enjoyment. If you don’t want to make extra work for yourself, this is where pre-party prep counts. Make fixed elements that can be shared across the group like salads and sides; mains can be customised.

Try these carb-free Aubergine Braaibroodjies with Cheese & Tomato. Keep meat-eaters and vegan friends happy with these Balsamic Marinated Steak & Mushroom Kebabs

5. Keep the Drinks Flowing

It’s summer, so you’ll need to keep everyone hydrated. Have a self-serve station so that guests can help themselves to drinks, unless you enjoying playing bartender. Don’t exclude certain guests, make sure that you have non-alcoholic drink options in addition to your wines and ciders. Teetotalers, designated drivers and conscious eaters will appreciate zero-cal and non-alc drinks.

Check our list of favourite local non-alcoholic drinks

6. The Cool Side of the Party

Let’s face it, no one wants to be sweating at a shindig. Set up some shaded areas; it’s a simple way to keep the party comfortable and cool. Remember some sunscreen and bug spray to keep everyone happy.

7. Finger Foods for the Win

To encourage mingling, serve finger foods. Things like springrolls, bruschetta, tartlets, or charcuterie boards are perfect for nibbling and socialising simultaneously; no one likes feeling tied to their plate! During summer, critters and flies can also be pesky, so make sure to cover your appetisers with a cloche or ‘food umbrella’.

Serve up these tasty appetisers and finger foods

8. Music Makes the Mood

Music sets the vibe for any gathering. Create a group playlist on Spotify where everyone can add a couple of songs instead of subjecting the whole squad to your music taste. For a laid-back braai, chill tunes are ideal. For a pool party, something more upbeat could be just the ticket. Keep the volume at a level that allows conversation without shouting.

9. Games and Activities

It doesn’t matter how old you are – everyone loves games. Entertaining isn’t all about food and drinks, incorporate some fun games to keep the good times rolling. Try 30 seconds, or Uno if your friendships are strong enough to withstand +4 power moves. There are also a bunch of conversation-starter card games out there, like Cards Against Humanity; this could help different friend groups interact beyond small talk.

10. Fire Up the Grill

For South Africans, braaing isn’t just about cooking food; it’s the main event. Encourage your guests to step in and help with the grilling. It’s a wonderful way to bond, chat and enjoy the outdoors together. Plus, those braai fumes will have everyone salivating.

11. Embrace Imperfection

Here’s a secret: it’s okay if everything isn’t perfect. In fact, a casual vibe can make your gathering feel more authentic. So, don’t stress if the tablecloth gets wrinkled or the salad starts to wilt. Your guests are there for the company, not a Michelin-star dining experience.

12. Get Everyone Involved

Don’t feel like you need to do it all – ask your guests to bring a dish or drinks. Most people are more than happy to contribute, and it takes some of the burden off your shoulders.

13. Go Easy on Yourself

Remember, the point of entertaining is to have a great time with friends and family – it’s in the name. If you find yourself spending a little extra time in the kitchen or the table settings aren’t exactly as you envisioned, don’t sweat it. Your loved ones are there to enjoy your company, and a little imperfection can make the party feel more genuine.

Need some braai recipe inspiration? Try these mains and desserts. Complete your menu with these sides and salads.

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