19 Great Ideas For Big Summer Food Parties

Bring your friends. All of your friends.

1. Shrimp Boil

A one (big) pot dinner party! Corn, shellfish, and potatoes means you cover all the food groups, too. Instructions here.

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Up the ante with hush puppies, Bloody Marys, and plenty of Old Bay.

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2. Fish Fry

Iain Bagwell /

Fried anything is a crowd pleaser, and fish is quicker than chicken!

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Fries are obviously a must. Round things out with a summery tomato salad and an easy-drinking lager.

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3. Smoked Brisket Sandwiches

Recipe here.

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Brighten things up with homemade pickled vegetables and a veggie-packed potato salad, then finish with super simple brownies à la mode.

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4. DIY Hot Dog Bar

Jennifer Sbranti /

Be as crazy (or as conservative) with the toppings as you’d like. Instructions here.

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Todd Coleman /

Anheuser-Busch InBev


Go All-American and serve baked beans on the side, ice cream sandwiches to finish, and Budweiser throughout.

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5. Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Sure, you could make it in a slow-cooker. But, it’s summer. Why not fire up the grill and get some of that delicious flavor? Recipe here.

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Faith Gorsky /

Hector Sanchez /

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Super classic pasta salad and coleslaw go perfectly with pulled pork without distracting from it. Blueberry mint juleps are sweet enough for day drinking but strong enough to really make it a party.

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6. Build-Your-Own Burger Bar

Instructions here (and, a good, classic burger recipe here).

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Penny De Los Santos /

Hirshheimer Hamilton /


The grill’s already going, so why not throw on some lettuce for a grilled romaine salad? And nothing goes with a burger like an ice cold Coca-Cola (spike if necessary). Blueberry hand pies to finish.

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7. Paella

Todd Coleman /

Recipe here.

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Set the Spanish theme and start with jamón-wrapped melon. Classic red sangria is a must, and grilled peaches with streusel are a perfect finish.

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8. Whole Pig Roast

J. Kenji Alt-Lopez /

Yes, you can do it at home! Instructions here.

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Jennifer Farley /

Anjali Prasertong /


Your pig is obviously going to be the star of the show, so keep the accoutrements simple with Grilled corn and panzanella salad. To drink, a good IPA with a shot of Campari is delicious, and might become your go-to summer drink.

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9. Rotisserie Leg of Lamb with Potatoes, Fennel, and Olives

If you don’t want to go whole hog, this is another similar option. Recipe here.

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A simple mezze platter is on theme and perfect for tiding guests over until the main course is served, and a fresh, tangy Greek salad will perfectly compliment the lamb. For dessert, grilled pineapple is sweet without being too heavy.

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10. Bo Ssam (Asian Slow-Cooked Pork Shoulder)

Instead of turning on your oven, cook your bo ssam in a 300°F grill. Recipe here.

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Christopher Testani /

Joshua Bousel /

Urvashi Roe/ /


Aside from the obligatory lettuce cups, rice and ssam sauce (recipe here, serve your bo ssam with some pickled red onions and ginger-miso grilled eggplant. To drink, spicy gin and tonics bring just enough heat.

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11. Bourbon-Glazed Baby Back Ribs

A face full of barbecue sauce is the great equalizer. Recipe here.

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Sop up that extra barbecue sauce with cornbread, and creamy potato salad. Since the bourbon is already open, go ahead and make a big batch of bourbon peach sweet tea.

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12. Clambake

Jereme Liebman /

Recipe and instructions here.

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By THOR (Flickr: Sancerre Wine) [http://CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


Grilled caprese skewers to start, and strawberry shortcakes to finish. Also, this is the perfect opportunity to give rosé a shot.

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13. Tacos Al Pastor

J. Kenji Alt-Lopez /

The greatest taco of all takes time, but it’s so worth it. Recipe here.

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Individual seven-layer dips are party-perfect, and there’s never a bad time to eat Mexican grilled corn. Don’t even think about using bottled “sour mix,” just go for real-deal margaritas.

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14. Grilled Pizza

Faith Durand /

Large-format summer mains are generally pretty meat-centric—because, face it, throwing a big piece of meat on the grill is just so obvious. But, vegetarians and carnivores alike always appreciate a pizza party. Instructions here.

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Grilled broccoli rabe and antipasto chopped salad fill the vegetable quotient without filling your whole afternoon with extra prep. And, when it comes to pizza, chianti is always the answer.

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15. Grilled Steak Fajitas

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt /

Recipe here.

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Take advantage of nature’s summer bounty and make blueberry lime salsa and roasted corn guacamole to serve with chips. Then, blow everyone’s minds by making the ultimate beer cocktail: a Michelada.

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16. Steamed Mussels

Steam your mussels in a couple of batches (they only take a few minutes), and keep in mind that you’ll need about a pound per person. Recipe here.

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The best part of eating mussels is sopping up the juice, so grilled bread is a must, and a huge pile of grilled veggies will make everybody feel virtuous. White wine spritzers pair well with shellfish, and their lower alcohol content means you can drink all night.

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17. New England Clam Chowder

Todd Coleman /

Even people who “don’t like shellfish” will love clam chowder. Recipe here.

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If you’re feeling ambitious, you can make your own oyster crackers. Balance the heavy chowder with grilled asparagus, and end on a super sweet note with a gorgeous peach pie.

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18. Grilled Whole Arctic Char

Perfect for a more sophisticated dinner party. Recipe here.

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Grilled fennel is way underrated, and it goes great with fatty fish, and grilled herb potatoes are simple and just flavorful enough. End your meal with boozy popsicles, the most fun after dinner “drink” there is.

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19. Veggie Kebabs

Paige Green /

A big hunk of meat won’t feed every type of crowd. Recipe here.

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Keep it strictly vegan with quinoa tabbouleh salad and vegan banana splits. To drink, nothing says “summer” like a Pimm’s Cup.

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