Check out these 5 hot tips for hosting a great BBQ cook-off

We have five tips for how you can make your cook-off the one everyone comes back to next year. (StackCommerce)

If there’s one thing to love about summer, it’s barbecue.

Summer is the only time of year you can walk around your neighborhood and catch the smell of glorious grilled meat drifting by. Then you turn the corner, and the delectable smell follows.

If you want to bring the barbecue to your house, there’s no better way to do it than a good old-fashioned summer barbecue cook-off.

And we have five tips for how you can make your cook-off the one everyone’s talking about next year.

1. What type of barbecuing should be at your cook-off?

Charcoal or gas? Smoked or open flame? Kansas City-style or Texas? When you think of making barbeque, you might imagine the sandwich you ate as a child, but not everyone has the same memories as you.

This is an exciting opportunity for you: you’d get to see a diverse approach to how your competitors cook their barbeque, but judging so many different types might be difficult.

You can encourage people to bring their own region-specific style of barbecue, or you can standardize it.

Whichever direction you go, you should decide early. The competition is fun, but the most important part of a cook-off is that the results are tasty. You want to give your competitors plenty of time to prepare, so let them know early if they’re allowed to bring a Memphis dry rub or if they need to make a Carolina mop sauce.

2. Choose the recipe.

This doesn’t mean you’re telling everyone exactly what to cook, but you should at least pick out the cut of meat and a potential spending limit. Both of these are practical decisions that you need to consider long before the cook-off to make sure everyone has an equal shot.

Picking the meat is one of those fun decisions you can make on your own or with input from others. Make sure to pick a cut that’s relatively common but also delicious — shoulder, ribs, or rump are some good options to choose from.

For the price limit, you should keep it within reason, but remember that the cheaper you go, the more creative your cooks can get. If your competitors only have $50 to spend, they either have to decide between a quality cut of meat or higher-quality ingredients. The ingredient price limit also keeps anyone from buying their way to victory.

You might have some incredible cooks, but it’s not really fair if someone drops some wagyu beef on a grill when everyone else’s just came from Sam’s Club.

3. Decide who’s participating, who’s attending, and what they’re bringing.

The guest list is important for any party, but for a barbecue cook-off, it’s essential.

There are two types of people who will be coming, other than your cooks: guests and judges.

Guests can be anyone: friends, family, or lucky co-workers. The important thing is that your guests know they’re going to be put to work. Barbecued meat is great, but it’s not a full meal. If you want sides, the best place to get them is from a guest potluck. Get everyone contributing as part of the fun.

Even if you’re just hosting a casual cook-off, judging is a big job. They have to be confident in their opinion because food is contentious. Look out for someone who has some experience with BBQ. You want an opinion a little more informed than “I liked it,” and a little more articulate than “It was bad.”

If your cook-off becomes an annual event, you could even have last year’s competitors be next year’s judges.

While you likely want the judges who make the final decision, that doesn’t mean the rest of your guests are barred from having an opinion.

For some extra fun, you can have a formal winner and a Meat of the People decided by a vote from the rest of your guests.

4. Provide the best BBQ equipment you have.

Your competitors may bring their own tools, but they can’t have everything with them all the time. You don’t have to supply every cook with a separate grill, but you can definitely let them use the best of your equipment.

This Ultimate 30-Piece BBQ Tool Kit is the catch-all for barbecue readiness.

Need a spatula? You’ve got one with three edges in stunning stainless steel.

Is someone struggling to flip their meat? The long handles on these stainless steel tongs can keep their hands safe and their meat mobile. It even comes with stainless steel salt and pepper shakers!

All tools are made of high-quality stainless steel and fit in a canvas carrying bag for rapid readiness. If you really wanted to go all out, you could standardize the equipment all your cooks have at their disposal.

Get a tool kit for each person so everyone has an incentive to compete, great tools to use, and a reason to feed you something truly delicious.

5. Have something else to do.

Nobody likes to sit around and be hungry.

Before and after the cook-off, have some fun games or party events planned. You want to keep your guests occupied so your cooks don’t get distracted, and you also want to keep the energy going.

Plan some lawn games like horseshoes or football. Keep everyone occupied before the meal so they’re good and hungry when the time comes.

Then, after the dust has settled and the winner has been chosen, have gentler activities planned.

You can set up a cocktail hour, pull out some board games, or even roll out a big screen for an impromptu backyard movie night. Give people the chance to settle, munch on leftovers, and celebrate the winners who may not have done much other than cooking for the last few hours.

Prices subject to change.