Eat North's guide to the easiest summer dinner party

This summer, try cooking using a smoker instead of a barbecue

Is there anyone who doesn’t like summer barbecues? Seriously, we challenge you to find one. Especially in Canada, where winter can feel like it’s six months long, we covet every minute when we can soak up the sunshine, enjoy drinks on the deck with wisps of smoke penetrating the air.  However, the idea can be more enticing than the truth, because we often pace back and forth between our friends and the grill to make sure it’s the right temperature and that the food is cooked, and then we clean up all the dishes. As much fun as it is, the logistics can deflate any ambition of having a large group of friends over.

Our good friend, Gabriel Hall, just bought a smoker, so we thought, “What’s better than throwing a bunch of meats in there while we enjoy some nice drinks?”

Smokers can be a great alternative to a regular barbecue. Not only is the meat tender and more flavourful, but you don’t have to babysit and keep an eye out for burning food the way you would with a grill.


The menu

We turned to Michael Smith’s Family Meals cookbook for easy-to-execute inspiration on a simple menu for a large crowd. We found a potato salad recipe and a tandoori chicken recipe, so we made them our own.

On the menu: Wasabi potato salad, tomato and cucumber salad, Indian-spiced chicken thighs and maple-bourbon ribs. Instead of the tandoori chicken spices from the book, we marinated the chicken in a puree of onions, garlic and ginger with garam masala, coriander and cumin. And to make the potato salad a bit more exciting, we added wasabi to the mayo-sour cream mixture.

The prep

To prepare for the eight-person dinner party, we went to the $300-dollar store, also known as Costco, to get our ingredients, because when you’re preparing chicken thighs and ribs for a group, a bulk discount is just sensible (although we couldn’t make it out of there without some shampoo, conditioner and Q-Tips).

We had the wherewithal to marinate the meats the day before our dinner so they could be thrown into the smoker around noon, and be ready for the dinner. That made everything else so easy. Then, the day of the party, the only thing left to do was to make the salads.

The cleanup

Having a party is easy, it’s the prep and cleanup that’s the chore. In this case, it was easy to throw the dishes and utensil into the dishwasher with Cascade Platinum. We had maybe one pot for the boiled potatoes, but we designed our menu so that we wouldn’t be faced with a countertop full of pots and pans.

With less dishes to deal with than a regular dinner party and a dishwasher with an effective detergent to handle the dishes, we may just break into Gabe’s deck to use his smoker and have dinner every week.