Celebrate summertime safely with friends and family.

Gatherings — small ones, that is — are back again, and we're ready to party in a safe and responsible way, after a year of keeping our distance and skipping some of our favorite traditions.

According to the CDC, vaccinated people can now gather in small groups safely. But even if you know everyone in your circle of friends is vaccinated (or more importantly, if you don't), you may want to keep things small at first, both for your own peace of mind and because you may be a little rusty in the hospitality arena after 15 months of being off the party clock.

What's the best way to ease back into these gatherings and feel safe doing so? Tiny barbeques. But how do you format a grill fest for a few rather than many? Read on for a smaller-sized menu and tips on how to craft recipes so they're easy to make, safe to serve, and delicious to eat.

caprese skewers on a grey plate
Credit: France C

Tip #1: Serve Single-Portion Appetizers

The best way to feed guests in the era of coronavirus is individual portions, and that means personalized appetizers. With the warm weather stirring, caprese salads feel like the right choice for a small gathering with friends. Rather than serving a whole plate of the mozzarella, tomato, and basil salad, though (which involves one spoon and many hands), consider these caprese skewers. Guests can pick a few for their plates, making it a shareable appetizer that eliminates the actual sharing.

There are plenty of other appetizers that can be turned into one-per-person skewers, too. (Food on a stick is always a safe bet for these types of gatherings.) Shrimp cocktail is an indoor dish, but you can bring the shrimp party outside with grilled shrimp pesto skewers. Hot-off-the-grill olive skewers, a salty, savory combination of olives, bacon, and garlic, are an addictive way to kick off the barbeque too.

Sloppied Flank Steak Sandwiches on a white plate
Credit: Molly

Tip #2: Consider Unique Entrées for a Small Crowd

Burgers and hot dogs are obvious single-serving choices for a barbeque, but what about something a little fancier? Marinated grilled Asian flank steak can easily be sliced and served to guests in order to avoid any plate-sharing.

Or up the ante and make these sloppied flank steak sandwiches, a play on the classic sloppy Joe.

Vegetarians won't be left out of the equation, either, with these portobello pizzas; toss them on the grill to cook for extra smoky flavor.

Because you're scaling down what you're cooking, you're making room for a bit of creativity as a cook, and you can help shake up the same-old-same-old barbeque tradition of burgers and brats.

Grilled Hearts of Romaine
Credit: Molly

Tip #3: Pick Sides That Serve Everyone

If you're thinking, "But how can you execute a barbeque without shareable side dishes?" Well, we've got that covered there, too. Individually wrapped baked potatoes, cooked on the grill, are an excellent way to provide a hearty, delicious side while avoiding the communal potato salad bowl.

In lieu of fruit salad, serve up these grilled pineapple slices, and plate them right off the grill. Or offer a makeshift Caesar salad by grilling Romaine hearts and dressing them with cheese and tossed lemon. Everyone gets a heart of their own.

If you do want the classic large-batch side dishes like pasta salads and grain bowls, consider pre-plating them in individual serving cups so guests can pick up just one and keep moving.

Shelly Hospitality's Blueberry Turnover Hand Pies on a baking sheet
Credit: valerie

Tip #4: Go Single Serve for the Sweets

Pie may feel like the best-ever dessert for an outdoor party (and it may be true it is the most iconic summer dessert possible), but slicing a pie is not necessarily the best choice if you're trying to avoid having guests gather around the same small space at once.

So what about pies (and desserts) meant for just one? Great idea! Individual peach cobblers harness the sweetness of the season, all in one tiny serving. Blueberry crumble can be made for one, like in this perfect recipe. Or if pie crust is more your style, hand pies are a great way to keep desserts individualized. You ca make multiple kinds of pies so guests can pick their favorite (and maybe take an extra home as a parting gift).

Watermelon Frose on a metal tray

Tip #5: Think Big Batch for Drinks

Drinks are not off the table. To keep people moving, set up a drink system that encourages people to grab a glass and move on.

For example, you can pre-make batch cocktails ahead of time (one or two different kinds should be plenty for a small gathering), and then pour cocktails for the crowd as they arrive or as they're beginning to get food. You can also make the rounds refilling glasses, which is a great way to socialize with all your guests.

A particularly barbecue-friendly beverage is this watermelon frosé, a pink, refreshing, and delicious drink that speaks to the start of summer. Or make these sunset rum punches to order, since they're uncomplicated, tasty, and the perfect summer color.

Meat And Vegetables On Barbecue Grill
Credit: Fabian Krause / EyeEm / Getty Images

Tip #6: Final Tips of the Trade

Disposable silverware, plates, and cups are definitely best in the age of novel coronavirus. But you can dress up what you have with a little planning beforehand.

Group together disposable forks, knives, spoons, and napkins in small bundles, and tie them together with pieces of butcher's twine. This will eliminate the hunt for silverware — and less searching means fewer hands touching things.

Use a silver- or gold-colored permanent marker to label disposable cups with guests' names so that drinks don't get confused in the shuffle of your party.

And, if you'll be asking guests to wear masks when they aren't eating, offer guests their very own when they arrive. You can label disposable masks with names, and set up a small station with backups for anyone who needs a mid-meal refresh.

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