Many graduation parties are open houses and most are in summer so that means outdoor parties. Of course this isn’t always the case but here are menu ideas for an outdoor graduation party. That means you need food that’s easy to eat (it’s hard to use a knife and fork sitting on a lawn chair or on the grass), and that will hold up for a few hours outside. For high school or college graduations you will have teenagers there which means more than one feeding.

Appetizers
Graduations are family affairs and most families like to bring something to the party. I usually point them to appetizers and desserts. That means I can focus on the main course and I don’t have to do things I’m bad at (desserts). Even if the aunts are bringing food you will want some basics.
  • Chips and Salsa. Easy to do. You buy the chips and you can buy commercial salsas and everybody will be happy. If you want to make your own salsa try this Artichoke Salsa. (Some in the office are huge fans of artichokes.)
  • Mushroom Appetizers. Most recipes you can prep in advance and just throw a tray in the oven as you need them. Lots of variety too. Here is a selection of 20 top mushroom appetizers.
  • Pizza. If you have a family member who makes a killer pizza and loves bringing it to every family event; let them! If not go to the local pizzeria and pick some up there. It’s easy and it’s universally liked. Oh, and it will last the entire party.
Main Course
If you like to grill and if you think most people will be eating at the same time this is a great options. You all have your own grill favorites so make what makes you comfortable. If you make burgers, brats and some chicken everyone is happy.
  • Burgers. I’m sure you make a great burger and if you provide lettuce, tomato, onion and condiments you have a winner. We would like to share the recipe for Michael Symon’s Lola Burger. (He's a big deal here in Cleveland AND an Iron Chef.)
  • Six foot sub. Always a hit and really makes a WOW statement on your table. The key to success if finding a bakery that makes a great 6 foot loaf. Once you have the bread here are some ideas but in the end put the things you and your graduate like on your sandwich.
  • Pulled Pork Sandwiches. Pulled pork works for large groups. It holds well in a crock pot and it’s delicious.
  • Southern Fried Chicken. Here’s Paula Deen’s recipe for chicken or you can just grill some yourself. Remember though that managing a lot of chicken on the grill is a little tougher than burgers or brats so don't be afraid to order a full pan or two from our local deli. A bit pricey but it makes managing the rest of the meal easier.

Dessert
Remember the graduation is a family affair so you might have a treasure trove of family bakers, and if so let them bake! If you have the family of bakers then all you have to is buy a graduation cake and have some cookies. Who doesn’t really like cake and cookies? Here are a few more ideas in case you don't have the family as an option:

Have fun celebrating graduation!