Whether it's in the kitchen or the patio grill people have a tendency to gather around the place where the food is cooked. So let the natural draw of the open flame give you the opportunity to show off your grill skills. You can start by turning out a wide variety of dishes, starting with appetizers. Almost every popular hot appetizer can be prepared right on the grill.
Many appetizers like buffalo wings, potato skins or mini-pizzas are typically prepared in the oven. You'll find them much tastier if you cook them out on the grill. The important thing to remember is that an oven is always indirect heat while a grill can have a much more intense heat, even when grilling indirectly. Make sure you use a light coating of oil on exposed surfaces, keep a close eye on everything and use upper racks or indirect heat to cook things through.
One tool that can be very useful is a grill topper. These accessories come in many different sizes and shapes and help you keep foods on the grill and out of the fire. They can typically be found in the barbecue section of your local hardware or department store. They make a good investment. You can use a grill topper as a cooking sheet. Place everything on the topper, move to your preheated grill and then remove everything at once when it's ready.
The real secret to creating great appetizers for your gathering it to prepare as much as you can in advance. Most of my suggestions can be prepared earlier in the day or even the day before, then simply grilled up at the time of the party. Keep the grill hot and you can quickly and easily get more ready at any time. Most items only require a few minutes on the grill to melt cheeses or to finish off cooking so you won’t be tied to the grill for long. Another great party idea is to make sure that you grill is in a safe place, but is close to the action. If you can take things from the grill to the patio table with taking more then two steps then the party is right where you want it.
The great thing about grills is that you can quickly melt cheese and heat prepared appetizers. A great trick is to heat up your grill about as hot as you can, turn off the burner and then put on mini-pizzas, potato skins or whatever and let the heat warm them up and melt the cheese. It works great without burning your food. You'll still need to keep an eye on everything but it is quick, easy and hard to make a mistake.
Of course, you will want to try and match up your appetizers with your meal. If you are preparing a Mexican meal try starting out with something like fajitas. Fajitas are quick and easy if you do the prep work early. Laying out a great spread of build it yourself fajitas only takes as long as you spend grilling the meats and vegetables. If you are preparing something Japanese, try some Yakitori. These great little chicken kebabs are easy and taste great.
Charcoal grills impart more flavors and don't tend to have flare-ups but can just as easily burn foods. When planning a multi-part meal on a charcoal grill you will want to have a two or three level fire. This means that you have a thick layer of coals on one part of the grill, a single layer on another part and maybe no coals on a third part. This gives you the versatile heat you need to grill many different things. You should also plan on having some more coals ready to go on the grill when it comes time to grill the main course.