When it comes to large gatherings, we head to the hardware store to build a massive grill in mere minutes—all for about 50 bucks. Buy an uncoated-steel utility shelf and cinder blocks, and you can cook for 20 people or more. As for what to cook, turn to Ben Ford, chef-owner of Ford’s Filling Station in Los Angeles and author of Taming the Feast, a cookbook devoted to the art of feeding a crowd (think clambakes and whole hogs).

Simmer Down
With a big grill you have enough space to use it like a range top for chili and other side dishes.

Get Wood
Use a hardwood such as oak or mesquite and arrange it in a tepee or log cabin shape, over tinder. Don’t put food directly over flames, where it will burn.

Red-hot coals are good for quick-searing food you want rare. The safest spot to cook a steak to a perfect medium rare is over the ashy white coals, where flare-ups won’t be a problem.

Rake Your Claim
Set up your grill on gravel or dirt (heat can melt asphalt and crack concrete). And use a long-handled garden rake to shift the coals where you need them.

“Cooking with wood is like life: You have to react to all the unpredictability and mayhem a fire can throw at you, which is what makes it challenging but also what makes it great.”—Ben Ford, on cooking with wood