12 Tips for Planning the Ultimate Backyard Barbecue
For a truly impressive backyard barbecue, you need the right tools and a great plan for a successful day out in your yard. Larger outdoor parties like these come with their own challenges, and since you'll be spending lots of time in front of the grill, it's important to prepare ahead of time. That's why we've collected 12 of the best tips to make sure your grillout is fun, easy and delicious.
Use an Online Calculator for Food
Food is always one of the first considerations and thorniest problems for a big grillout. Fortunately we live in an incredible digital age with online BBQ planners that allow you to see just how much food – and what kind of food – you need. The linked planner allows you to calculate meals based on adults, children, number of vegetarians, and favored meats. It's a great way to get some basic numbers to start working with.
Plan Menus Early and Make a List of Ingredients
Plan your full menu based on the information for the online planner. For every dish and cocktail, make a precise list of ingredients that you need purchase and double-check it before you shop. You don't want to start the party and realize you forgot that one ingredient that you assumed was in the kitchen. Many experienced grillers like to focus on a signature dish or drink to show off a little, but this is up to you. Also, whenever possible, try to take guests food allergies into account by providing alternatives, if necessary.
Find a Bluetooth Speaker
Bluetooth speakers, from small travel models to Google Home and Microsoft Alexa, are increasingly common. Chances are good that you or one of your friends has a Bluetooth speaker that you can set up outdoors on your deck or patio for some tunes. Once you have the speaker, create a backyard barbecue playlist on your phone or tablet and your tunes will help set the tone for a successful grillout.
Plan for Outside Refrigeration
Not every grill setup can have an outdoor refrigerator (although it makes a great addition), but you do need some way to keep things cold. Whether it's a mini-fridge you can plug in outside or a couple coolers, be sure to have this figured out before grillout day. Always refrigerate meats separately from all other foods, and try to reserve a section or cooler for the drinks. Remember, however, that it's important to keep some foods cool, while drinks can always be stored inside until you want to bring them out.
Set Up Trash Locations
For smaller parties, a single trash bag is suitable. For larger affairs, a series of trashcans around the yard is a better option. Make sure you include a recycling bin as well. The last thing you want is for guests to keep walking into your kitchen to dump things in the trash, or leave debris scattered across your yard for you to clean up.
Make Sure There is Enough Practical Seating
Set up several seating zones around your yard to make sure there is enough room for everyone. While some people will generally prefer to stand, patio seating and outdoor chairs are very important for others. Try to include a table or stand near every seating zone for people to place food and drinks.
Create a Menu for Guests
It doesn't have to be anything fancy, but for larger grillouts it's very useful to have some sort of printed out or written menu that shows what you will be serving, especially if you are very proud of it. Paper printouts, chalkboard stands and whiteboards all work. The exception is if you are planning a potluck-style gathering.
Organize Meat By How Done It Is
The easiest way to do this is to create three platters – Rare, Medium and Well Done. Label them and serve your cooked meats on the appropriate platters. Keep an eye on them, and adjust for the general tastes of the crowd. This is a great way to please guests and save a lot of time asking or answering questions about which steak is well-done.
Bring Food Out One Course at a Time, If Possible
While having all the courses out on a big table at once may look nice, it's very impractical for most grill parties. First, that food will start to spoil very quickly under the sun. Second, so much food will very quickly attract insects and pests. Third, many courses – like dessert – won't be eaten until much later anyway. So keep everything under wraps, inside and in coolers when possible. Try to unveil the primary courses when the first round of meat is grilled, and introduce other courses slowly afterward. A growing alternative is to create individual single-serve options for foods like fruit and salad, although this does take more prep time.
Photo: Juli Hansen/Shutterstock
Get Rid of Bugs with Repellents
Bugs will come, and you need to be prepared for them. Tiki torches can ward away a few insects and may help deter the wasps. For mosquitos, the only natural solution that has been proven to work is extract of eucalyptus, which you can sometimes find in candle or spray form (you definitely don't want chemicals like deet around your food). It's also helpful to keep the backyard barbecue away from any standing water.