How To Throw The Best Backyard BBQ

We have two months left of summer, and we’re not going to let those go to waste. One of our favorite summer activities is a good old-fashioned backyard BBQ. They’re laid back, offer good food and good company, and are way more fun than a trip to the beach.

For any party, of course there are some basic requirements: food and people. Anything else, although it may be nice, is extra. So focus on the food and invitations and let the rest fall into place later!


Classic BBQ foods include hot dogs, hamburger, ribs, kabobs, potato salad, chips, berries, and plenty of desserts.

Depending on what’s being served, or how many guests you have, it may be best to bring it out in courses. Start with appetizers and let guests snack until you’re ready to start grilling. When the first round of meat is ready, bring out any sides you plan on serving.

You can read about how to determine how much food and drinks you’ll need in in this blog post.

If you have vegans or vegetarians coming to your fest, make sure you cook their food first or on a separate grill/pan! Vegans and vegetarians will not eat food that has come in contact with animal products at all.

If space is limited for you and you’re concerned about fitting enough chairs, serve walking tacos! You’ll just need a few cocktail or side tables so guests have a place to set their drinks, but they won’t need to sit to eat.


Set up a bar cart or table in a central location. Have a signature cocktail – they’re not just for weddings! Depending on what you're serving and how long the party will last, plan on 3-7 drinks per person. Be sure to serve both non-alcoholic and alcoholic, even if it will be only adults at the party. Estimate about 1 pound of ice per person, per hour -- and extra can't hurt.

Cups and Napkins

Don't forget these! You can personalize them with a BBQ-themed message and a monogram. Guests can keep the cups as favors, too, which means they will remember your party for years to come.

Seating and Tables

Your seating will largely depend on how much space you have and how many people you invite. If you can, a picnic or patio table is best. Cocktail tables with tall chairs can work too, though they offer less surface area for plates and cups. Bench seating is good, too, and can act as both a seat and a table if needed. If you're really low on space, put a blanket and some pillows down on the ground -- your backyard BBQ just turned into a picnic! If you have older guests in attendance, though, you may want to provide chairs for them so they have a more comfortable place to sit.

Trash and Recycling

If you’re having separate trash bins for garbage, recycling, etc., be sure to label them. Do you compost? Make sure guests know to put food waste into your composting bin! Pictures are really helpful, particularly if there will be young kids in attendance. Bonus points if the pictures are of the actual food, plates, and cups you're using at the party!


If you live somewhere nice enough for a backyard BBQ, you probably also know to expect bugs. Tiki torches, citronella candles, etc. are good options for keeping bugs away. If you prefer a more natural option, you can try eucalyptus, peppermint, or lemongrass essential oil. If you have plenty of time, try planting marigolds, chrysanthemums, mint, basil, or lavender – all have been proven to help deter bugs. You can also just leave out cans of bug spray so guests can use it if they want. A bonfire may also help keep bugs away (especially if you burn sage in it). Finally, setting fans up around the yard can also keep bugs, especially mosquitoes (because they are weak fliers) away! For maximum effectiveness, you could lightly spray a fan with your preferred essential oil, so the fan spreads the scent once you turn it on.


Don’t forget plenty of lights! This is especially important if you have anything in your yard that could be dangerous, such as rocks, a pond, or trees. String lights are great if you have lots of trees; you can create a sort of canopy over the party. If you don't have trees, place the lights strategically around the yard -- in corners, near the food table and seating area, at the door that leads to the bathroom.


Bluetooth speakers may be your best option for music. You can place them throughout the yard, which allows you to keep the volume low, while still ensuring everyone can hear. Put together a summer hits playlist that spans the decades, hit play, and don't worry about it any more!

Yard games are easy to buy nut also easy to DIY! Darts, giant jenga, and corn hole are all fun games that don’t take up much space in a yard. You can also set out decks of cards and board games, in case guests aren’t feeling very active. If you have plenty of space, set up a volleyball net.

Making Your BBQ Stand Out From the Rest

Anyone can throw a good BBQ -- really, all you need is to be good with a grill to satisfy your guests. Kick your menu up a notch with a hot dog and hamburger bar! Guests will love being able to customize their meals and will be amazed by all the topping options!

To make things really fun, include toppings guests (and even you!) may not expect -- like BBQ sauce or guacamole for hot dogs, or Cheetos or glazed donuts for hamburgers. Here are some more ideas for both classic and unusual toppings:

  • Mustard
  • Ketchup
  • Relish
  • Onions
  • Cheese
  • Pickles
  • Grilled bell pepper
  • Lettuce
  • BBQ sauce
  • Cheetos
  • Doritos
  • Peanut butter (especially when paired with fried banana slices)
  • Nutella
  • Guacamole
  • Glazed donuts (for buns)
  • Funnel cake (for buns)
  • Mac-n-cheese
  • Jalapenos
  • Hot fudge + vanilla ice cream
  • Cream cheese (particularly flavored, such as jalapeno cream cheese)
  • Aioli
  • Pulled pork
  • Grilled cheese sandwich (for buns)
  • Caesar dressing
  • Deep fried ice cream
  • Mushrooms
  • Tomatoes
  • Sriracha
  • Buffalo wing sauce
  • Bleu cheese
  • Scallions
  • Chives
  • Bacon
  • Ranch
  • Grilled pineapple
  • Baked beans
  • Pesto
  • Black bean and corn salsa
  • Mango salsa
  • Chutney
  • Celery
  • Potato chips (any flavor, crushed is best)
  • Marinara sauce
  • Pepperoni
  • Pastrami
  • French fries
  • Tater tots
  • Parmesan crisps
  • Queso
  • Cole slaw (sriracha slaw is even better!)
  • Pickled ginger

You'll need to label each item, especially the more unexpected ones, bu you should include recipe cards too for suggestions about how to use those unexpected ones! You should also be prepared for leftovers. Not all your guests may feel very adventurous. You should also make sure no one has any serious food allergies before you decide on your toppings.

It's also, of course, important to keep these toppings cold. Dress up your display a bit by using one of these gorgeous wood troughs. They can also be used to keep drinks cold -- they can easily hold 3-4 bottles of wine or 6-8 beers each.

The most important thing to remember about your BBQ is to have fun! If you are relaxed and having a good time, your guests will too.