backyard barbecue
It’s natural to prioritize the main course, but side dishes and desserts are equally as important for a flavorful barbecue spread. (Illustration by Julie Chow, University of California, Berkeley)

5 Things You Need To Host the Perfect Backyard Barbecue

With summer just around the corner, there’s no better time to prepare for a fun cookout with delicious food, fun activities and more.

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backyard barbecue

With summer just around the corner, there’s no better time to prepare for a fun cookout with delicious food, fun activities and more.

Who doesn’t love a good backyard barbecue? There’s nothing better than close friends, delicious food and loads of fun. With spring in full swing and summer just on the horizon, there’s no better time to plan a backyard barbecue with all your friends. As you prepare to host your event, it is important to make sure you have all the essential ingredients to throw the best cookout. From the food to the festivities, you should feel confident and prepared so when your event comes, you can kick back and enjoy yourself instead of running around frantically searching for something you forgot.

Side Dishes

Although it’s easy to focus solely on the main entrée, the sides are just as important. There is a wide variety of side dishes to choose from for a backyard barbecue, like homemade slaw, potato chips, french fries, corn on the cob, dinner rolls and pasta salad, to name a few. Another popular hit is fresh fruit. Melons and berries of all kinds come into season in spring and summer, including watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. Snag your favorites at your local grocery store and serve them cut up in a bowl or on a platter.

When coming up with the list of sides you are going to serve, consider providing at least one appetizer as well. Supply something as simple as tortilla chips and salsa or guacamole for guests to nibble on. You can also buy healthier food to snack on, like a veggie plate, and set it out in addition to other appetizers. Having finger food ready when guests arrive will greatly relieve the pressure of making sure dinner is ready immediately.

Seating Options

Make sure you have enough seats for everyone attending, with a few extras to spare. Don’t feel embarrassed about pulling out chairs from inside your house if you run out of folding chairs or room at the table. Everyone will probably not sit at the same time, but it’s always good to be prepared just in case. Go ahead and set a few extra seating options in an easy-to-grab spot before the party, in case people all gather in one area. If you’re afraid you won’t have enough seats, you can buy folding chairs at Lowe’s, Home Depot and Amazon.

Lighting

Don’t forget to ensure that you have good lighting. If your back patio or porch area is not as well lit as you’d like, buy string lights, tiki torches or other kinds of lights and set them up around the yard. The expense of the lights will depend on the size of your backyard, how many lights you need and what type of lighting you prefer.

Some options are much less expensive than others. Regardless of the cost, this purchase is well worth the investment — not only will lights brighten up the backyard, but they will also create a more intimate and comfortable ambiance. Pacesetter Homes also suggests congregating around an open fire pit or a fireplace to enhance the mood of the party. Also, be aware of the outdoor setting and remember to keep an umbrella or two on hand in case it rains or the heat becomes unbearable.

Entertainment

Spice up the fun at the barbecue by giving guests several games to play and activities to do. Frisbee, card games and cornhole are classics, but check out Fun Loving Families’ article on DIY backyard party games if you want to venture out of the box. The article details a new spin on a variety of games that you can set up in your backyard with very few supplies at a low cost. Frisbee tic-tac-toe, flamingo ring toss and backyard mini-golf are just a few options listed.

If you have a pool, pool parties often work in tandem with backyard barbecues. Pools are easy sources of entertainment for children of all ages and can be a common place for guests to congregate. If you plan to watch a movie or a sports game, you may prefer to focus your entertainment options on your flatscreen TV — or if you’re feeling extra adventurous, set up an inflatable screen and use a projector instead.

Dessert

In a world filled with innumerable delectable desserts to choose from, it can be overwhelming to decide which ones to offer. Simple, chocolatey desserts like cookies and brownies are reliable hits. Not only are they scrumptious treats, but they can also be held in one hand while standing and don’t require you to sit with a plate and a fork.

If you’re hosting your event in the heat of the day, look into frozen dessert options to keep your guests cool. Tablespoon.com has a long list of quick and yummy cold dessert suggestions you can make yourself and that your guests will savor. Don’t be afraid to ask your guests to bring a dessert or side item to the party, too. You can never have too many desserts, and dessert is always an easy go-to for guests looking to contribute a dish.

If you’re still feeling slightly overwhelmed by what to buy, The Spruce Eats has a detailed BBQ party planning checklist that covers a range of specifics regarding all of the basic fundamentals, from grilling equipment to condiments to tableware. Also, amid the hustle and bustle of planning, don’t forget to order enough plates, cups, silverware and napkins for everyone at the cookout. So, what are you waiting for? Break out that grill and start planning for your best backyard barbecue yet.

Writer Profile

Julianna Steen

Auburn University
English Literature, minoring in History

A few of my favorite things include reading romance novels, watching action movies, baking (and consuming) anything chocolate, creating for my business, He is Simply Goodness, and going on adventures with friends and family!

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