Prep food before your guests arrive.
As you’ll discover, most of these backyard barbecue party tips come from mistakes that I’ve made in the past when hosting friends and family. This first tip – prep before your guests arrive – is one that I still fail to do frequently. But, when I do prepare as much as possible beforehand, it makes a world of difference in the enjoyment of the cookout for both my family and our guests.
Make sure all the food is ready to go on the grill when the guests arrive and that any side dishes are assembled, cooked as needed and out on display. You don’t want guests to arrive while you’re still forming burger patties and chopping lettuce and tomatoes.
Make sure you have enough propane or charcoal.
Can I raise my hand as guilty again? Triple check to make sure you have enough gas in the propane tank or enough charcoal to cook dinner! I’ve made more runs than I'd like to admit to the gas station as my half-cooked burgers sat waiting on a cold grill for me to return with propane. When I finally do return to cook them, the burgers taste lifeless and rubbery.
Ask guests to bring side dishes.
This tip especially comes in handy when it comes to large barbecues. And, in our family, the more the merrier. Ask your guests to bring side dishes and desserts. I tend to avoid asking them to bring snacks and appetizers for reasons mentioned later in this article. Don’t feel like asking for side dishes is a burden. People love to show off their prized dish. Besides, you don’t want to be whipping up five pounds of baked beans, ten pounds of potato salad, and four dozen deviled eggs while you’re getting the house and backyard ready.
Put up decorative outside lights.
It will get dark outside. Be ready with tiki torches or other decorative backyard lights. We love our outdoor solar powered string lights! They have an automatic timer so they kick on when the sun drops. That way, we aren’t scrambling to turn on lights. They look so good, that we keep them up all summer long and plan family barbecues with just the three of us.
Serve snacks away from the cooking.
As a frequent dinner party and backyard barbecue party host, nothing annoys me more than people congregating in the kitchen or around the grill – even if most of the work is prepped beforehand. (This cook needs his space!) Thus, we set up a snack table AWAY from the kitchen and grill. We bought a compact folding table to set up that easily stores in our garage when we don’t need it.
Encourage guests to help themselves to both kid-friendly and adult drinks.
As part of the pre-party prep, be sure to stock a cooler with ice, bottled waters, juice boxes and other kid-friendly drinks. Set up another tub filled with beer, wine, and other adult beverages. To spruce up the drink station, use these steel tubs instead of the weathered Igloo cooler. If you want to offer fun summer cocktails, go for it! I suggest pre-mixing them, though, so you’re not constantly measuring, pouring, and stirring.
Offer guests their first beverage, and then encourage them to help themselves after that. That way, you can greet new guests as they arrive and finish any last-minute cooking obligations.
Set up some yard games to keep the kids occupied.
It’s summer and the kids are restless to get outside and play. Arrange any outdoor games like cornhole, horseshoes, or Twister before the party starts. This way, the kids can go straight to playing and the adults can begin their drinking…ahem…socializing.
Mix up your grilling game.
Don’t bore your guests with plain old hamburgers and hotdogs. Chances are, they went to a barbecue last night and ate the same thing. Mix it up with fun and adventurous burger toppings or outfit your backyard with a Traeger electric smoker and smoke some pork or brisket!
Skip the dessert and make s'mores.
Nothing says summertime more than s'mores made over an open fire. The best part is you don’t have to cook them. All you need are some marshmallows, chocolate bars, graham crackers, and marshmallow sticks. You don’t need to build an elaborate fire pit to have a backyard fire either. There are plenty of steel fire pits available for any size or budget.
Put safety first.
Lastly, always remember to put safety first. Burgers, sausages, and even bone in chicken quarters and breasts have a lot of fat that can cause flare ups. Flame broiled doesn’t mean opening your grill to find everything in flames. Make sure you have a spray bottle at the ready for small flare ups and a fire extinguisher just in case. Yes, I’ve used mine.
You are now well equipped for the ultimate backyard barbecue party. Just remember the most important tip – have fun. That’s point of hosting a barbecue. When the host is relaxed and having fun, so will your guests. Besides, you deserve it!