With longer, warmer days, it’s the perfect time to host a barbecue in your own backyard. Nothing sounds better than spending a sunny spring afternoon surrounded by food, friends, and family. If you don’t know where to start, we’ve created a helpful guide that will have you planning, grilling, and barbecuing like a pro.
Before you rush off to buy supplies, you need to determine your budget, location, and a get rough estimate of the number of attendees. Backyard barbecues are informal gatherings, so there’s no need for extravagant invitations. Instead, you can send a customizable e-vite or even a simple text-message. Make sure to include the essential information such as location, time, RSVP contact and food to bring (more on this later).
Once you get a count of attendees, the next step is renting, borrowing, or purchasing tables and chairs. If you aren’t able to borrow these and have a tight budget, a cost-effective solution is to rent tables and chairs from your local party rental stores. If your barbecue is expected to continue past sundown, you’ll also need lighting for the evening time. You can find outdoor lighting options from your local party rental store or opt for these beautiful and affordable globe string lights.
Now that your seating and lighting arrangements have been made, it’s time to purchase plates, utensils, and drinkware. To minimize clean-up, choose disposable utensils, plates, and cups. If you’re going for a slightly more up-scale backyard barbecue, opt for ceramic plates, real silverware, and glass tumblers to give your gathering a classic touch.
The most important part of the barbecue (and arguably most parties) is the food! Ask your friends and family members to bring either snacks or sides. That way you can focus on preparing the main entrees and stick to your budget. To make planning and shopping easier, we’ve broken up the traditional barbecue menu into various food groups:
Snacks – chips and dip, fruit and veggie tray, cheese and crackers, pretzels.
Entrees – hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken wings, ribs.
Accompaniments – ketchup, mustard, relish, mayonnaise, cheese slices, hot sauce, barbecue sauce.
Sides – salads, fruit salads, coleslaw, potato/macaroni salad, corn on the cob.
Desserts – ice cream bars, s’mores, pies, popsicles.
Drinks – water bottles, lemonade, sodas, beers, fruity cocktails for the adults.
Whether it’s your first time behind the grill or you’re a seasoned pro, here are some grilling safety and cooking tips:
There are two types of grills: charcoal and gas. While both have their own advantages and disadvantages, we will focus primarily on charcoal grills. In addition to having a grill, you will also need a thermometer, tongs, long-handled wire grill brush, and an instant-read thermometer for checking the internal temperature of meats.
Now that you have all your tools ready, it’s time to fire up the grill. The best way to light your charcoal is by using a chimney starter. Place two pieces of crumpled newspaper under your chimney starter. Fill the chimney with charcoal and light the newspaper. Place your chimney on the grill and in about 10-15 minutes, the coals should be hot enough to pour into the grill. Create a two-zone fire by arranging your hot coals one-side of the grill and leaving the other side coal-free. The ideal temperature to begin cooking is within the 450-550 degrees Fahrenheit range. Make sure to keep your grill lid down for as long as necessary when cooking. This helps to lock in moisture and keep heat from escaping. The vents at the top and bottom of your grill are the best ways to change the flow of oxygen and stabilize coal temperatures.
The best method for grilling thin cuts of meat and food that cooks quickly is direct-heat grilling (grilling over the coals). Use the indirect grilling method to cook foods that require a longer grilling time. This method ensures that your food won’t be scorched or dry out over time. Cooking on the side without coals also prevents dangerous flare-ups. In event of a flare-up, the safest way to put it out is by putting the lid back on. Never use water to extinguish a flare-up because it will cause the grease on the coals to pop