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The Ultimate Guide to Outdoor Entertaining: Tips and Tricks for Having the Best Backyard Barbecue

If summer is coming, it’s time to dust off the grill so you can have a barbecue! Whether you've been grilling for years or you're a first-time host, this guide will provide you with a few tips and tricks to create an unforgettable outdoor entertaining experience. From choosing the right menu and drinks to setting the mood with music and lighting, we've got you covered. So grab a cold drink, fire up the grill, and let's get started on creating the ultimate backyard barbecue!

Preparing a Guest List

The first step in planning your backyard barbecue is determining who you want to invite. Think about the size of your outdoor space, the number of guests you can comfortably accommodate, and the type of event you want to host. You might want to keep your guest list small and intimate or invite a larger group for a more festive atmosphere. If you decide to invite a large number of people, you might need to plan for renting tables and chairs as well as getting more food than usual. When it comes to planning how much food you need per guest, use a barbecue planning calculator. It’ll help you get the right amount of food so you have less to worry about.

Choosing the Right Time and Date

Timing is everything when it comes to outdoor entertaining. Be sure to choose a date and time that works for you and your guests. Consider the weather, holidays, and other events that may conflict with your chosen date. Afternoon or early evening events are ideal for outdoor barbecues, as they give guests plenty of time to enjoy the sunshine and socialize. In the warmer months, the early evening tends to be cooler as well. Though no one is perfect at predicting the weather, you can check your local weather reports as well as The Farmer’s Almanac for more insights nto dates you’re looking at for your barbecue.

Creating a Theme

Creating a theme for your backyard barbecue can make the event more fun and memorable. Your theme can be as simple as using a certain color scheme or as elaborate as a luau or western-style cookout. The theme can be reflected in the decorations, menu, and/or music. Don’t forget to get a Bluetooth speaker or hook up a sound system in your backyard so evryone can hear your music. 

If you want to take it a step further, you can even get a projector and screen to broadcast an outdoor movie for your guests. 

Preparing the Menu for Your Barbecue

Preparing the menu for your backyard barbecue can be both exciting and overwhelming. To help you with your food prep, here are some alternative ideas for your menu to spice things up a bit.


When it comes to appetizers, think beyond chips and dip. 

  • Grilled vegetables
  • Fruits with dipping sauces
  • Create a colorful charcuterie board with various cheeses, meats, and crackers. 
  • Try making homemade salsa or guacamole with fresh ingredients for a healthier option.

Main Dishes

What’s a good barbecue without some delicious meat? Beef, chicken, brisket — they all can be good. If you’re not very experienced (or even if you are!), consider downloading an app to make your grilling better! 

TIP: The Food Network says to buy a meat thermometer. Unless you’re very experienced at grilling, it can be tricky to know when food is undercooked or overcooked. The meat thermometer can help you get the perfect cook on the meats. 

TIP: Once the meat is cooked, let your meat rest for a few minutes before cutting it. This will help the juices redistribute throughout the meat, resulting in a more tender and juicy final product.


Top view of a patio cooler

To add a sweet touch to your backyard barbecue, consider serving grilled desserts. Sure, you can bring out the cupcakes or other sweet items, but here are a couple of other ideas:

Grilled fruit skewers with a drizzle of honey or melted chocolate. Some of our favorite fruit to grill are:

  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Pineapple
  • Watermelon
  • Try grilling pound cake 
  • Old fashioned s’mores

If you want to avoid grilling, you can also try serving fresh fruit with a yogurt dip or whipped cream.

Setting Up Your Backyard

As you’re getting things set up, consider what will people be doing. 

Will you be eating and talking, lounging by the pool, watching a movie on a projector, playing lawn games, etc? 

Your entertainment and activities will determine unique items you might need to set up your yard. However, you will definitely need seating. Our favorite outdoor chairs are Adirondack chairs. They come in many styles as well as colors, and they are the perfect barbecue chair no matter what activities you’ll be doing.

You’ll also want to consider the time of day or evening you’ll be having your gathering adding lighting (think: string lights, tiki, torches, etc.) can help create ambiance at evening gatherings and might be necessary if it gets dark during the barbecue. As mentioned above, consider things like playing music, pool time, or even an outdoor movie. It doesn’t need to be super elaborate, but it’s nice to have some type of entertainment set up. 

In addition, consider a few things to make your life easier, like setting up an outdoor trash can so people can throw their own trash away.

Another thing you can do is set up a self-serve drink station on a beverage cart. This beverage cart has a built-in cooler as well as a shelf that can hold cups. It also has space on the side if you want to leave out mix-ins, tiny umbrellas, etc. for your guests to use.

Cooking and Serving

There are a few things to remember when cooking and serving food at a barbecue to ensure everyone has a great time. Firstly, ensuring you have all the necessary equipment before you start cooking is important. This includes a grill, utensils, plates, napkins, and cups. It's also a good idea to have some extra seating available, such as foldable chairs or picnic blankets.

When cooking the food, it's important to start with a clean grill. Make sure you have a wire brush to clean the grill. Use it to remove any leftover debris from the last time you used the grill, and then preheat the grill to ensure that the food cooks evenly.

Next, it's time to start cooking! Make sure that you have all of the ingredients you need, and that the food is prepared and seasoned properly. 

TIP: Keep an eye on the temperature of the grill. You may need to adjust it to ensure the food doesn't burn or cook too quickly.

Once the food is cooked, it's time to serve it up. Be sure to have plates, utensils, and napkins available. Another thing people often wonder about with barbecues is how to serve the food. You probably don’t want to be sitting behind the table serving people, so set up your food buffet-style. That way, people can serve themselves and can grab just the right amounts. For an easier serving experience, set up the buffet on a kitchen utility cart with all the food and drinks so that everyone can help themselves.

When serving the food, it's important to keep it at a safe temperature to prevent any foodborne illnesses. Keep hot food hot (above 140°F) and cold food cold (below 40°F), and don't let food sit out for more than two hours.

As you prepare to have your barbecue, the main thing to remember is to enjoy yourself. The memories you make can last a lifetime.


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