With summer at its peak, now is the perfect time to gather friends and family for a barbecue! A backyard BBQ is a time-honored American tradition for soaking up the sun, playing games, and firing up the grill with crowd-pleasing binge-worthy favorites. Follow our backyard BBQ guide below, and you’ll be ready to host your own cookout in no time!
Tip # 1: Plan your menu around your PROTEIN.
The centerpiece of most backyard BBQs is a grilled protein of some sort: pork, poultry, beef, seafood, and even protein-packed vegetarian options can be charred to a tasty finish over hot coals or a gas flame. For beginner backyard chefs, think about investing in pre-made burgers, sausages, and hot dogs, which are easy to make and appeal to most palates.
To create a customizable experience, prep your burgers and dogs in advance, and let your guests assemble their own creations with a cheese and condiment bar. Go beyond ketchup, yellow mustard, and relish, by preparing unexpected garnishes such as sauteed sweet Vidalia onions, whole-grain beer-infused mustard, colorful heirloom tomato slices, and homemade quick pickled vegetables. Remember to appease any gluten-free guests by including gluten-free buns and a head of lettuce for carb-free-wraps to your spread.
Don’t forget to eat your vegetables! Corn is a no-brainer: it’s sweet and savory, inexpensive, and in-season all summer long, just in time for backyard BBQs. Dress up your classic corn-on-the-cob with honey butter (made by beating softened butter, honey, cinnamon, and vanilla with a mixer), seasoned salt (try citrus zest and crunchy fleur de sel salt), or roasted garlic.
Tip #1.5: Visit your local farmer’s market and pick up vegetables that grill easily. Beets, cauliflower, eggplant, and even peaches can all be taken to the next level with a spritz of oil or schmear of butter, and a quick turn over the grill’s flame.
Halve some summer squash and zucchini, douse with some grapeseed oil and fresh herbs, and char on the grill in just minutes! Have you ever tried grilled pineapple with honey butter? Don’t say you didn’t hear it from us! The open flame will bring out the natural sweetness of fresh fruit and veggies, allowing a caramel to form and sweeten their taste, while tempering the bitterness of raw produce. Yum!
Tip # 2: Libation ideas for EVERYBODY!
You can’t go wrong with ice-cold lemon water, flavored seltzer, juices, and sweet tea to help your guests cool down in the summer sun. Bring out plenty of ice, pitchers of flavored bevies, and liters of seltzer and juice. Then, encourage guests to create their own sparkly drinks without the soda sugar!
For us grown-ups, a frosty beer completes any backyard BBQ meal. With so many craft varieties on the market, choosing a beer may seem intimidating. Here are some of our personal choices–what are yours?
- Grilled and smoked meats pair well with dark lagers or brown ales, which bring out the smoky flavors of your protein of choice. Try pairing your burger or smoked pork shoulder with Lagunitas’ (Petaluma, CA) Little Sumpin’ Extra Ale, which is available nationally during summer months.
- Lighter fare, like fish and veggies, are nicely complimented by a lighter pilsner or witbier, which won’t overpower delicate flavors. Trillium Brewing Company (which has breweries in Canton, Ma. and the Fort Point neighborhood of Boston), puts out a fantastic wheat ale called Pier, which will only enhance the subtle flavors of seafood or grilled summer squash.
- Looking for a Gluten-free or Gluten-reduced bottle of beer to pair with your buffalo wings or spicy cajun shrimp? Give Stone Brewing’s (Escondido, CA) Delicious IPA, a try. It’s citrusy flavors, dry finish, and reduced Gluten makes it a perfect summertime ale to wash down spicy foods.
Tip # 3: Determine the best backyard grill for your space AND your budget.
To barbecue anything well, the key is to cook it “low and slow.” Luckily for you, both gas and charcoal grills can achieve the same distinctive flavor of food cooked at an awesome backyard BBQ. Gas grills are convenient and easy to maintain, but a proper grill that will last a few summers will generally run you around $500, so a tip is to remember a cover for your investment! Gas is best for beginner backyard BBQ hosts, as they do not require much special knowledge or tools.
Charcoal grills require a smaller up-front investment, and some are as inexpensive as $99! Unfortunately, they can be difficult to clean and tend to take longer to heat up, making them more suited to an experienced griller. Don’t forget about having to purchase a bag of charcoal or wood chips each time you grill for an eco-friendly smoke. Should you go the charcoal route, choose pre-chopped hard woods, which are becoming increasingly easier to find, and get a smoky infusion without soot, which can be dangerous to your health.
If you’re a frequent BBQ host, it might be worth investing in a home smoker, which maintains a constant, low temperature for fall-off-the-bone ribs and tender, flavorful briskets. Custom BBQ Pits and Outdoor flattop grills are also gaining popularity, as they allow for more flexibility with your backyard BBQ. You can cook large quantities of cheeseburgers and hot dogs at once, do a grilled stir-fry, or even a whole split chicken. You don’t get the taste of the open flame, but you can make up for that with its versatility: you can make breakfast on them, too!
Tip # 4: Dust off the party games!
No backyard BBQ is complete without activities, especially when kids are thrown into the mix. Invest in a cornhole set, or create your own by decorating some boards with your favorite team’s colors! A quick trip to the dollar store can get you frisbees, balls, and bubbles that will provide fun todos for kids of all ages! If you have some flat yard space, break out a volleyball net, badminton set, or wiffle ball kit. Have your grandfather’s bocce ball set in the garage? Dust it off and let your guests have a turn at it! You’ll have to burn off all those burgers and dogs somehow, right?
Tip # 5: Have some eco-friendly fun!
The amount of potential waste can drive hosts away from hosting a backyard BBQ, but there are plenty of options that can help make your party greener. Bamboo tableware makes cleanup a cinch, and it’s also biodegradable! These handy utensils can even be tossed directly into your compost pile, where it will break down into some awesome nutrient-laden soil for your backyard flowers and veggies, while lessening your party’s carbon footprint.
Final Tip: Hire a Nufoodi Planner + Pro to do it all for you!
If all the steps involved in planning a backyard BBQ are wayyy too overwhelming for your busy schedule, you can always use Nufoodi to call in some backup! A professional, private, party planner can assist you in creating your itinerary, while a Pro Chef can bring ingredients, equipment, and expertise (along with a learning experience) to your very own backyard, alleviating the stress of buying and cleaning your own equipment, keeping track of ingredients, and manning the grill or smoker like a hawk. Or, make your experience even more engaging by hiring a Nufoodi Coach to teach your guests during a BBQ Grilling & Smoking Class!
How will you celebrate this summer with a backyard BBQ? We hope you use (and share) these helpful tips to get grilling yourself, or check out Nufoodi, and hire one of our awesome private chefs to prepare a feast. Share your experience on Instagram, and use hashtag #findtheyum to be a part of the conversation, or comment below with your favorite BBQ tips, and we just might share them on social!