How to Throw a BBQ: The Ultimate Cookout Guide

A cookout is the best way to get together with friends and family to share in great times and delicious food. If you want to throw the ultimate bash to impress your guests, you’ll need some BBQ party tips and a checklist to make sure it all goes to plan. Read on to see how to throw a BBQ with flavorful food and nonstop fun!

BBQ Party Prep Checklist

If you want the ultimate cookout, there’s a bit of work involved. Make everything more manageable with a cookout checklist that will keep you on track. Start with what you have to do before the party even begins:

  • Pick a date and time.
  • Create a guest list.
  • Plan a budget.
  • Develop a menu.
  • Make a shopping list.
  • Figure out what party supplies you need.

Getting yourself organized from the start will make everything simple when the day of the cookout rolls around. Once you have a rough idea of your party, it’s invite time. You can’t have a BBQ party without other people! Create invitations and send them out either digitally or physically, and include:

  • The date and time
  • The location
  • An RSVP date
  • If it will happen rain or shine
  • If you have a rain date
  • What’s on the menu
  • What people should wear
  • If guests need swimming attire
  • If they should bring anything extra

No matter what additional information you choose to add, the time, date and location are essential. It may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how the smallest details can fall through the cracks as you plan. You may also want to include an RSVP date. While an accurate headcount isn’t necessarily a make-or-break factor in the success of a BBQ party in your backyard, it helps when creating a menu and buying supplies.

While food is the star attraction at a cookout, guests need to eat and enjoy the party somehow, and for that, you’ll need certain supplies. Be sure you either buy or have:

  • Enough seating
  • Enough tables
  • Disposable cutlery, cups, plates and bowls
  • Shelter from rain or bright sunshine
  • Enough garbage bins and recycling cans

Have a mix of areas for sitting and lounging. Your guests will need seating and tables to eat at, but before and after mealtime, they may want to lounge outside. You can rent chairs, tables and party tents if you have to, but a casual party doesn’t need to feel put together. Grab seating from inside if the weather is nice, and scatter around camping chairs or blankets for a picnic feel.

If you do want a cohesive theme for your party, put up decorations. Use matching tablecloths, balloons and paper lanterns for simple party decor. Remember some decorations will blow around if it’s a windy day, so weigh down tablecloths and other decor. Set up your party spaces on the morning of the party, so everything is ready when your guests arrive. Get all your setup and decorating done early in the day, because you never know if people will show up ahead of time.

Think about your party spaces as you plan your setup. You want the layout to be convenient, with a flow from food to drinks to tables. Have enough seats at each table for a lot of people to gather around, while still giving them enough room to eat.

Once you’ve got everything planned for your BBQ party setup, the next phase of prep will be for your food.

Food and Drink Cookout Checklist

No cookout is complete without some incredible food. It’s easy to get too much or too little, so avoid those party missteps with proper planning. Some considerations will help create your menu.

1. Who’s on your guest list: How many adults, teens and kids will be there? Are any of your guests vegan or vegetarian? Should you be concerned about any allergies or dietary restrictions? Think about who’s coming to your party and what it means for your menu to make sure everyone has something they can enjoy.

2. Your budget: You can throw a BBQ party on any budget, but it’s vital to figure out how much you want to spend to guide your menu. Food takes the most significant chunk out of your budget. Plan accordingly, so you don’t go over.

3. How long you want to be grilling: Spending time at the grill is fun, but when there’s a party going on, it’s understandable to limit your time there. Choose food that doesn’t need a constant watch or something that cooks quickly. Grilling up some burgers and hot dogs is a great way to feed a crowd without missing all the party action.

While the number of people coming to your BBQ party affects how much food you need, the number of sides you offer will also have an impact. The more sides people fill up on, the less room they’ll have for meat and other main dishes, which could be helpful if you don’t want to spend a lot on meat. Buy or make some classic cookout side dishes and snacks from this checklist:

Focus on making crowd-pleasing recipes for your sides and your main dishes. Along with your snacks and salads, consider serving ribs or wings. You could also use chicken legs and thighs for cheaper alternatives that still taste delicious. Of course, there’s always the classic standby of burgers and hot dogs. If you’re making hot dogs, burgers or other sandwiches, remember to put these essential components on your BBQ checklist:

  • Buns or rolls
  • Cheese
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Mayo
  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Pickles

You probably know what your friends and family like or don’t like, so base your condiments list on that, as well. Try your best to tailor your entire menu to everyone, but when in doubt, you can serve a few different kinds of meat as the main dishes.

No matter what meat you choose, make sure you have the right tools for your grill, including:

  • Tongs
  • Grill fork
  • Spatula
  • Gas, charcoal or wood pellets

Have plenty of fuel on hand for the day, and keep your tools clean and accessible. You don’t want to keep having to run in and out of the house when you’re cooking on the grill, and you don’t want to leave to buy more fuel if your grill runs out. To maximize the time spent with your friends and family, lay some groundwork in advance.

If there’s any food you can prepare the day before your BBQ party, take advantage of the extra time. Mix up salads, cut up veggies you plan on grilling and marinate the meat. Buying premade sides will save you some time here, but if you must have homemade, make it the day before. You’ll be able to dedicate more time on the day of your party to setting up and hanging out with your guests.

When it comes to setting up the food, keep it at the proper temperature. Put out snacks for the beginning of the party if you won’t be grilling until later, and wait until your guests enjoy the main meal before offering desserts. Set up food and drinks so they’re accessible for guests and so they can serve themselves. You want to get in on the festivities, too, and that means letting partygoers get their own food.

Entertainment Cookout Checklist

The stories you share and the time you spend together will undoubtedly be entertaining, but you should always have more at a BBQ party. A backyard cookout is a great opportunity to hang out and play with friends and family. Make an entertainment checklist for your BBQ, starting with these ideas.

1. Play outdoor games: Toss a football, start a game of volleyball and enjoy other lawn games. Play some cornhole or fill up water balloons for a fun way to cool down. Kids will especially love having something to do — and their parents will appreciate the break it gives them.

2. Open the pool: If you’ve got a pool and the weather is right, get splashing! Have toys and floats on hand for an even more fun time in the pool. Let guests with younger kids know to bring flotation devices for little ones who need help swimming. Offer extra towels in case your guests forget theirs. Make sure to clean your pool ahead of time, so you don’t have to worry about it once your friends and family arrive.

3. Get other ways to splash: If you don’t have a pool — or if you want more fun in the water — set up a sprinkler or a Slip ‘n’ Slide. Just make sure you keep any splashing away from your grill, the food and any electronic entertainment!

4. Put together the perfect playlist: Create a playlist that’s around five hours long for your party. Mix in some classics and popular tunes for the perfect BBQ party playlist. You can even ask your guests to submit song requests with their RSVP if you want the playlist to meet everyone’s tastes. Make sure your speakers aren’t blasting if they’re by a seating area. If you can, use four speakers spread throughout the party area on a lower level.

5. Light up the fire pit: Warm up, roast marshmallows and tell stories by the fire! Buy a fire pit or create your own to make your guests cozy. Wait until the sun sets and the weather gets cooler before starting the fire, so you don’t overheat your guests.

6. Have a backup plan in case of rain: The party doesn’t have to stop for a bit of rain. Take things inside or under shelter and break out some cards or board games. Ride out the rainy weather together while still having some fun.

The right entertainment will kick your backyard BBQ up a notch. While eating delicious food outside with friends and family is the main draw of a cookout, your guests need something to do once they clean their plates. A fun cookout is also a safe cookout, so be sure to make a safety checklist for your BBQ.

BBQ Party Tips for Safety

Partying outside comes with its challenges, but they’re nothing a safety checklist can’t defeat. As you prepare for your cookout, follow these BBQ party safety tips.

1. Deter mosquitoes and bugs: Ward off pests with some prep. Get rid of any standing water around the party area, since that’s where these bugs breed. Bring fans out onto decks to keep weak-flying bugs away from your guests and food. Give bug-repellent wipes to guests — they won’t create a cloud of spray — and use other bug repellents around your yard. Be sure you’re using nontoxic stuff or keeping it out of reach from kids — you’re trying to scare away bugs, not children!

2. Have enough lighting at night: Make sure any walkways or entrances are well-lit for when the sun goes down. You don’t want anyone tripping as they walk back to their table with a plate of ribs. Soft lighting throughout your venue should brighten things up, but make sure traveled areas are bright enough.

3. Cover cords: Extension cords and other electrical cables may be tripping hazards. Secure them into the ground using half-circles of wire. You can then put bright colors of tape over cords or put an outdoor rug or mat over them. Guests will either see the cable or avoid getting caught on it altogether. Do something similar with any safety lines you have tying down canopies or sports nets. Attach a bright string to them or cut pool noodles to wrap around the rope.

4. Use meat thermometers: Even grilling experts should check the temperature of their food, especially when feeding a crowd. Check that poultry and pork reach the correct temperature before serving to your guests, and use a thermometer to get your beef to a preferred doneness.

5. Store and serve food at the right temperature: Set up sides on ice or in coolers and refrigerators. If you have a lot of perishables, fill a kiddie pool with ice for extra cooling space. Serve anything warm in chafing dishes buffet-style. Be sure to check on burners and ice throughout the party to see if you need to top up or replace anything.

6. Prepare for flare-ups: Even with a properly cleaned grillyou still risk flare-ups. Have a fire extinguisher somewhere close just in case. If you’re careful, you won’t have to use it, but it’s always better to be safe.

7. Keep your guests cool: Pass out handheld fans and make cold compresses so partygoers can stay cool. Beat the heat with shade from canopies and patio umbrellas, or let guests come inside when they need some climate control.

8. Protect yourself and guests from the sun: Provide sunblock with a high SPF in case guests forgot to bring theirs. The shade will help, as well, but sunscreen is great for when guests go swimming or walk between shaded areas.

As always, have a first-aid kit on hand as the ultimate safety backup. With the other precautions above, your party will be fun and safe for everyone!

Host a BBQ With Grilla Grills

Let Grilla Grills be your co-host for the ultimate BBQ party! Give your food a flavor boost with our delicious rubs or sauces, grill on one of our pellet grills or kamado smokers, and add even more fun with our accessories. Have guests coming back for seconds of the flavorful smokiness your food gets from a Grilla grill.

Check out our selection of grills, and contact us today at 616-392-7410 with any questions you have about our high-quality products at reasonable prices. Get cooking with Grilla Grills, and you’re sure to impress at your next cookout!

Host a BBQ with Grilla Grills

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