Even though summer is drawing to a close, that certainly doesn’t mean an end to cookouts.
Many people find even the abstract idea of hosting a BBQ so stressful that they miss out on all the fun. To help you conquer that fear, today’s BBQ planning checklist will help you organize things seamlessly.
I. 12 Steps to a Flawless BBQ
- Grill and grilling accessories
- Décor and lighting
- Eating essentials
- Beverages all round
- Meats and side dishes
- Sauces and condiments
- Your BBQ table
- Safety first
- Don’t forget the entertainment
- Set up a burger bar
1) Grill and grilling accessories
Before you even think about anything else, you’ll need the right grill for your experience level and requirements:
- Purists insist on charcoal grills, reasonably easy to use and capable of imparting that authentic BBQ taste. The drawback of cooking with charcoal is that it takes a while to heat up, while temperature control is tricky to master. Clean-up is also tiresome
- Gas grills are easy to use and just as easy to clean. They also heat up very quickly. On the downside, they can be costly, and you’ll need either a supply of natural gas or some liquid propane tanks. You won’t achieve the same BBQ taste when you’re cooking with gas, though
- Electric grills offer the ultimate in convenience at the expense of that trademark smokiness. These grills are ideal for beginners
- A smoker allows you to cook meat, fish, and veggies slow and low. The drawback with smokers is the extended cooking time required
- You can also find wood pellet grills like the classic Traeger grills, as well as a variety of combo grills
Regardless of the fuel source of your grill, the tools you’ll need are the same.
When you’re buying BBQ tools, you should consider buying a decent set that will last for years rather than seeking out the cheapest kit you can find.
Here’s what you need to get grilling:
- Stainless steel spatula
- Aluminum foil
- Gas, charcoal, or wood pellets
- Grill gloves
- Grill fork
2) Décor and lighting
Think about creating the perfect ambiance for your cookout before you get carried away with the food.
Decorative lighting and candles always helps to create a party atmosphere.
You could consider combining form and function with some citronella candles. This acts as a natural mosquito repellent to keep you and your guests from being ravaged.
3) Eating essentials
Make sure you cater for the following cooking essentials:
- Serving bowls
- Serving spoons
- Table cloth
To minimize the amount of effort involved when your guests arrive, ensure that all of the above are ready in advance.
You should also think about setting up a garbage station and a recycling station. This simple foresight will save you from a great deal of tasky cleanup later on.
4) Beverages all round
It goes unsaid you need to provide drinks all round at a cookout, and you should take the trouble to provide more than a cooler stuffed with beer.
Here’s a simple checklist for BBQ drinks to get your inspiration going:
- Non-alcoholic punch
- Homemade lemonade
Also, don’t forget:
- Plastic cups
- Bottle openers
- Ice – more on that below
Make certain there are plenty of non-alcoholic drinks available as well as catering for those who like a tipple.
Water comes top of our list as it’s vital everyone stays hydrated at a cookout, doubly important if you are also drinking alcohol. Drink some water in between your alcoholic drinks to avoid dehydration.
Filling a cooler with iced beer is traditional when you’re grilling out, but this doesn’t need to be the centerpiece or the only form of beverage. On the contrary, a BBQ with a wide variety of beverages on offer will help things get off smoothly before you serve a single burger or hot dog.
If you’re a wine lover, get creative and experiment with pairing wine to your favorite BBQ dishes. Surprisingly, many cheap red wines work wonderfully with grilled meats.
Think about providing some drinks dispensers for guests to serve themselves. You will then only need to worry about refilling the dispenser, rather than fretting about refilling everyone’s glasses all afternoon and evening.
Use some fresh fruits to make some cocktails for your family and guests if you feel like getting creative. If not, you have a great selection of drinks in place to lubricate your barbie.
Next up, it’s time for the main event. No BBQ is complete without meat!
5) Meats and side dishes
When it comes to the menu for your BBQ, you can make this as simple or as involved as you like.
You should obviously take any dietary restrictions of guests into account, as well as any personal preferences.
Whether you’re looking to stick with tried-and-true classics or to whip up some innovative BBQ dishes you just read about, all that counts is sharing great food with friends and family.
Rather than viewing food prep and cooking as an inconvenience or an afterthought, embrace this as the core purpose of the day.
When it comes to the mains, don’t feel obliged to go over the top and hit all the following bases. You can easily get away with a much more limited selection.
Here are some initial ideas:
- Pulled pork
- Grilled chicken
- Hot dogs
- Rubs for your meats
- Meats for smoking
Whether you’re searing steak or grilling some chicken, don’t forget the seasoning. There is little worse than an unseasoned hunk of meat slapped into a bun with no relish or sauce.
Beyond the season, it’s also worth honing your timings and grill technique so you can effortlessly cookout while still having fun with your guests.
While it’s easy to get carried away with a meat-fest, don’t skip the sides. You can easily prepare salads in advance, so this doesn’t need to cut into your grilling time.
If you’re stuck for ideas, roll out the following sides:
- Potato salad
- Pasta salad
- Corn on the con
- Potato chips and salsa
- Summer fruits
6) Sauces and condiments
With your meat, fish, and sides in place, there’s one more crucial element to consider: sauces and condiments.
From marinades to enhance your ribeye steak through to the fixings for beef burgers, all the extras make the difference between a good BBQ and a great BBQ.
Here are some simple ideas to get you started:
- BBQ sauces for ribs
- BBQ sauces for chicken
- Mustard-based sauces
- Texas-style sauces
- Memphis-style sauces
- Vinegar-based sauces
- Fruit-based sauces
- Hot sauce
- Ranch dip
- French onion dip
- Black pepper
- Brisket spice rub
- Tandoori Masala
Depending on the specifics of your menu, you may also need a few specialty condiments. You may also find we have missed out some of your favorite extras. If so, let us know in the comments below.
Whether you’re placing these sauces and spices directly onto your food, or you’re serving them as dips and toppings, take the time to dive deep into all your options here and give people a barbecue to remember and talk about.
For many people, grills and BBQs are all about the meat. If you love nothing but burgers and hot dogs washed down with a few beers, we’re not here to try changing your mind.
Most guests will find room for a dessert if you serve one, though, so this is a great opportunity to get creative and to enhance the meat sensation you’ve been enjoying all afternoon with something refreshing to round out.
Ice cream always goes down a treat, for adults and children alike. You could make some homemade ice cream, or you could opt for some Ben & Jerry’s or Häagen Dazs for a decadent treat all round.
Seasonal fruits are perfect for making a variety of homemade desserts if you like to get creative in the kitchen. If not, you can find plenty of excellent pre-made desserts.
While we mentioned ice in passing in the beverage section above, it’s worth reinforcing the importance of keeping enough ice on hand for your cookout.
If you entertain regularly, it may be worth exploring a portable ice maker to save you from the expense of buying pre-made ice and ensuring you’ll never run out of ice again.
9) Your BBQ table
It goes unsaid your table will be the centerpiece and hub of the party action. Whether you choose to dress this table or to keep it rustic and simple, you’ll need to consider the following BBQ essentials:
- Disposable plates
- Disposable utensils
- Disposable cups
- Spoons of various sizes
- Cutting board
Some people don’t like the eco-footprint of using disposable plates and utensils, so if you don’t mind doing the extra cleaning up and the dishes, by all means use regular cookware.
10) Safety first
You obviously don’t expect an accident to happen when you’re grilling, but you should always keep safety uppermost in mind.
Keep the following safety equipment to hand when you’re grilling out:
- Fire extinguisher
- First aid kit
- Bug spray
If you’re not an experience griller, it’s also work making sure you are familiar with safe grill practice.
Depending on where you live, bug repellent will either be a welcome extra or an absolute essential. Most guests will not head to a BBQ packing sunscreen, bug repellent, and similar. By taking the trouble to provide some of these basics, you can ensure that your cookout goes without incident, and without guests being burned by the sun or eaten alive by bugs.
Before rounding out, there are another couple of aspects to think about.
11) Don’t forget the entertainment
The type of entertainment you choose for your BBQ will depend on you and your guests.
Great music is a staple that no longer requires a huge stereo system and speakers. Pop a Bluetooth speaker outside and allow everyone to take a turn playing DJ, beaming their favorite playlists from their phones.
Outdoor games of all descriptions are always a crowd pleaser.
Beer pong, Jenga, corn hole, and card games are all great options.
Don’t forget to take any children into account as well and make certain there is ample entertainment for all age groups.
12) Set up a burger bar
Everyone like their burger done a different way, with different sauces and condiments, too.
Why not set up a simple burger station so everyone gets the burger they want on-demand?
Along with the obvious basics – burgers, buns, and cheese – you’ll need the following:
Tweak the above suggestions and customize them to suit the tastes of you, your family, and your guests.
In closing, you should also apply this advice to every element of our BBQ planning checklist. Use this list as a springboard for further inspiration. Personalize things and then create your very own customized planner so every cookout goes without a hitch.
Well, if you arrived here today at Hempenhillbbq unsure about whether making a BBQ party planning checklist is worthwhile, you should now appreciate the benefit of getting yourself organized before the big event.
When it comes down to it, you’ll want to spend as much time with your guests and as little time as possible fussing over logistics. The best thing? The more you start dialing in your checklist, the more seamlessly things will run with each successive cookout.
Before you head off, bookmark our blog and be sure to pop back soon. We update our content daily, so don’t miss out!