Essentials for a Backyard BBQ

Freshly grilled hamburgers at a fun backyard barbecue party

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For the ultimate BBQ this summer, pick up these simple tools to elevate your backyard party. This list of BBQ party essentials will split your planning time in half and allow you time to socialize with your guests and actually enjoy the day. Mark your next backyard BBQ on the calendar and start sending out invites! This checklist will help you get organized like a pro, stress-free, and with ease.

  • 01 of 15

    Lighting and Decor

    Woman placing plant on outside table with strand of hanging lights above..
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    Festive lighting is always helpful for setting the mood and getting everyone into the summer spirit. As the sun sets on those long, hot summer days, lighting helps transition you into an evening state of mind. The lights create a quiet foundation for the beautiful evening to unfold.

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    Outdoor Torches

    Tiki torch used in a garden.
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    Outdoor torches are a summer essential that provides additional outdoor lighting and potential protection from those pesky mosquitos. Invest in outdoor torches with citronella candles for maximum protection. But with or without citronella, they add a playful touch to your backyard.

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  • 03 of 15

    Summer Beers

    Three bottles of Corona beer in a pot with ice and lemons on the table.
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    Light beer or summer ales are great to have on hand for beer drinkers at your party. Keep things simple by choosing only one or two beer options. The most important thing is to have the ice stocked to keep your beverages chilled. Offer a summer shandy as a cocktail idea.

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    Bottle of rosé with a glass on pool ledge.
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    Choosing between white and red for summer wine is never fun. Rosé is a wonderful middle ground for wine enthusiasts. When you choose to serve rosé at your gathering, you avoid an overly complicated drink menu, keeping things simple for your guests. Rosé is also a quick way to elevate the feel of a summer BBQ event. You could even buy an extra bottle and make a ​sweet summer sangria.

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  • 05 of 15

    Drink Dispenser

    Drink dispensers outside with labels.
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    Have guests serve themselves with an easy-to-use drink dispenser. This way, you'll only be responsible for refills when the dispenser runs low, which might happen only once or twice during a party. Have a couple of dispensers on hand just in case. Keep one full of water infused with fresh fruit and the other with a sangria concoction.

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    Person removing bottled beverages from bucket of ice.
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    Seriously, did you remember the ice? Ice is relatively inexpensive compared to other party details, so stock up! You will regret having to ask a friend to do an ice run in the midst of a party. Another idea is to ask that guest offering to contribute to the BBQ to grab a bag or two on their way. There is nothing more essential than ice when hosting an outdoor summer party.

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    Couple playing bocce ball in the grass.
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    Bocce ball or Kan Jam are great options, but having any outdoor games available is a helpful way to encourage guests to engage in your event. An outdoor game serves as a wonderful icebreaker for those guests who might not know each other as well. Some other outdoor game ideas include corn hole, Jenga, or a simple card game.

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  • 08 of 15

    Bug Repellent

    Girl spraying boy with bug repellent.
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    If you are hosting an event outside, as a courtesy, bug repellent should be readily available for guests. Some visitors might opt to bring their own but this is often not the case. Purchasing bug spray seems to be easily forgotten in the middle of BBQ prep. The repellant might be as essential to a successful BBQ as the ice and grill itself. Keep away mosquitos, flies, ticks, and unwanted insect visitors when planning in advance.

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  • 09 of 15


    Group of people holding slices of watermelon on sticks.
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    Seasonal watermelon is a crowd-pleaser. You can serve fresh slices up for grabs or put some into a simple feta, watermelon, and basil salad. For adult fun, try alcohol-infused watermelon slices or a mixed watermelon cocktail. Frozen watermelon coconut mojitos are truly refreshing.

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  • 10 of 15

    Simple Appetizers

    Person holding a bowl of chips and guacamole.
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    Guacamole and chips are a classic BBQ starter. Crostinis and bruschetta are also an easy and fun appetizer for any event. If you are worried about keeping guests full and satisfied, it's always a safe bet to turn to a variety of bread appetizers which help keep costs low and tummy's full. Plus they are usually no-cook or taste deliciously toasted over a charcoal grill.

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  • 11 of 15

    Grill and Cooking Tools

    Person flipping burgers on a grill.
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    A backyard BBQ is just not possible without the grill, and the tools you'll need. Once you have your grill situation in order, it's time to next think about what kind of starter pucks and charcoal you might use. You will also need to consider what kind of food will you be serving and what kind of utensils will be needed for prep. Think spatula, tongs, marinade brush, and more.

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  • 12 of 15

    Burger Bar

    Three burger and fries on wooden trays..
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    A burger bar is an easy way to satisfy the pickiest of guests. At the least, you will need the burger, buns, and possibly some cheese. Ketchup, mustard, pickles, lettuce, tomato, peanut butter, and bacon are some ideas for additional add-ons, so party-goers can put the works on their burger fit to their tastes. Get as creative as you like for the burger bar menu.

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  • 13 of 15

    Corn on the Cob

    Corn sprinkled with chili in cast iron skillet..
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    It's not summer without a grill and it's not a backyard BBQ without corn on the cob. Summer is the season to stock up on those delicious husks of corn. Corn on the cob is an easy complement to that burger bar and those frozen watermelon cocktails.

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    Compostable Plates

    Close up of eco-friendly plate and utensils
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    Washing dishes is definitely not a chore anyone wants to be stuck with after hosting a party. Skip the china and expensive dishware for a compostable option. It's better for the environment and easier on you. Guests will appreciate that they are contributing to a sustainable cause as well.

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  • 15 of 15

    Tables and Seating

    Picnic tables in a back yard

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    Your guests will need a place to sit and eat; or relax and enjoy the day. A picnic table is a great place to set up a buffet or seat children to eat. You can scatter folding tables around for people to set their plates down and eat. Visitors might bring folding outdoor chairs to sit in, and if you don't have enough of your own to accommodate the guests, make sure to ask everyone to bring their own.