It’s BBQ season! That means block parties, family backyard gatherings, and corporate picnics — which equals fun in the sun, delicious grilled foods, and quality time spent with loved ones, friends and colleagues.
Whether you’re planning a summer BBQ party for the office team or the neighbors on the block, this checklist can help you make sure it's a success. From food and drink to décor and equipment, these tips will ensure your BBQ is a blockbuster to remember.
- Get a head count in advance, even if only an estimate. If possible, have attendees RSVP beforehand so you know how many people to accommodate. Note how many kids will be coming, as well as any dietary restrictions, to make sure you have appropriate food/drink options for all guests.
- Plan several different drinks, including alcohol and non-alcoholic choices. Don’t forget about juices for kids, and plan to have plenty of water for everyone at the BBQ.
- Plan a menu with foods that can be made easily and en masse. Classic BBQ fare like brats, burgers and other handhelds are no-brainers, but keep this in mind with sides, too. Large batches of sides like potato salad, slaw and beans can be made in advance (even days ahead) and can be put out in giant bowls for easy serving.
- Include some veggie options, even if you aren’t sure if anyone coming is a “strict” vegetarian. Today, greener options are always appreciated! Consider handheld foods that don’t require a lot of prep: grilled Portobellos, veggie kebabs, tofu steaks, or veggie burgers are great choices.
- If your event crew (friends, family or employees) doesn’t have the capacity to cook everything for the BBQ, consider bringing in catered options to help ease the load. Even catering just the side dishes or desserts can be a huge relief if you still want to grill the main dishes.
- Stock up on condiments. From ketchup to relish and mustard to hot sauce, any summer BBQ menu is prime for condiments, so don’t skimp! If you have a large enough table, put out all the condiments together for folks to use, or else spread bottles out among dining tables around the event space.
- Make sure you have enough cooking and grilling utensils in advance — and check that your grill is cleaned and primed to go before the event. Keep a couple of extra spatulas, tools and serving utensils on hand in case you have extra people helping with the cooking — and for the inevitable ones that fall on the ground.
- Get more propane or coals than you think you’ll need, since the last thing you want is for the grill to cut out when there's still food to be cooked!
- Bring in large coolers to keep ice and cold drinks chilled, and keep hot foods at temp if need be in slow cookers or chafing dishes (especially if it’s an afternoon BBQ out in the full sun!).
- Consider bringing in a few tents to provide shade for food/drinks if it’s particularly hot out. Plus, having at least a couple of shady areas is crucial if there are younger children, babies or elderly guests that may need a break from the heat.
- Provide enough seating for everyone so they can sit and eat, but also make sure the setup provides ample space for standing or walking, as well a bit of space for gameplay or activities.
- Place recycling bins and garbage cans around the event space to avoid overfilling in isolated cans, or people abandoning their empty dishes around the eating areas.
- Put out disposable or instant cameras at tables so people can snap impromptu pics throughout the event.
- Keep décor simple, bright and easy to clean! Checkerboard picnic tablecloths are perfect, as are helium balloons. If you have access to them, bring in mason jars and old-fashioned pails for serving snacks, drinks and ice out of for a vintage summery touch.
- Play music! Whether you have hire a DJ for the day or just toss some streaming music on an outdoor speaker, music is essential for setting the mood and keeping the energy up during your soiree. Plan a playlist in advance if you’re doing the music yourself so you don’t have to fuss with it during the BBQ.
A FEW OTHER THINGS
- Assign a few key people specific roles to keep the BBQ running smoothly. One person might be in charge of music, one refreshing/clearing tables, one at the grill, etc. And don’t forget the importance of designated CLEANING helpers for after the BBQ!
- Have a few yard games handy, like bean bags and Frisbee, for people to pick up and play throughout the BBQ as they wish.
- Consider fun and cheap take-home gifts, especially if it’s a corporate event. Without blowing your budget, consider low-cost items that you can raffle off during the event or gift to everyone in attendance. Summery swirly straws, sunglasses or inflatable beach balls are all great options that don’t cost an arm and a leg.