Published June 6th, 2024

Hosting the ultimate backyard BBQ: Ideas, tips, and more

Written by Level Home Staff

Hosting the ultimate backyard BBQ: Ideas, tips, and more

Backyard barbecues are a wonderful way to enjoy the warm weather, great food, and good company. The key to a successful BBQ lies in careful planning and preparation to ensure everything runs smoothly so your guests and you can enjoy the cookout.

How to set up for your outdoor barbecue

Creating the perfect setup for your outdoor barbecue will depend on a variety of factors, like where you’re hosting it (backyard? park?), if there’s an occasion (graduation? birthday? just ‘cause?), and what theme you’re going for. A good rule of thumb for all barbecues is to organize different zones for cooking, eating, and relaxing, as well as incorporating details like lighting and a space for entertainment.

  • Cooking zone: Set up your grill and prep area in a convenient, safe location away from major foot traffic to avoid any mishaps

  • Eating zone: Arrange tables and chairs to create a comfortable dining area for you and your guests

  • Relaxing zone: Provide seating areas with shade from trees or umbrellas for guests to relax. Consider placing some lounges poolside if you have a pool, or setting up seating around a firepit for later in the evening

  • Lighting: Use string lights, lanterns, or LED candles to create an inviting atmosphere and ensure your party doesn’t have to end when the sun goes down

  • Games and activities: Include lawn games like cornhole, frisbee, or badminton to keep all ages entertained (just be sure the games are set up far enough from the food to avoid any accidental spills)

Step-by-step setup process

  1. Choose the location: Select an area in your backyard that’s spacious and has a good layout for different zones and activities
  2. Prepare the grill: Clean and preheat your grill, and ensure you have all necessary utensils, fuel, and food
  3. Arrange seating: Set up tables and chairs for guests to enjoy their meals, and arrange comfortable seating for relaxation
  4. Set up lighting: Hang string lights or place lanterns around the backyard to ensure adequate lighting as the sun sets. Saving this step until after you arrange seating will ensure you know just where to place your lights
  5. Organize food stations: Set up a buffet table for food and drinks, and make sure it’s easily accessible (and not in danger of catching a stray frisbee)
  6. Set up activities: Arrange games and activities around the yard, ensuring there’s space for everyone to safely participate

Backyard barbecue checklist

Who doesn’t love a good checklist? When you’re ready to set up, take one last look to make sure you have all you need to throw the perfect barbeque:

  • Grill and fuel

  • Cooking utensils (tongs, spatula, basting brush)

  • Food and drinks

  • Tables and chairs

  • Tableware (plates, cups, cutlery)

  • Napkins and tablecloths

  • Trash bags and recycling bins

  • Outdoor lighting

  • Insect repellent

  • Cooler with ice

  • Games and activities

  • Music

Backyard party tips

Creating a stress-free backyard BBQ is all about easy and quick setup ideas. Keep things simple with minimal decor and a streamlined menu.

  • Prep ahead: Prepare as much food as possible before the day of the BBQ, you can pre-chop vegetables and marinate meats the night before. Consider ordering your groceries ahead of time with services like Walmart+ InHome delivery

  • Keep it simple: Choose easy-to-prepare dishes that don’t require constant attention, like chips and dip or macaroni salad. You can even ask guests to bring a dish of their own, pot-luck style

  • Use disposable items: Simplify cleanup with disposable plates, cups, and utensils – try bamboo or compostable tableware for a convenient option that’s also eco-friendly. Just make sure you have trash and recycling receptacles nearby for guests to use

  • Guest passes: Use your smart lock to set up a guest pass or share a unique keycode for the event so guests can let themselves in when they arrive, and you can continue to man the grill or enjoy a game of baseball

Summer BBQ safety tips

Hosting a BBQ isn’t just fun and games, safety is paramount. Follow these tips to ensure everyone stays safe and has a good time.

Fire safety:

  • Keep the grill away from flammable objects and structures

  • Never leave the grill unattended

  • Have a fire extinguisher or a bucket of sand nearby

  • Use long-handled tools to avoid burns

Food safety:

  • Keep raw and cooked foods separate

  • Use a meat thermometer to ensure meats are cooked to safe temperatures

  • Keep perishable foods chilled until ready to cook or serve

General safety:

  • Keep sharp objects and hot items out of reach of children

  • Ensure pathways are clear to prevent tripping hazards

  • Only let people into your home/yard that you know and trust so your kids and guests remain safe

Tips for keeping bugs and pests away

Use these methods to keep your barbecue bug-free:

  • Citronella candles and torches: Place them around your yard in safe locations to repel mosquitoes and other pests. Bonus: these can double as lighting!

  • Bug zappers: Install them in strategic locations

  • Food covers: Use mesh covers to protect food from insects

  • Herbs and plants: Incorporate insect-repellent plants like citronella, lavender, mint, and basil into your garden

What time should a backyard BBQ start?

Choosing the right start time for your BBQ depends on several factors:

  • Consider the weather: Afternoon BBQs might be too hot or could be perfect for swimming, while evenings can be cooler but come with more bugs

  • Guest availability: Consider coordinating with guests to find a time that works for most

  • Duration: Afternoon start times allow for a longer event, while evening BBQs can have a more relaxed, intimate atmosphere. The theme (if you have one) and whether children are present can also be an important consideration for timing

Backyard BBQ ideas

So you’ve considered the basics, but what about the fun stuff?

Decorating & theme ideas

Adding a theme can make your BBQ more fun and memorable. Here are some popular themes and what can go along with them, but don’t be afraid to go out-of-the-box:

  • Hawaiian Luau - tiki torches, pineapples and coconuts, leis, Hawaiian shirts; the possibilities are endless

  • Classic American BBQ - burgers, hot dogs, macaroni or potato salad; a classic red, white, and blue event

  • Mexican Fiesta - elote, chips and salsa, grilled meats and seafood for delicious tacos; mouth-watering goodness

  • Beach Party - pool floaties, swimsuits, sun hats, beach balls; some easygoing fun-in-the-sun

Try setting up a photo booth with themed props or bringing out your Polaroid camera for guests to get some easy keepsakes!

Food & drink menu ideas

What you decide to serve at your BBQ depends on your theme, what you like and are able to make, and who your guests are (kids will be more thrilled about ice cream sandwiches than deviled eggs or grilled salmon). Here are some ideas to get you started when planning for a cookout:

  • Appetizers: Chips and salsa, veggie platters, deviled eggs, potato chips and pretzels

  • Mains: Burgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken or steak, kabobs, ribs, tacos, seafood boil

  • Sides: Coleslaw, potato salad, corn on the cob or elote, baked beans, grilled pineapple

  • Desserts: S’mores, fruit salad, ice cream sandwiches or cones, ice pops

  • Alcoholic drinks: Beer, sangria, margaritas, pina coladas, hard seltzer or lemonade

  • Non-alcoholic drinks: Lemonade, iced tea, soda, flavored water or seltzer. You can even consider offering non-alcoholic beer, wine, or spirits for sober or underage guests to enjoy

Enjoy your BBQ!

Planning and hosting the perfect backyard BBQ can be enjoyable with the right preparation. Get creative, have fun, and ensure everyone has a great time.