How to Host a Backyard Barbecue

Fire up the grill this weekend and host friends and family for a backyard barbecue! Unsure how to do it? This guide about How to Host a Backyard BBQ offers tips and tricks to hosting one at home with ease.

close up of coleslaw surrounded by other BBQ dishes with the text how to host a BBQ

Whether you want to fire up the grill for a birthday party, a summertime shindig or just because, I’m here for all kinds of backyard barbecues.

I’m a Memphis gal, so when I hear about a backyard barbecue, I’m expecting pork ribs, coleslaw, potato salad… the works.

I learned in college that a backyard barbecue can be firing up the grill and making some tasty grilled foods, like burgers or sausages, instead.

However you think of a backyard BBQ, we are going to cover it in this post because a backyard BBQ should be a fun and easy gathering to host.

Yes, fun AND easy.

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    What is a backyard barbecue?

    That’s up to you, my friend.

    To me, it’s the classic barbecue dishes I was raised on (including ribs, pulled pork and BBQ chicken) OR the Texas barbecue I’ve come to know and enjoy, like brisket.

    However, it can be as simple as throwing hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill if that’s what it means to you.

    This is oftentimes dependent on where you were raised. And no matter the way you want to do it, I’m here to encourage you.

    Before you ask: no, you do not need a smoker, a real gas grill or a ton of specialty equipment to be able to host one of these gatherings.

    I do not have a smoker, so the majority of my barbecue recipes are made between a grill, our kitchen’s oven and the slow cooker.

    I’ll share some of my favorite recipes below for inspiration. But let me be the first to assure you that you can do this, no matter the equipment you’ve got.

    Sliced and seasoned Memphis-Style Barbecue Ribs on a white platter, set on top of a blue and white striped towel before serving

    What you need to host a backyard BBQ

    The Speckled Palate participates in affiliate programs. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a commission from qualifying purchases. Please refer to my disclosure page for more information about these affiliate programs.

    I’ve written an entire post about Backyard Barbecue Essentials, but here are some of my favorite tools and products for whenever I’m making barbecue at home.

    First and foremost, it should go without saying that you don’t want to go into debt while hosting a party at your house. Build your menu around tools you already have.

    So if you don’t have a grill, don’t throw a shindig involving one unless you were already planning to purchase one.

    Here are some of my favorite servingware to use for the specific dishes shared in this post:

    Use whatever you have on hand and get creative! Your dishes don’t have to all be the same shape or pattern. Mix and match patterns to add some color and fun.

    You can learn about My Favorite Easy Entertaining Tools and Products, too!

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Choosing your servingware can (and should!) be done well in advance. I like to get out my dishes and label them with a sticky note to say what is going in them.

    You can label and out them back in the cabinets until the day of.

    A bowl of pulled pork next to a BBQ sauce

    How to plan a menu

    Every menu should be customized to YOU and the people you’re hosting.

    Some things to consider as you build your menu for a backyard barbecue include…

    • How many people are you feeding?
    • What are you able to cook?
    • Are you making everything or will guests bring dishes?
    • Does anyone have any dietary restrictions? Be considerate and have some food everyone can enjoy.
    • How many appetizers and sides will you need?
    • What equipment do you have at your house? (For example, if you’ve got a grill with a side burner, you might be able to make more dishes outdoors instead of if you don’t have a grill.)

    Consider this all as you make your menu.

    A woman holds a bowl of traditional potato salad over a table of other BBQ dishes

    Barbecue Menu Ideas

    Plotting out your menu is especially important if you’re making traditional barbecue because that stuff takes TIME. I do not recommend making one of these menus on a weekday because they require more time.

    You’re going to need a plan and not want to throw this together last minute.

    Here’s a sample menu of a backyard barbecue I’ve hosted recently:

    I enjoy this menu because the ribs are roasted in the oven and finished on the grill. The baked beans are made in the Instant Pot. The slaw and potato salad are easy to put together on the countertops. We’re not overcrowding any cooking elements.

    A Memphis-style menu might look like:

    I pulled together some of our favorite BBQ meats at Best BBQ Main Dishes for a Party.

    If you’re making more traditional grilled entrees, you’ll (probably) require less time and less specialty tools, too.

    Here’s a sample menu of a grilled backyard barbecue you could host:

    Another element to have at any good barbecue is sauces. Depending on what you’re serving, the barbecue sauce could be sweetener or more vinegar-based. Find a brand you like OR make your own!

    Close up of a pulled pork sandwich drizzled with BBQ sauce

    Make a cooking timeline.

    Every event I host, I write a timeline for the cooking and execution of the dishes.

    How do I do this? Decide when you’re going to eat. That’s the end time.

    Next, go through my menu and write down how long each dish takes to cook, INCLUDING anything that calls for brining, chilling, etc.

    Make notes of anything that needs to for sure be made the day of vs. stuff that can be made in advance.

    This is a huge part in hosting anything because your cooking timeline dictates when you get started for the day (or week), as well as when you eat.

    Close up of beans and sauce in a pan before baking

    Get What You’ll Need:

    Depending on when you’re hosting your gathering, you can do this a few days in advance.

    Once you’ve planned out your menu, write a grocery list. Figure out if you can get all the ingredients at your local grocery store, or if you’ll need to visit specialty shops for some ingredients.

    Once at the store, purchase everything you could possibly need, including paper plates, cups and cutlery.

    We are big fans of these compostable HarvestPack plates, Repurpose clear cups and GreenWorks biodegradable cutlery, but obviously, you can use plastic or melamine reusable plates, cups and cutlery if that’s more your speed.

    Need beer, wine or spirits? Add that store to your list (if your state requires you to go to a specialty store), and purchase what you need in advance so you don’t have to run out the day-of.

    strawberry bruschetta on a white plate with blueberries in a bowl

    What You Can Prep in Advance

    This step obviously depends on your menu.

    Whenever I host a backyard barbecue, I choose recipes that can be prepared or made completely early so that I have less stress the day of my event.

    Here are some examples of things you can prepare ahead of time:

    • Chop fruits and veggies the day before. (Obviously, some fruits and veggies will keep better than others, so use your discretion. For example, chopping an apple or a banana one day in advance is a bad idea. Strawberries are OK if you want them to have tons of juices, but otherwise, hold off.)
    • You can also purchase pre-chopped items at the store, like onions or even a bag of salad greens. Do what you need to do to make it easy on yourself!
    • Mix the salad dressing in a mason jar. Set it aside until guests have arrived to pour on top of the salad.
    • Bake your dessert the day before.

    Obviously, this is all dependent on your menu, but it can be done. Really sit with your menu and decide it intentionally so that you can give yourself as much wiggle room as possible.

    Close up of a BBQ Baked Turkey Burger on a white plate

    Tips for a BBQ

    I know that hosting and entertaining can be insanely stressful.

    Things are going to go awry because that’s the way of hosting and hospitality.

    You might not be able to control your grill’s temperature or your food processor dies mid-day… but you can control how you respond to things going wrong.

    I say this because the first time we hosted folks for a backyard barbecue that involved ribs, our ribs CAUGHT FIRE.

    Pour yourself a drink if that’ll make your nerves a little less frazzled. Enlist help of guests. Serve your appetizers early (or send someone to the store for salsa and chips if the entire meal’s timeline is off.)

    You can do this. Promise.

    Enjoy yourself!

    Don’t let entertaining keep you from interacting with your guests. Whenever we host, we’ve found everyone tends to gather in the kitchen as we finish whatever we are serving, and it’s a heck of a lot of fun to chat as you make food.

    When you’re hosting a backyard barbecue, obviously, you’re outside, but the same line of thinking still applies. And if your guests offer a hand, let them help.

    Make this fun for everyone. Your friends and family are here for your backyard barbecue because they like YOU. Spend time with them!

    Overhead image of Instant Pot BBQ Brisket, served on a wooden platter with pickles, and other barbecue sides.

    How to Host a Backyard BBQ

    Erin Parker, The Speckled Palate
    Fire up the grill this weekend and host friends and family for a backyard barbecue! Unsure how to do it? This guide offers tips and tricks to hosting a backyard BBQ with ease.
    5 from 1 vote
    Prep Time 1 hour
    Cook Time 5 hours
    Total Time 6 hours

    Ingredients
      

    • Paper plates or plastic/melamine reusable plates
    • Paper napkins
    • Utensils depending on the dishes you’re serving
    • Plastic/compostable cups or unbreakable reusable cups/drink glasses
    • Serving platters and bowls
    • Drink pitcher

    Equipment

    As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

    Instructions
     

    • Plan your menu in advance. Take into account how many guests you’re hosting, as well as their specific dietary needs. (So if you’re hosting vegans, don’t plan a meat-centric menu, etc.)
    • Once your menu is planned, make your cooking timeline. Be sure to allow for some wiggle room because cooking times are sometimes knocked off.
    • Plan what you’re going to serve your dishes on and in so that you can have those prepared and ready well before guests arrive.
    • Grocery shop.
    • Make anything you can in advance to keep the pressure off yourself as go-time becomes closer.
    • As you’re preparing and cooking, take a deep breath. Keep your cool.
    • When guests arrive, interact with them, and enjoy yourself! The whole point of entertaining is to have FUN, so be sure to do that while you’re feeding and seeing your people.

    Notes

    Please note that your times, as well as your budget, will vary depending on the number of guests, as well as what menu you’ve decided upon. Take the time to think this through so that you can throw a backyard BBQ with ease (and without added stress!)
    Keyword backyard bbq, BBQ, how to host
    Course How to Host
    Cuisine American
    Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

    This How to Host a Backyard Barbecue tutorial were originally published on August 1, 2018. The photographs, along with the text of this blog post, were updated on June 22, 2020.

    A woman with dark curly hair wearing a black tank top in front of a white wall

    About the Author:

    Erin Parker is a Southern gal living in Texas with her husband and two daughters. She started The Speckled Palate to share what she was cooking as a newlywed… and over the years, it’s evolved to capture her love for hosting. Specifically, the EASIEST, lowest key entertaining because everyone deserves to see their people and connect over good food. Learn more about her

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    One Comment

    1. I love #6! That is such a good reminder for anytime I am entertaining. Something will always go wrong, so I need to make the best of whatever happens and not let it get me stressed.

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