Backyard Barbecue Essentials
A BBQ is about way more than the sum of the parts. Yes, firing up some great meat and assorted veggies on the BBQ is a great start, but it’s not enough to throw awesome backyard barbecue parties.
While this is a little bit reductive, there are basically two kinds of backyard parties that you can throw for a BBQ. First, you can grill up a bunch of food and dish out to people one at a time as the meat is ready. Picture a party where everyone is wandering around the backyard, holding a red solo cup, or whatever they are snacking on. Second, picture a scenario where all the food comes out at once to a dozen hungry people all arranged at a dining table. The essentials for an outdoor dining experience and a “wander and grill” scenario are pretty different (and of course neither is the grill and tailgate!).
We’ll take a look at both scenarios so you can plan the perfect BBQ day:
Grill Entertainment Essentials
Fire was domesticated around 500,000 years ago, and it would have been the center of attention for a gathering of people. You don’t need to have a huge dining table outdoors to throw a grill party that excites.
If grilling is going to be the center of the party, then you’ll want to have a grill and basket that are worthy of the attention. Make sure you’ve got a reliable, trusty torch so that the grill gets a kick start every time.
The Food: Wander and Snack
When grilling in the backyard and allowing everyone to grab their favorite BBQ on demand, you’ll want to provide enough options so that everyone can get exactly what they want. While this might mean cooking a couple different kinds of meat and providing plenty of assorted toppings for the hamburgers and hotdogs, it also means providing something a bit lighter for the guests who want to fill up but don’t want to indulge in all meat.
One of the great backyard grill party foods is sliders, which are basically mini-burgers (or pulled pork sandwiches) which guests can load up with an assortment of toppings. They help keep everything fresh and personalized so that everyone is happy. Plus, it’s easy to grab one or two at a time and keep coming back for more.
Entertainment and Games
Because a BBQ with a dining table means that you’ll have a centralized location for conversation and entertainment, you don’t need as much entertainment. Things are a bit different for a casual BBQ where everyone is wandering around and grabbing food on an as-needed basis. Provide great drinks, good tunes, and invest in some lawn games for everyone to play.
Also remember that your party is limited by the shape, size, and texture of the space. You may have to make some adjustments to your landscape. Specifically, you’ll want to have the right kind of seating, lighting, and aesthetics to keep the entertainment going strong. You can also get a table if you are a Big Green Egg user to help you entertain more easily.
The outdoor grilling season, depending on where you live, might be a lot shorter than you really want it to be. Things start to get cold in the fall quickly and take a while to be appropriately warm in the spring. Want to extend your grilling season for both yourself and your backyard guests? You’ll need heating elements. Outdoor heaters can be really helpful, but don’t quite set the scene in the way that you’re going to want them to. Try installing a really cool firepit to give people a warm place to gather. And of course, once you’ve got the right kind of fire pit, you can do some marshmallow roasting and storytelling as well.
If You’re Tailgate Grilling
Tailgate grilling is a great sports tradition which can feed you and your friends for a good price before you watch your favorite team take the field. One of the things to remember about tailgate grilling is that you should do all the prep work before hand so that the grilling process goes really smooth. Great options for tailgate grilling are obviously burgers, tri-tip, and chicken. Anything that you can marinate or season liberally and toss onto the flames will be perfect for tailgate grilling.
One of the hard parts about barbecue dining is that you’ll need to get all the food finished at roughly the same time, and coordinate anything that is on the grill with any foods that are coming from off the grill, or the kitchen. That means you’ll have to sit down and gameplan those food maneuvers that way things don’t get cold while you’re waiting on a completely different food item.
Additionally, check out our 7 tips for cooking success so that you make sure that your barbecue dining experience is the absolute best that it could be!
The Food: Choosing What to Barbecue
It’s easy to time everything if you pick a single meat and cook that, because then you can coordinate everything else around that. For example, choosing a beef brisket or tri-tips can allow you to set it and forget it while you focus on the other parts of the meal.
While you might be able to get away with nothing but hamburgers and hotdogs at an outdoor grill where people are wandering around, if you’re going to set a table full of food, it will look better to have some pops of color. For those pops of color, you’ll need the right BBQ vegetables. Recommended veggies are things that are generally strong and can hold their shape and flavor, even while taking on the smoke and robust flavorings of the grill. That would include portobello mushrooms and eggplant, for the thick textures and solid flavorings. Also try zucchini, which can turn to mush if you cook it too long but is delicious and smokey when cooked just right. Onions and bell peppers give you some stronger flavors, while broccoli and asparagus allow you to round out the green colorings.
Setting a Backyard Table
Setting a backyard table is all about the lighting and the contrast that makes the space pop. While it can be cool to have a table on the patio that you set up for a backyard dining experience, it is even cooler to set up shop in the middle of the lawn. If you’ve got the right kind of space and the right kind of table for it, this is something to explore. Plan on hosting a lot of great outdoor dining adventures? Might be time to invest in the dream outdoor dining table. Keep in mind that the ideal outdoor dining table is both classy enough to be really cool, but also light enough to be moved around on an as-needed basis.
Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want to happen at someone else’s BBQ. If you treat your own BBQ like a guest who is showing up, it will help you make tough decisions about the way that you cook and the kinds of entertainment that you offer. Consider the temperature and the way that your backyard is set up — and then transform the whole place into the BBQ wonderland that you’d like to attend.