Backyard BBQ: A Complete Guide For Beginners

Spoil your neighbours by being the ultimate host with this complete guide to holding the perfect backyard BBQ.

It’s summertime. The sun is sending down glorious rays down onto your lawn, and it won’t be stopping anytime soon. There’s only one thing on your mind: it’s BBQ time.

With over 75% of US adults (Source) owning a smoker or grill of some sort, the passion for BBQ runs far and wide throughout the United States.

Heck, the statistics suggest that about 4 in 10 people will continue to use their BBQ at least once a month during the winter months as well! Check out our article about grilling in the winter if you want some tips for that.

There’s nothing like a good backyard cookout to bring people together. And that’s why it’s important that you know what you’re doing when the time comes to host a big one yourself.

If you’re taking the trouble to get your neighbors, friends, and family together for a backyard BBQ, you’ll want to make sure they leave happy and well fed. Unfortunately, that is far from a foregone conclusion.

There’s a lot to think about if you want to pull off a memorable BBQ. So if you’re looking for a bit of help before the big day, please read on for a guide to hosting the ultimate backyard BBQ.

Backyard BBQ 101: Equipment

It goes without saying that you’ll need a grill if you’re going to be hosting a backyard BBQ. To actually prepare, safely cook and present the food however, you’ll need a range of different equipment to help you complete the job.

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Here is a list of key items that you’ll need to get your backyard BBQ up and running:

  • BBQ grill: There are all sorts of grills available to suit every size and requirement in the country. Make your choice wisely.
  • Fuel: Depending on your choice of BBQ grill, you’ll have to choose which fuel you’ll need to keep the fire burning. This could either be your choice of wood, or perhaps charcoals. If you chose a gas BBQ, you won’t need a separate fuel source.
  • Thermometer: Essential for ensuring that meat is cooked properly
  • Tongs: These will allow you to move the meat around the grill, onto and off of the flames to control the cooking time.
  • Oven mitts: Protects you from the heat of the grill.
  • Foil containers: These will allow you to store the meat in the oven to keep warm before serving. You can also place these trays beneath the grills, which should help you reduce the chance of flare-ups.
  • Water bottle: This will help you to extinguish flare-ups on the grill.
  • Foil wrap: From keeping things warm to steaming fish and vegetables on the BBQ, foil wrap is a must-have item for any BBQ.

These are the essentials for any backyard BBQ. It wouldn’t hurt to have some other things like a cleaning grate, but anything could probably be considered luxury.

Keep It Clean

Cleaning Gas Grill
Important part of barbecuing: cleaning!

As well as the equipment mentioned above, there are a number of hygiene considerations you’ll have to keep in mind.

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Always be extremely cautious of cross-contamination. There is no better way to spoil the memory of a great BBQ than for your guests to become sick 6 hours later.

Cross-contamination occurs when raw meat and fish come into contact with cooked ingredients.

The most likely time for this to happen is when you have finished cooking one batch of food and are about to put more raw meat onto the BBQ. There are two key tips to prevent cross-contamination at this time.

Firstly, use your tongs to transfer all of the cooked food to trays before you add any more raw food to the BBQ. Next, you can use two separate tongs, one for raw meat and the other for cooked food.

These simple tips will allow you to maintain a good level of cleanliness and protect guests from any nasty sickness occurring.

A study by the UK’s Food Standards Agency (Source) revealed that more than half of people they surveyed did not use a different set of tongs for the raw and cooked foods. This means that dangerous bacteria is being ingested by millions each year.

Don’t be one of them! You can find more information about good hygiene practices for your backyard BBQ here (Source).

Wood Smoking

To the uninitiated, wood is simply a fuel to keep a BBQ nice and hot. However, for connoisseurs and enthusiasts, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Whether you choose to use hickory, cherry or some other more uncommon variety, you have to understand that each different variety can add a unique smokey flavor to your food.

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To discover more about using wood for your BBQ and the ways that you can use it, check out our blog here.

Getting the Garden Ready

Your first job as the host of a backyard BBQ is to prepare some delicious grub for your friends and family. The next thing you’ll have to consider though is where people will actually have the meal.

Unless you’re regularly hosting large gatherings every weekend, you’re unlikely to have enough garden chairs and tables for your guests.

This is where the neighbors you have invited will come in handy. They’ll be more than understanding if you ask them to borrow any spare chairs and tables for the afternoon.

Failing this, there’s always your cousin who drives that big F150 who can help out.

If you have any ornaments or items of value in your garden, they should be placed well out of harm’s way for the duration of the gathering.

The last thing you want is for that precious marble statuette to lose its head and the hands of a guest. Things have a tendency to break during big get-togethers. Don’t tempt fate by leaving them in the way.

Menu Ideas

With all of the preparation out of the way, you can begin to consider the food choices for your backyard BBQ. You’ll have to make make your decision based on the number of guests who are planning to attend.

If you are expecting more than 15 guests, you should go for at least one very large cut of meat to use as the centerpiece of the BBQ. This will limit your time at the BBQ, and one large cut is easier to cook than several smaller ones.

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We’ve compiled a list of the very best showpiece recipes for your next BBQ. There is a great option for any cut of meat that you could want.

Fish and seafood can be absolutely delicious when cooked on the grill. Also, it will take a lot less time to cook, meaning that it can be prepared in advance and then thrown on the grill near to serving time.

Go down to your favorite deli and pick up some jumbo shrimp. These can be marinated simply using some olive oil, parsley, salt, pepper and a generous amount of minced garlic.

Throw them onto the grill, turning after three minutes on each side. They’ll be ready to serve with a bit of lime straight away.

As well as the classics we have listed above, be sure to check our blog for a selection of other ideas you can cook for larger parties.

Don’t Skimp of the Side Dishes

One of the best parts of a backyard BBQ for guests is piling your plate high with a selection of meats, then take your pick of some delicious side dishes.

Cornbread is always a winner, especially if you’re hosting a BBQ in the South. Sweet in flavor and crispy in texture, cornbread is nice and filling so will pair well with your meats.

You can find a selection of cornbread recipes here (Source).

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As much as everyone loves meat, salad pairs nicely and provides a tasty contrast to the animal protein. A hearty salad filled with rich cheese and sweet tomatoes really add to the BBQ experience.

Vegetables are just delicious on the grill as well. They smoke from your grill adds a completely new dimension to eggplants, asparagus, and even fennel. Have a look at our list of vegetarian BBQ ideas that you could use for your backyard BBQ.

One top tip is to encourage friends to bring round a side dish to your BBQ. This will take the pressure off of you and also create a sense of community for your cookout.

Enjoy the BBQ Process

At the end of the day, a backyard BBQ should be a lot of fun. Not just for the guests, but for you as a host as well.

You should be able to play the king of the manor, entertaining your guests and indulging them with fantastic food in equal measure.

The good news is that this is entirely possible. As long as you follow some of the simple steps and advice in this guide, you should be able to host a wonderful BBQ with relatively little stress.

The real key lies in your preparation. Get your garden set up the night before. Get your food ready and marinaded for that maximum flavor. The more you can do before the big day the better.

With all of this prep completed, sit back, relax and enjoy the first of many brilliant BBQs that you’ll be hosting over the coming months.

Backyard BBQ: A Complete  Guide For Beginners

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