Barbecues are a summertime staple. They are tons of fun. Plus, you can get some sun and avoid heating up the inside of your house no matter how many people you cook for. Unfortunately, getting together can present a challenge, especially if you have a large family or group. Ensuring that you have enough ice and chairs to go around is easy to forget when you’re thinking about how many hotdogs or burger patties you need and what sort of soda you want.
Luckily, you can keep track of everything if you have the right tool for the job. You can break things down into smaller shopping trips or delegate some tasks to other people when you know exactly what you need. The Ultimate Barbecue Party List will help you throw an epic summer barbecue.
What Is a BBQ Party Checklist?
If you want your party to go smoothly, you need an excellent BBQ Party Checklist. By breaking things down into simple categories, you can easily keep track of what you need and what you already have. A BBQ Party Checklist is the perfect organizational tool to ensure you don’t forget anything vital so you can enjoy the party even when you’re hosting, coordinating, shopping, and cooking everything yourself. Use the list below to check off items as you take care of them, and you’ll be ready to fire up the grill in no time.
The Ultimate BBQ Party Checklist
If you want to have the best possible barbecue, you’ll need to make sure you have all the necessities on hand. From cold drinks to food and entertainment, it’s all here on the Ultimate BBQ Party Checklist. All you need to do is tweak the list slightly to fit your event and crowd, then check things off as you get them.
For The Grill
If you don’t have a grill, start there. Make sure you choose a model that can make enough food for everyone you plan to invite reasonably quickly. Meanwhile, once you have a grill, you’ll need a few essentials for cooking.
- Aluminum Foil
- Spatula, Grill Fork, and Tongs
- Plates to put finished meats on
- Grill Cleaner or Wire Brush
- Grill Gloves or Hotpads
- Fuel For The Grill- Gas, Propane, or Charcoal
- (Optional) Lighter fluid or other starters
Pro Tip: If you have a grill set up over an open fire such as a fire pit, you will need longer utensils, a fire poker, and plenty of spare firewood.
Eating and Drinking
Food is the center of every BBQ Party. However, you can’t expect your guests to eat everything with their hands. You’ll need a few outdoor dining essentials to serve up the food, drinks, and good times.
- Plates and (possibly) bowls
- Bottle opener or corkscrew for adult beverages and glass soda bottles
- Serving Utensils
- Platters, jugs, and large bowls for serving food or drinks from
Pro Tip: Get some plastic wrap, lids, or more aluminum foil to cover uneaten food. Doing this keeps bugs out.
The type of food you serve can vary a lot by culture, and it’s essential to consider the needs of any guests with special diets. However, the list below covers the most common main dishes and sides that are easy to make on a grill or prepare in advance. Adjust this based on how ambitious or specialized your barbecue is, and feel free to experiment with bringing in unique dishes.
The Main Course
- Barbecue chicken
- Hot dogs
- Shrimp skewers
- Vegetarian or vegan burgers
- Buns or rolls
Condiments For Main Dishes
- Barbecue sauce
- Pickle slices or spears
- Sliced raw onion
- Sliced tomato
- (Heat On Grill) Corn on the cob
- (Heat On Grill) Skewers with vegetables like cherry tomato, bell pepper, big pieces of onion, and summer squash
- (Keep Cold) Cole slaw
- (Keep Cold) Potato salad
- (Keep Cold) Deviled eggs
- (Keep Cold) Tossed salad with salad dressings on the side
- (Keep Cold) Veggie platters with black olives, raw cherry tomato, celery, and carrot sticks
- Potato and corn chips
- (Keep Cold) Salsa, queso, guacamole, hummus, ranch, and spinach or bean dip for chips and vegetables
- Sheet cake
- (Keep Cold) Jello salad
- (Keep Cold) Pudding cups (especially if there are lots of kids)
- (Keep Frozen) Ice Cream and Cones
- (Keep Cold) Fruit like watermelon or fruit salad
Pro Tip: Don’t forget to keep the condiments cold. You can set these in an ice bucket just like you would with beer on the beach.
A party without drinks is like a park without grass or trees. There’s no reason to stay. More importantly, you don’t want your party guests to get dehydrated, so you’ll need to provide some refreshments. You don’t need all the things on this list, but you should have at least two or three.
- Ice for drinks and for keeping the drinks cold
- 1-3 coolers or several buckets for ice
- Soda in 2-liters or cans
- Juice, Punch, or Lemonade (typically non-alcoholic even when it’s an all-adult party)
- Iced Tea (sweetened and unsweetened, but also clearly labeled)
- Beer or cocktails
- Fun, semi-frozen options include rootbeer floats and margaritas or daiquiris.
Pro Tip: You can upgrade the punch for fall BBQs with dry ice or add fun-shaped ice cubes.
There are a million ways to entertain people, from hiring a band and getting a bounce castle for a massive gathering to sitting around a fire telling stories with a couple of good friends. When choosing your entertainment, it’s important to keep your budget and the crowd you’re inviting in mind. Below are a few classic examples of BBQ entertainment.
- Dart Board
- Lawn Bowling
- Oversize Games
Pro Tip: Water play is always a winner when it’s hot outside. You don’t even need a pool. Set a ‘safe zone’ somewhere for phones and people who don’t want to get wet, and tell everyone to bring a towel and wear a bathing suit or clothing they don’t mind getting wet in. Options like a Slip and Slide or hose attachments that spray water are great, but you can also opt for water guns and water balloons. Reusable water balloons don’t leave trash and can be re-soaked as many times as you like. Plus, they’re reusable if you dry them and store them properly when you’re done.
This is one vital element to every party. Yet you don’t need a list. Some people have seating in their barbecue area already. Others have friends who are happy to sit on the ground. If neither of those things describes you, consider hitting a thrift or bulk store to remedy your lack of necessary seating. Alternately, large logs with outdoor cushions can be a cost-effective and simple solution if you are crafty and have access to some raw materials.
Pro Tip: Check for anthills before you set up any temporary seating.
Health and Safety
- Toilet Paper
- Trash Cans
- Lights (for evening events)
- Bug Spray
- Fire Extinguisher
- First Aid Kit
Pro Tip: Citronella candles and tiki torches with citronella will help a little bit. However, if you’re really concerned about insects, set up an event tent with mesh sides for guests to hang out inside or take care of bugs in advance by calling a pest control specialist.
Tips to Host a Stress-Free BBQ Party
Everyone likes to have a good time, but providing that to your guests takes smart planning. We’ve all been to a bad party where nothing went right, and the host was a ball of nerves. Using these tips to host a stress-free BBQ party, you can ensure people remember your event for other reasons.
Before: Do These Things Before The Party Starts
- Doublecheck your guest list and make sure you aren’t inviting people who are likely to cause a scene or a problem.
- Put up lights and decorations the day before or the morning of your party.
- Tell people if there’s a pool.
- Prep all the food. Make burger meat into patties, slice vegetables, and set up trays of condiments.
- Put your party games or activities together and set them out where people can get to them.
- Use premixed or premade cocktails, mocktails, and punch drinks rather than trying to juggle that responsibility too.
- Set up kids’ drinks and activities away from adult beverages and activities. The bounce house or kids’ play area and the dartboard should never mix. Likewise, beer and soda need separate containers.
- Always ask your guests if they have any food allergies or dietary restrictions you need to know about. It’s rude to invite a vegan to have burgers or a celiac to a part where everything is on a bun or breaded. You can pick up safe food options for people who have special dietary needs if you know what they are.
- You can always ask people to bring a side dish but plan around it, so you have enough main dishes and quick snacks even if they don’t.
During: Hacks For Being A Better Host
- Offer people their first drink and direct them to where they can get more. Doing this makes people feel welcome and prevents you from having to spend all day running to fetch things for your guests.
- Point out the trash cans and seating options casually when getting people their first drinks.
- Keep the snacks and drinks away from your grilling area and any firepits or pools. Doing this will prevent accidents and injuries.
- Make sure there’s music.
- Put up your pets. It’s funny when the dog steals a hotdog, but it’s better when they never have the chance.
- Point the kids at the games. Their parents will be glad you did.
After: Pro-Host Parting and Cleanup
- Thank people for coming. Simple courtesy can help bring your party to a pleasant close.
- Double-check that anyone who brought a serving dish picks it up on the way out.
- Ask if everyone has their coat, purse, or other personal items before they pull away. Doing this saves time and makes you look very savvy.
- Offer to send food home with people if you have a lot of leftovers. You can make up paper plates and cover them in foil in just a couple of minutes or let people help themselves.
- Accept help if anyone offers to stick around and pick up with you.
- Don’t wait to wash dishes, pick up trash and make sure any messes are handled.
- Make sure the fire or coals are out. The worst way to end a party is with a house fire.
Mistakes to Avoid for Your BBQ Party
There are many ways to throw a great party, but there are also things you definitely should not do. No matter how experienced you are, a timely reminder can help prevent trouble. Here is a simple list of mistakes to avoid for your BBQ party.
- Don’t go overboard. It’s easy to get excited and buy fifteen bags of chips when you only need three. Make sure you know how many people you’re feeding and tailor your needs so you don’t have more leftovers than you can eat or give away.
- Remember your meat thermometer. You must cook ground meats like burgers and hotdogs to 160°F. Chicken and other bird meats need to reach 165°F, while meat like steaks, chops, and ribs should be 145°F. Keep in mind these are safety-related minimums.
- Don’t cross-contaminate food. Get enough plates to keep things separate, and use different grill areas for various foods.
- Pay close attention so you don’t burn the meal. A little grill marking is fine, but you want the coals to heat the food, not the food.
- Don’t forget to buy extra where it counts. You can never have too much toilet paper or too many napkins. It’s wise to get a little more than you think you’ll need as long as you don’t go totally wild. An extra six-pack or two is fine. Dessert for a hundred people when you only invited ten is a waste.
- Set your grill away from buildings, cars, overhanging trees, and other fire hazards.
- Don’t dump lighter fluid on the coals. You can opt for some quick-start or self-starting coals if you want to get things going faster, but creating a fireball is a lousy way to end the party and spend the evening in the hospital instead.
- Never leave your grill unattended.
- Don’t forget to wash your hands. This is basic food sanitation. Even at home, you need to be careful to avoid making people sick.
- Keep pets, kids, drunks, and the uncoordinated away from the fire.
- Don’t burn plastic trash. It’s fine to toss used paper napkins and non-coated paper plates in the fire when you’re done, but plastic creates a toxic gas when you burn it.
Having a get-together is great, but it’s even better with good food, plenty of seating, and a host who is organized. The best BBQs are the ones where you get to enjoy all your hard work rather than stressing out about things you forgot. Every summer party planner should have the Ultimate BBQ Party Checklist is something on hand. Feel free to bookmark this page so you can throw a barbecue anytime. Once you’ve gone through the list, remember to double-check that you didn’t miss anything. Taking a few extra minutes to look around at your party preparations before the big day can save you headaches, embarrassment, and having to send someone on a store run at the last minute.