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Backyard BBQ Hosting Guide

The Ultimate Guide to Hosting a 4th of July Backyard BBQ Party

We love the Fourth of July. Fireworks and homemade ice cream. Traditions like dips in the creek followed by ice-cold watermelon. Red, white, and blue everything.

And, of course, there’s BBQ.

More of us grill and BBQ for the Fourth of July than for any other holiday. We think that’s because there’s nothing quite like a stack of ribs, juicy slices of brisket, or a tray of BBQ chicken to bring folks together for some summer fun.

Throwing a big backyard BBQ to celebrate the 4th this year? We want to help make your shindig one to remember.

Every tip and trick we know about how to host the best-ever 4th of July cookout is right here.

1. Get The Grill Ready
2. Keep Menu Planning Simple
3. Prep the Patio for Partying
4. Get Ready For a Snack Attack
5. Relief Pitchers
6. Food Prep For the Win
7. The Calm Before the Storm: Serving Plates and Tableware
8. Save Room For Dessert
9. Entertainment for the ages

1. Get The Grill Ready

At what temperature are ribs done, how to make fall off the bone ribs

There isn’t much worse than realizing just as your guests arrive for your 4th of July cookout that the grill is a mess, or that you’re out of wood pellets or charcoal.

When you’re prepping for your party, think like a cook. Make a shopping list of ingredients that can be purchased days ahead of the big event. And give your grill a good scrub according to how the manufacturers would suggest you do it.

Add charcoal, wood pellets, or propane to your pre-party shopping list. Pretty darned near the top, too.

Here’s our 4th of July Backyard BBQ shopping list to get you started on your own:

2. Keep Menu Planning Simple

Smoked Burgers with BBQ Aioli

We once heard some sage advice. And then we heard it again and again and again. (That’s how you know it’s good advice.)

That sage advice was this: Don’t go overboard on planning the menu for your backyard BBQ.

The key to a great outdoor dinner is to keep it loose, easy, and casual. Plan for one or two meats as mains—think ribs, brisket, chicken, or sausages—and a few side dishes, like potato salad and baked beans. You’ll also want to plan for a snack to get the party started.

We gathered our favorite ribs recipes, our world-championship brisket recipe, our favorite BBQ chicken recipes, and our best burgers of all time to help you with your menu planning. And then there’s our list of our favorite 4th of July recipes to help you, too.

Here’s a guide to how much food to make for each person at your BBQ: Main Dishes

As you plan your menu, be sure to avoid the nightmare of coming up short on food. But how much food should you buy so you can make sure you have plenty to feed your guests, without having mounds of leftovers?

Keep in mind, these amounts assume you are serving two mains in amounts guaranteed to please.

If you cook more than just two mains, you won’t need quite so much per person. Adjust down slightly per meat if you plan three or more mains.

Now, about sides.

The serving size for a side dish is about ½ C. per person. But when it’s a backyard BBQ? You’ll want to plan for closer to ¾ C. per person.

Why? Sides like potato salad, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, pasta salad, and coleslaw are foods everyone loves. And they’ve been waiting all year, for exactly this occasion, to enjoy them. Count on your guests to come hungry.

One last tip here: Keep in mind that you don’t have to shoulder the entire menu.

Ask guests to bring a side dish such as baked beans, potato or pasta salads, deviled eggs, or chips and dips for snacking.

Delegate carefully, however, so you don’t end up with several varieties of “award-winning” baked beans.

Our favorite backyard BBQ side dishes

Easy Barbecue Baked Beans
Oven-Roasted Barbecue Potato Salad
Slow Smoked Pork and Beans
Spicy Grilled Corn Salad
Smoked Deviled Eggs
Roasted Cauliflower “Mac” & Cheese
Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese
BBQ Chicken & Macaroni Salad
Keto Smoked Buffalo Cauliflower
Home Baked BBQ Sandwich Buns (this recipe is amazing for rolls, too)

Gourmet BBQ Burger Bar

The Condiments and Toppings We Always Have On Hand For BBQ Parties

The more toppings, sauces, and drizzles you can add to your table, the more opportunities your guests will have to customize their plates.

Encourage your guests to go crazy creating their own combos with:

Our Backyard BBQ Menu Shopping Checklist

3. Prep the Patio For Partying

How to host a BBQ cookout party

Backyard BBQ pro tip: Don’t try to grill and battle with Mother Nature at the same time.

It’s best to anticipate the what-ifs and do any patio set-up before the day of your BBQ.

Our Toolkit for Getting the Patio BBQ Ready

Fans. Fans to keep guests happy and comfortable. They keep pests away from the buffet table, too.

Insect repellent. Summer means sno cones and runs through the sprinkler. It also means mosquitos.

Want to make sure the ankle-biters don’t get an invitation to your backyard BBQ? Get citronella candles or torches and light them around where folks will be sitting and mingling. Set some bug spray out, too.

While you’re at it, leave a bottle or two of sunscreen around, especially near where kids might be playing in the sun.

Outdoor lights. You’re planning the kind of party where no one is going to be ready to go home just because the sun goes down. Plan to have some outdoor lighting for your guests. Yard torches are great. We like strings of bistro lights and solar-powered path lights, too. And we love the light from a good fire pit.

Tables and seating. Well before time for guests to show up, set up the right number and your preferred configuration of folding tables, picnic tables, and other seating. This can be as simple as setting out some lawn chairs. Or, you can go full-throttle with a patio set. The style is up to you, but you’ll definitely want to make sure you have a seat for everyone.

When you’re picking out where to set up buffet and picnic tables, make sure to select spots that will be out of the way of grill smoke. A table or two for drinks and appetizers, away from both the kitchen and the grill, will come in handy. It also helps to keep your guests comfortable, chatty, and out of the way while you finish up the food.

Set out any tablecloths you want to use the night before, along with the plates and utensils. Use Mason jars to keep flatware and napkins corralled.

You’ll want to have plenty of trash and recycle bins around to collect waste. No one wants to play hide and seek with the garbage.

Signage. Scrawl a quick welcome on a chalkboard easel, along with the highlights of what you’re serving at your backyard BBQ. It doesn’t have to be pretty—though it certainly could be if you delegate this task to the artist in your family—but it can be a handy way to keep guests in the loop about what’s hitting their plates (and saves you from having to answer the same question about what’s for dinner a dozen times).

Music. Everyone is looking forward to your delicious BBQ, but it’s the music that will make it feel like a party. Set out a bluetooth speaker or two on the morning of your get-together, and take a few minutes in the days before to craft a backyard BBQ playlist. You can ask a smart speaker for suggestions if you get stumped.

Our Prep-the-Patio Checklist

4. Get Ready For a Snack Attack

How to Make Pimento Cheese Dip Recipes with Head Country BBQ Sauce

Even if dinner time is later than your party start time, you can count on guests’ mouths watering as soon as they step within smoke range of your grill.

Do ‘em a favor and tide them over. Set up a snack table in a spot that’s away from the grill. This keeps your guests out of the smoke and gives you the elbow room you’ll need to finish up with grilling.

Our Favorite Snack Table Idea for a BBQ Party

Do a pimento-cheese bar. An assortment of toppings can turn a simple dip into a friendly competition for the best plate. Customization options also ensure every guest gets exactly what they want.

Get our recipe for Pimento Cheese Dip and load up on these toppings:

5. Relief Pitchers

Drinks you need for your backyard BBQ

No one can play bartender and pitmaster at the same time and do it well.

Make your life easier by pre-mixing batch cocktails and mocktails ahead of party time.

Try these simple yet flavorful combinations to get the party started:

Keep a cooler well-stocked with bubbly waters, beer, and juice pouches for the kids.

Don’t forget the ice! Underlined twice.

Our Backyard BBQ Drinks Checklist

6. Food Prep For the Win

At what temperature are ribs done, how to make fall off the bone ribs

Don’t wait until it’s time to light the grill or smoker to do your meat prep.

There’s no reason to add stress to your plate when you could add prep to your to-do list a day or two before your backyard BBQ.

Our Food-Prep List For a Backyard BBQ

Our Backyard BBQ Food Prep Checklist

7. The Calm Before the Storm: Serving Plates and Tableware

How to Make a BBQ Charcuterie Board with Head Country BBQ Sauce

We’re closing in on the finish line for planning your backyard BBQ. It’s time to make sure you’ll have the serving plates and tableware ready to go and at your fingertips, right when you need them.

  1. Prepare what you’re going to use to serve the food. That’s platters, salad bowls, and serving spoons.
  2. Prepare what you’re going to use to eat the food. This means plates, bowls, knives, forks, spoons, and cups.

Set out everything you’re going to use to serve your BBQ feast ahead of time. You can make this easier by marking each platter and bowl with a sticky note so you know what food you’ve planned for which container. Plus, you’ll know that you have enough to serve mains, sides, and everything else.

Have plenty of plates, cups, forks, knives, spoons, napkins (wet naps as always wise when you’re serving BBQ), and toothpicks.

Our Backyard BBQ Serving Dishes and Tableware Checklist

8. Save Room For Dessert

Ice Cream Sundae Bar for Backyard BBQ

Looking to end your backyard BBQ on a sweet note?

Two words: Sundae bar.

Wow your guests with the ultimate sundae experience. Ice cream tastes better at the end of a sweltering day, especially when it’s covered in an assortment of toppings—reminds us of a fireworks show, when you think about it.

Set up a topping bar and let guests customize their sundaes. To avoid a literal melt-down, keep the ice cream in the freezer until the very last minute. Set all the toppings out in a muffin tin—a different topping in each well—or small bowls. This keeps things easy.

Our Must-Haves For The Best-Ever Ice Cream Sundae Bars

9. Entertainment for the ages

Cornhole for Backyard BBQ Entertainment

Is it really a BBQ without some classic yard games? We love how the games we all remember playing at the BBQ when we were kids keeps the party going and strikes up some friendly competition between guests.

Take advantage of the many family-friendly outdoor games on the market: cornhole, horseshoes, or giant Jenga are always favorites. Set them up before kids (and, let’s honest, adults) can ask what there is to do.

Our Backyard Entertainment and Yard Games Checklist

Our Printable Ultimate Backyard BBQ Checklist

Ultimate Backyard BBQ Checklist from Head Country