How To Set Up The Perfect BBQ Patio Area
December 10, 2020 / Comments
Everyone dreams of a nice outdoor cooking space that is equally good for cooking and entertaining. So how do you go from Pinterest-perfect bbq patios online to something you can set up easily at home? The good news is you definitely don’t need to remodel your whole yard to have a great patio.
We looked at hundreds of “perfect patios” to see what they all have in common, and how you can set one up at home.
Check out our guidelines for cooking and entertaining and apply them in whichever way suits your backyard and budget. Things like:
- Optimal layout
- Essential tools
- Handy storage
- Ideal ambiance
Soon you’ll have an organized peaceful space for cooking, eating and hanging out. Read on for an in-depth look at what makes an ideal bbq patio.
What Makes A Great BBQ Patio?
Are you guilty of trying to balance a plate on an uneven surface (hoping for the best!) or cram a bunch of stuff onto a tiny table? Or maybe you’re the kind to leave things all over the place and find yourself constantly running around, unable to relax?
A great bbq patio has everything you need in just the right spot, and enough thoughtful space to have multiple activities happening at once. If you’re planning to have guests over while you bbq it’s important to focus equally on a great cooking setup and a great entertaining setup. We want everyone to be able to relax, especially the chef.
General Layout: Form Follows Function
The size of your outdoor space is less important than the layout. In considering your general patio layout, remember form will follow function:
- Keep all cooking-related items together, and make this a dedicated space as “the kitchen”
- Leave plenty of space around the grill — anything that will cause people to gather (games, snacks)should be placed away from the cooking area
- The chef should be able to see everything going on in the area (don’t smash the grill in the corner with back to the group)
- If working with a smaller space, use tables and chairs that can be collapsed to easily convert for different activities (maybe play games in the dining area while food is cooking)
- Have enough seating for all of your guests
- If you must store things inside, try to keep the grill close to the house entrance. Avoid crossing the yard to get to the grill.
The main goal here is to be able to move freely through the patio space and have room to expand activities as time goes on. The layout should feel effortless, but should definitely be arranged in advance with care.
Identify The Essentials
A great bbq patio should be stocked, comfortable, and full of friends. Technically, all you need is a grill and some food to have a barbecue. But if you’re looking to set the whole patio atmosphere, you’ll need a few more things:
Prep table: Whether you’re doing all your food prep ahead of time or prefer to prep everything just before cooking, you need some kind of area to set things down before they hit the grill. Don’t try to cram everything into a tiny space!
Cooler: a cooler for adult and regular beverages is a must, and we also like a cooler to store
prep items in, in order to minimize kitchen back-and-forth.
Grill: arguably the most important item! The grill should be clean and ready to rock. (Be sure to have extra fuel handy and make plenty of space around the cooking area.)
Cleanup station: maybe for you, this is just a rag to wipe your hands on. We recommend single-use paper towels and hand sanitizer for your guests as well.
Garbage: we love an outdoor garbage can. This is great for getting rid of prep leftovers and easy for guest cleanup. Keep this near the grill so people don’t gather around it.
Comfortable seating: you should have a chair for each guest and a place for the cook to take a rest.
Lighting: if you’re having an evening grill and chill, know what you’re going to do about lighting before it gets dark. Twinkle lights? Garage floodlights? Tiki torches? Each sets a different mood. See more in the ambiance section below.
For more tips on what to include check out our complete list of 49 BBQ party essentials.
It can be hard to remember all the essentials, so one great trick to remember is “the triangle”.
The Triangle is a design theory meant to maximize efficiency in a kitchen workspace. The three points of the triangle are “refrigerator” “stove” and “sink”. For outside work, we can modify this to be:
- Grill: area where you’ll spend sustained, focused time. This should be stocked with clean tools and ready to go before you even think about putting something down on it.
- Prep/ cooler: we strongly recommend prepping food and toppings in advance and keeping things stored on ice (or better yet, an outdoor fridge) near the grill at the beginning of the BBQ day. Doing this saves so much back-and-forth time and prevents any accidental spills or forgotten items.
- Cleaning station: keep some rags meant only to clean your hands and workspace, and some paper towels and hand sanitizer just in case. You may not even need to use your hands, but you definitely don’t want to have to run inside to wash them and risk burning your food.
Ideally, you have about 4 feet distance between each point of the triangle so you’re not super cramped up while working. Cooking competition kitchens are often organized according to this principle— you don’t need a ton of space, just enough room to keep things separate.
Now that you know your essentials, let’s organize in a way that will make your life easier.
Managing Surface Area and Storage
The two most important things in any kitchen are workspace surface area and a good workflow. You should think of your bbq patio as basically an outdoor kitchen— keep it super clean and organized to save yourself time and stress.
To make the most of your space, focus on the following:
The more surface area the better. You need a spot to lay your utensils, prepped items, and cooked items. Big grills usually have small areas to set things down. You should get at least one more table. If you’re remodeling your patio, try to get about 3x the amount of surface area of the grill.
Keep your surfaces clean and organized so you’re not struggling to find a spot to put down a hot item! Identify the place you will put things when they are finished, and how you will keep them warm.
If you’re short on space you can supplement the existing surface area with a folding table. Grill utensils can be bulky— find clever ways to hang your utensils so you don’t have to set them down on the precious surface area.
Ingredient And Gear Storage
If you’ve got a huge yard, you may not be too worried about storage. But storage isn’t just about “making more room” — it’s about the effective placement of items for later use. Having items ready to go where you need them when you need them, can save a lot of time and energy.
Depending on where you live, outdoor storage can be a little tricky. We love outdoor cabinets with airtight containers for keeping all the fuel supplies, grill mitts, and disposable utensils/cups/plates. Having neatly organized necessities instantly makes your patio look legit, and you can work in a more agile way.
Since you only ever grill outside, it makes sense to leave this stuff where you’ll be using it. Being able to quickly store items that you are done with helps immensely with the cleanup. Grill utensils tend to be oversized, so we recommend adding hooks and hanging them to save valuable counter space. Try to get foldable chairs and tables for overflow seating and extra surface area. They can be folded and neatly stored in the garage or basement, or even covered and left outside.
The Right Tool For The Job
We’ve talked about making sure your patio is comfortable. Sometimes this means simply having the right tool for the job — whatever that may be. It’s the special item that you really want that will make your patio perfect. A new grill? A big fire pit? Inflatable pool? Fancy color-changing light bulbs you can adjust from your phone? These special items bring the wow factor to the patio and supply an ambiance that can’t be substituted or faked.
That being said, we encourage you to stay away from too many gadgets cluttering your area. Every other day some new product promises to be “perfect for bbqs”– choose wisely, as these gadgets can end up being more trouble than they’re worth and end up in the trash. Less is more. Keep it simple.
Creating An Peaceful Ambiance
Most people notice that food tastes better when you’re outside. Supposedly this is because humans feel most comfortable in nature. Still, there’s a reason we eat mostly inside, and that’s because the great outdoors can be kind of unpredictable. Setting the ambiance of your patio is about anticipating these needs and creating your own vibe.
- Landscaping: people love plants! Plants and flowers make a patio feel nice and lush. Potted plants can be moved around to create your atmosphere. A good landscaper is worth investing in to create your ideal patio environment
- Lighting: as mentioned earlier, different lighting sets a different mood. Candles are romantic and sophisticated, twinkle lights are fun and reliable, tiki torches can have citronella for bugs. Overhead floodlights provide a lot of light for prep and grilling but can be harsh to have on all night. Dramatic spotlighting and a headlamp for the cook can be fun for an evening BBQ!
- Shade: Provide shade if it’s going to be a hot one. This can be a rented party tent, a fabric gazebo tent, or maybe just umbrellas on tables.
- Temperature: it’s a great idea to get heat lamps for evening BBQ parties in the cooler months. If you live in a hotter climate, your guests will love a cooling mist station (or a good ol’ fashioned sprinkler in the lawn).
- Sound: you gotta have tunes! Will you play off an old boombox? Or have you set up those bluetooth backyard speakers you keep talking about? Put on a playlist of old favorites or maybe try something themed, like bossa nova or blues.
Going for a more sophisticated evening barbecue? Grab some lanterns and candles to set the mood. Use cotton napkins and ceramic plates instead of disposable. Play some acoustic guitar over hidden speakers.
Having more of a day of fun in the sun? Check out our list of backyard bbq games.
Make Sure The Food’s Good!
Okay, so your BBQ patio is all set up, friends are on the way, and you’re looking forward to a great day of chilling and grilling. Now don’t forget what everyone’s coming over for – good food!
Looking for the perfect backyard BBQ menu? We’ve got a guide for that.
Food tastes better outside and among friends. But when you’ve taken the time to set up a thoughtful patio, people have a space to truly appreciate the food and the people it brings together.
Just like a variety of drinks, we recommend offering a variety of sauces, so everyone can get the flavor they crave. Try our variety pack of sauce today!