The Essential BBQ Checklist: 49 Things You Can’t Miss For A Good Time
December 10, 2020 / Comments
Ain’t no party like your first BBQ party! Whether it’s your first time hosting or just the first cookout of the season, getting into BBQ mode can be daunting. We know you’re mostly looking forward to grilling and chilling with your friends on a sunny day off, so we’ve set out to make the ultimate essential BBQ checklist to make prep way easier.
A great BBQ is a lot like a great BBQ sauce: you need good wholesome ingredients, a little flavor, and a lot of care. We’ve got you covered. After considering the best BBQs we’ve ever been to (as a BBQ sauce company, we can safely say we’ve been to quite a few) we came up with an essential list to guarantee your BBQ to be a hit. Things like:
- Must-have gear
- Setting the mood
At the end, we’ve included a few special touches for a truly unforgettable BBQ. Read on to make sure you’ve got everything you need on your BBQ checklist for a great day.
Tools and Gear
In order to truly call your outdoor gathering a barbecue, you’ll need to be cooking something (usually meat) outside on either a grill or a smoker. Here’s what you’ll need to do that:
- Grill or smoker. Any kind will do! This tool is the star of the show and is responsible for the delicious aroma that BBQ dreams are made of.
- Spatula and tongs. For flipping burgers, hot dogs, veggies, buns. Get the extra long kind if you can, to avoid burn injuries.
- Fuel: charcoal, wood, pellets, kerosene
- Lighter or long matches
- Heat-resistant gloves. No need to burn yourself.
- Apron. For that classic barbecue look!
- Thermometer. Necessary for perfection!
- Timer. We recommend using a kitchen timer instead of your phone. As kitchen timers are made for the kitchen and are much more durable! Also, you can “set and forget” a timer, giving you some relaxation time.
- Serving bowls and spoons. These are crucial but so easy to forget. Serving bowls and their accompanying spoons make the buffet-style BBQ possible.
- Disposable Plates, cups and utensils. It is much easier to use disposable items at a BBQ. To be a little more earth friendly, avoid styrofoam and use paper plates. Nowadays you can even find bamboo plates and utensils.
- Paper towels and napkins. Very important!!!! Don’t forget!!!
Health and Safety
Do yourself a favor and make sure you’ve figured this out ahead of time! Nothing worse than burning the food because you’re scrambling around trying to find a band-aid.
- First aid kit. A regular ol’ household kit will do. Just make sure you’ve got burn gel and gauze, in case anything goes wrong at the grill.
- Sunscreen. Summer sun comes on quick! Remind your guests to reapply every hour if they are in direct sunlight.
- Bugspray. This can really make or break a BBQ. Your guests will be so grateful for a little bug spray once the sun starts going down.
- Garbage/Recycling setup. Make sure you’ve got a recycling setup if you’re drinking alcohol in glass bottles! Broken glass can be very dangerous. Also having a place for garbage makes cleanup way easier and keeps the flies away from the main action.
- Water. Bottled or a big pitcher!
The whole reason for the gathering! We’re going to assume you’ve done your research here, and if you need suggestions check out our other blog posts.
- Snacks. Something for guests to munch on when they arrive. Chips, mixed nuts, veggie tray. Things that are easy to set out and require no upkeep.
- Side dishes. Make these ahead of time! To be served with your main course. Maybe you’re making these, maybe your guests are bringing these. Try to get a good variety in the side dishes: sweet, salty, sour, hot, cold, fresh, creamy.
- Main course. This is what you’re grilling or smoking!
- Dessert. Maybe have your guests bring dessert? We love a classic apple pie at a BBQ. Ice cream is also always a (very easy!) hit.
As a sauce company, we feel so passionate about condiments we thought they should get their own section. A good variety of condiments is key to a good BBQ. This allows your guests to customize their plate to their own taste, and adds to an overall feeling of abundance.
- The trinity: Ketchup, mustard, relish.
- A good, natural barbecue sauce. We happen to know a delicious Arkansas-style sauce that comes in 3 flavors.
- Mayonnaise. Squeeze bottle kind is much easier to use.
- Chopped garnishes. Red onion, cilantro, green onion, avocado
- Sauerkraut. Good for sausage.
- Salsa. Delicious with chips or on burgers.
Sitting or standing outside on a hot day can quickly dehydrate! Be sure to keep the cooler stocked with plenty of ice and have back-ups available. Worst case scenario you’ve got leftovers for next time.
- Cooler. This can be a fancy-schmancy camping cooler or a classic kiddie-pool full of ice. Just something to keep the drinks cold and offer guests the amazing sensation of submerging their hand in ice for a second.
- Ice for cooler. Get more than you think you need.
- Ice for drinks. If you plan to have mixed drinks or serving a kind of punch, people are definitely going to appreciate ice.
- Bottled water. Easy cleanup, lasts forever.
- Beer. Oh you know.
- Hard seltzer. The new beer! Just kidding. But basically the other mascot of summertime day drinking.
- Non-alcoholic. Sports drinks, sodas, juices, flavored seltzers.
- Sprinkler! Not drinkable but definitely refreshing!
Setting the Mood
The go-to mood for a BBQ is playful but chill. People want to catch-up with friends, relax, and eat good food. Getting the right vibe comes down to details and anticipating needs. To save yourself some stress, try to have everything in this section figured out about a week ahead of your BBQ day.
- Speaker setup. There’s a big difference between playing music off an iphone vs. a bluetooth speaker vs. a sound system. Choose wisely.
- Music playlist. There are plenty of “BBQ playlist” options out there, and we recommend you do your research before your party so you aren’t fussing around trying to get to a song you like. Keep it classic and approachable and you should be good.
- Outdoor lighting. If you want to keep the party going after sundown, it’s necessary to have some kind of outdoor lighting. String lights, solar lanterns, bonfires and tiki torches are all good options. We don’t *love* the vibe of a motion-sensor floodlight, so avoid that if you can.
- Tables.You should have a big table for all the food, and then a few tables where guests can eat. It’s okay to mix in standing tables.
- Tablecloths. Go for the classic red and white checker pattern! Tablecloths make cleanup really easy.
- Chairs. Chairs for guests to sit/eat in, as well as other comfy chairs for relaxing. Collapsible camping chairs are great!
- Shade. A good shade setup is crucial if you want your guests to relax and stay a while. This can be strategic, to keep people mingling as the sun moves, or you can just put an umbrella over every table. Better yet, get a canopy shade!
- Sprinkler. A sprinkler keeps things fun and lighthearted and makes a soothing noise.
- Games. Games are fun and bring a little healthy competition to pass the time.
The following are special touches from real-life BBQs we’ve been to in the past. These tips don’t take a ton of planning but are very meaningful to your guests. If you’ve got some extra time or budget, we can’t recommend these enough!
- Koozies. A great way to keep drinks cool. Show off your personal koozie selection or you can even make a custom order for your BBQ!
- Toothpicks. There’s no denying it: BBQ meat gets stuck in your teeth! Have some toothpicks on hand to pass out to guests after the meal.
- Take-home containers. Packing up leftovers can be messy and inconvenient (why does wrapping a paper plate with tin foil never seep to keep the food in?). Providing your guests with take-home containers (tupperware or even takeout boxes!) will make their journey home safer and easier.
- Photo Op. People love posting photos of what they’re up to! Create a “photo op” spot at your BBQ where people can take pictures. This could be a funny sign, a beautiful table setting, or even a good view!
- Charging Station. Have an extension cord setup with a variety of chargers, so your guests can charge their phones if they need to. You may also want to put your wifi password somewhere easily accessible too.
So there you have it! Everything we think you need (and more!) to have a great cookout. Remember that even if you don’t get setup 100% perfect, the day is about sharing food with the people you love. Enjoy!