9 Things You Need for a Perfect Backyard Barbecue

Put the finishing touch on your party with quick apps, the right music and a signature sauce.

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Diverse people enjoying barbecue party together
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You already have the perfect barbecue menu, a cooler full of drinks and more than enough disposable plates. But you might be able to make your next party the season’s most memorable get-together. Here’s how to keep people talking after the day is done!

Psst…Download our printable party planning checklist here.

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Cherry Barbecue Sauce
Taste of Home

Make Your Own Signature Sauce

Having your own barbecue sauce is the classic way to elevate an outdoor barbecue. It’s also way more fun to slather your steak in sauce with a ladle instead of a store-bought bottle. Grab our top 10 must-have sauces here—and don’t worry, we’re cool if you tell guests it’s your secret recipe.

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Buttery grilled shrimp
Taste of Home

Serve Appetizers Upon Arrival

Don’t let your guests’ stomach rumble as they smell the aromas coming from the grill! Have easy-to-eat snacks ready as soon as the party gets started. It shouldn’t be a lot of extra work to keep your guests happy, because these apps can be made in 15 minutes.

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High angle view of a beer bucket filled with ice and assorted beer bottles.
Shutterstock / Steve Cukrov

Don’t Forget the Ice!

Between the hot grill and the hot summer sun, a warm water bottle won’t be enough to keep your friends refreshed. You’ll want to pick up an extra bag of ice—and make sure to have two separate ice sources. One for ice in a cooler to keep bottled drinks cold, and one to use for serving drinks. Oh, and you might also want to get a patio heater to keep guests cozy for when the sun goes down.

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After roasting the meat on the grill wrapped in foil.
Milanchikov Sergey/Shutterstock

Let Meat Rest

The best part of grilled steaks or sausages is all the delicious juices keeping the meat tender. Let your meat rest under a tented piece of tin foil (don’t wrap it tightly or your meat will lose the crispy grilled char) for 15 minutes. It’s hard to wait, but during this naptime the meat is reabsorbing all the moisture that comes to the surface while grilling.

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Sparkling fruit salad
Taste of Home

Refresh Your Guests with Fruit

It can be hard to eat only heavy meat and potato dishes in the hot summer sun. Fruit is the break from barbecue that your guests didn’t know they needed. The best way to bring grapes, pineapple and melon to the table is a gorgeous fruit salad.

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Young people dancing in backyard
Shutterstock / Milan Ilic Photographer

Plan a Killer Playlist

For a special get-together, spend a few minutes thinking of songs everyone will know and love. You might have a sing-a-long break out at your party! It’s also helpful to think of age-appropriate songs to keep parents from running to turn off the speakers when a PG-13 tune starts to play.

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Drinks in jars
Taste of Home

Craft a Big Batch Cocktail

Your guests will likely bring the standard light brews and bottled waters, but give them another drink option with your party’s signature cocktail. We have more than 40 drinks perfect for summer weather! Pick one and add your own special twist to bring your barbecue to the next level.

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Citrus and cucumber infused water
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Make Water Fun

Staying hydrated is important at any outdoor party, especially when adult beverages are involved. Having water on hand is important, but follow one of these infused water recipes and your guests will be happy to keep hydrated.

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Grilled vegetables in a bowl
Taste of Home

Serve Sides That Can Stand the Heat

Creamy potato salads and leafy greens might wilt quickly in the summer sun. Check the weather for the day of your barbecue and make sure none of your sides will turn into a lukewarm mess after sitting in the sun for just a few minutes. Making a side that should be enjoyed warm is a good plan—we have some that are made right on the grill.

Mandy Naglich
Mandy is a food and beverage writer with bylines at WNYC, Munchies, Mic and October. She's a Certified Cicerone and award-winning homebrewer living, writing and cooking in New York City.