Make Sure You Have These Things Next Time You Throw A Summer BBQ

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Whether you've planned it for a while or just felt like throwing one on a whim, summer BBQs are usually a great time for everyone involved. The food, the games, the company: there's nothing that could be more fun and enjoyable on a summer day. Just thinking about it is making us want to pick up the phone and invite our friends over. However, be warned: Planning ahead might be the way to go if you've never thrown a BBQ party yourself, while spur-of-the-moment gatherings might be fine if you're a seasoned veteran of the BBQ game. Whichever pool you land in, it's a good idea to make sure you've got everything in order before the doorbell starts chiming.


So, to make sure that nothing ruins your fun, double-check your inventory and your shopping list for the following items. While most people will likely think of most of these, there just might be one or two that have slipped your mind. Many of the following items can be bought ahead of your summer BBQ, and many will already be in your home, so don't stress. Once they're all gathered, your event will proceed seamlessly.

Tables and chairs

It might seem a given, but having enough seating and table space for everyone who's invited is crucial for a summer BBQ to unfold happily. If not, your guests might be uncomfortable, inconvenienced, or just plain annoyed. Even if they're super chill, your guests will still benefit from sitting down and eating, focusing on their food.


"Our stomachs have 'stretch receptors.' When food hits our stomachs, the stretch receptors send a signal of satiety to our brains saying 'You're full!' This signal does not work if you eat while distracted. Studies have shown that you can easily take in hundreds of extra calories simply by not paying attention," Kimberly Gomer, R.D., director of Nutrition at Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa, tells Eat This, Not That!

Set up dedicated seating and eating areas for your guests to help them avoid this problem. Double-check before everyone starts showing up if your place has ample seats and plan ahead for a few extra stragglers, just in case. Also, worth remembering is if your party has indoor and/or outdoor seating and how that will split up your guests. Some guests might appreciate the bug-free atmosphere of indoor seating, while others might be totally fine eating outside and enjoying the weather. If you have the space and furniture, consider giving your guests options.


Disposable tableware

After a long day of preparing food, enjoying people's company, and acting as the host for a summer BBQ, the last thing you want to do is wash dishes. So, do yourself a favor and use disposable ones or, even better, compostable or biodegradable ones.


Compostable and biodegradable tableware, including plates, bowls, and cutlery, has become more readily available in recent years. They're made from palm leaves, sugar cane fiber, corn waste, and bamboo, and most of the processes for creating them use very few chemicals or resources (via Treehugger). Some can be thrown into home compost bins, but most are still only compostable in industrial composting facilities, so just make sure you check before pitching them (via Green Matters).

Even so, using compostable dinnerware and cutlery will greatly reduce the waste from your summer BBQ and might even eliminate it completely if you know how to plan it just right. Pretty much everything you use on your table can be compostable, including plates, bowls, spoons, forks, knives, napkins, cups, and even straws. If compostable tableware isn't an option, consider at least heavy paper plates — the labels will let you know if there is a plastic film on top which means they can't be composted — or disposable ones made with recycled materials. In any case, you'll be wasting less water doing the dishes later.


BBQ grill and tools

If you're hosting a summer BBQ, we're going to just go ahead and assume you at least own a grill. If we're wrong, it should definitely be at the top of your shopping list. You essentially have four choices: gas, charcoal, wood pellet, and electric. Gas and charcoal are the most common types and are usually the cheapest and easiest to purchase. You could simply decide to pick one from your local store, but if you're looking for what the masters use, you can definitely check our more expensive and decked-out options. Take the Masterbuilt MB20041220 Gravity Series 1050 Digital Charcoal Grill and Smoker Combo, for instance. It pulls serious heavy duty. Once you have your grill sorted, don't forget all the other tools that a BBQ demands.


You may not need every single one of these best BBQ tools, but you will at least need to acquire a good spatula and tongs, a basting brush, a grill thermometer (if yours doesn't already come with one), and a grill scraper. Each one of these tools comes in so many shapes and sizes and custom choices that it might be hard to pick just one. Of course, everyone's got their favorites, so don't worry if what you're comfortable with isn't what some experts recommend. Also, don't forget serving tools, including large spoons for scooping salads, tongs for meat, and forks for grabbing fruit or veggies. Most people have the majority of these in their kitchen; you just have to remember to put them out!

Lighting and decor

Speaking of decisions, decorating for a summer BBQ can be a hard one to make. Maybe you decide to leave everything as-is and simply show off your grill skills instead of your place. Or maybe you want a fantastic summer BBQ party that will have your friends talking for weeks. Whichever the case is, you will want to make sure that you have everything handy. On top of the decorations, don't forget about the lighting. The party might not last all night, but there's a good chance that the sun will set before all your guests go home.


Make your backyard trip-free with some of these lighting ideas: hang some strings of lights (even better if they're solar), create ambient light with low-lying spotlights around the edges of your patio, use stake lights around pathways, or use a fire pit to create a focal point for gathering (via Homes & Gardens). To make your money go twice as far, consider using tiki torches that can also be used as mosquito repellants.


We know you're the life of the party but everyone could use some help entertaining. Besides, you'll wear yourself out trying to keep up with all your guests! Add some backyard games to your summer BBQ — especially if there are kids coming — and then sit back and watch everyone enjoy themselves. You can set up backyard games for the whole family, including well-known ones like cornhole, lawn bowling, croquet, giant Jenga, and connect four (via Reader's Digest). If you're looking to give your guests something new consider also spikeball, bocce ball, or even some mini golf.


Even if you're throwing an all-adult summer BBQ, having some entertainment available is advisable. Consider playing some music and creating opportunities for your guests to dance. One-on-one games, such as chess or card games, can also be entertaining for your guests. Adults might also enjoy some friendly competition in the form of some dodgeball, backyard volleyball, or badminton. As always, make sure you cater to your guests so that you're not making anyone uncomfortable, and keep everything inclusive.

Bug repellant and sunscreen

If you want the BBQ to end before it starts, send the bugs a quick invite. Ok, ok. We know you can't uninvite them, but wouldn't that be nice? You can at least give them a hard pass at the door — or the edge of your property. Keep your guests bite-free by providing bug repellant, whether in spray, wipe, or lotion form (via On a particularly hot or sunny day, or especially if your grill area lacks shade, also make some sunscreen available to your guests.


You can even double-check to make sure that what you're providing is reef-safe, which usually means that the product is made without the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate for sunscreen and use essential oils or picaridin for bug repellant (via the REI CO-OP Expert Advice forum). Why? The National Park Service estimates that 4,000 to 6,000 tons of sunscreen enter the ocean every year, which can be harmful to ocean life. If you live close to the ocean, this should definitely be of higher priority in making your decisions when buying products.

You can also add other forms of bug repellants to your yard (although they might not be as effective). Tiki torches, citronella plants, and candles, as well as other bug-repealing plants like mint and catnip, could also keep your guests more comfortable. Other gadgets, like the Thermacell Patio Shield which works by dispersing mosquito repellant directly into the air, could be a good investment depending on the area that you live in and the size of your yard or space that you want to be protected.



For some reason, when it comes to a summer BBQ party, most people forget the fuel. A grill can run on four different fuel sources: propane or natural gas, charcoal, pellets, or electricity (via HPBA). Chances are, your grill runs on propane or charcoal or pellets, as electric grills are less common and more on those later, so you'll have to be prepared for how much you're going to use. Standard propane tanks usually don't have gauges on them so you might have to get one yourself. Charcoal and pellets are easier to measure as to how much you're going to need, depending on how many people you've got coming or how long you're going to be grilling.


If you've got yourself an electric grill, rejoice! You're not going to be minding the fuel source much as it's just a matter of plugging it in and then grilling for you. Still, make sure that you're grilling either outdoors or on a surface where you can minimize hazards and splashes of oil or fat (via HPBA).

Main course: protein

Now, we're getting to the good stuff! You can't have a complete BBQ menu without some kind of protein. We're not against a good grilled salad wedge or juicy roasted peaches, but there's just something to be said about belly-filling protein. According to Harvard Health, protein is also essential to good health. In fact, to quickly determine your body's protein needs, you can even use a protein calculator. Harvard Health also suggests some good sources of protein, including fish like salmon or trout, chicken, beans, and nuts — most of which can be delicious when grilled.


The most-loved main course of BBQ seems to be brisket, pork (chopped or shredded), spare ribs, chicken, sausages, and beef ribs (via First We Feast). Don't let this dissuade you from adding your personal favorites, though, and also consider a kid's palate if you've got families coming. Burgers, hot dogs, and chicken kabobs — potentially able to be presented as chicken nuggets to picky eaters — will please pretty much everybody. Most of these can be easily adapted for vegetarian or vegan diets as well. Even if your guests aren't vegan or vegetarian, consider adding some bean burgers or stuffed mushrooms to your grill to change up the usual fare.

Sides and snacks

While the main dish is all good and fine, sides and snacks are where it's at when it comes to a party. Summer BBQs usually benefit from chips and dips, french fries, corn on the cob, salads, and fresh fruit. Of course, watermelon is one of the most beloved fruits at BBQs, per a Treeopia survey (via Deliciously Savvy). The usual sides for BBQ main courses are baked beans, potato or pasta salads, green salads, and every form of grilled, boiled, or even canned corn.


To get a head start on the prep for your party menu, look for recipes that can be made up to one or two days ahead of time. On hot summer days, no-cook side dishes might also be a great option, especially in a small kitchen. Also, no one's going to judge if you decide to pick out some great sides ready-made from the store. We've all done it!

Depending on how long you're expecting your BBQ to last, you might also want to have some snacks ready for your guests for when they're getting peckish. Chips and dip (or veggies and dip), dried or fresh fruit, nuts, seeds, and other kinds of finger food will all work to stave off your guests' appetites before and after the main course is served.


All this talk of food has made us thirsty. So, what have you got to drink? No, really, what have you got? Because as much as food is important to a BBQ, drinks are up there on the list, too. Whether you're having a family-friendly BBQ or an adult-only party, make sure that you have enough to go around. You might be surprised at just how much a person can drink on a hot day.


The containers for your drinks are important, too. Individual bottles or cans might be more hygienic or easy to clean, but you will potentially end up with lots of waste. Choosing to provide cups and a dispenser for your drinks might limit waste but you will have a higher up-front cost. Whichever route you go, there are plenty of drinks that pair well with BBQ, so it's only a matter of choosing your favorites (via BBC Good Food). Make sure none of your guests have any kind of allergies (ditto for the food!) or taste aversions and then pick drinks that will complement your food menu for the day.


Ok, so ice seems to be relegated to the setting-up-and-I-just-realized-we-don't-have category. A common-place thing in America, ice is almost a necessity for most of us and especially during hot summer months. We thankfully don't have to harvest ice like we used to, and it is readily available in most households from our refrigerators.


Make sure that your refrigerator is equipped to make enough ice for your entire party so that you don't run out and have to wait until it makes more. Also, your refrigerator might not be in the most convenient place for a constant stream of guests to use, so you might have to take it out and prepare a thick-walled bowl for it. If your refrigerator does not make ice, you will still be in need of some. It is fairly inexpensive to purchase it from most grocery stores and even some gas stations, and a full cooler will keep your drinks cold for a few hours.

Plus, if you want to extend that time, consider some of these tips: add salt to your ice to lower its freezing point and keep it frozen longer (via Reference), and don't dump the water out as it melts from your cooler or container as the water keeps the ice from melting even faster since there's less surface area for the air to circulate around.


Trash receptacles

Last but certainly not least, don't forget to add some extra trash receptacles around your place to keep everything tidy. Your own trash can might be more than enough for daily needs, but if you've got a lot of extra people around, it might come to overflowing pretty quickly. Add at least one or two other trash receptacles — or just hanging bags — around your patio or eating areas to give your guests plenty of opportunities to pick up after themselves (via Glad). Make sure they're visible and get cleaned up whenever they become full so as not to make any kind of unsightly visions for your guests. Keep them out of the way but also accessible.


Of course, if you've opted for compostable or biodegradable tableware make sure that you have receptacles distinguishing the different kinds of trash. You don't want to be left sifting for non-compostable items in your compost bags, and vice versa, after everyone's left. Let's not end on a trashy note, though. All in all, your summer BBQ should be a fun event that leaves you not only exhausted but also ready for more, you know?