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BBQ Party: 15+ Amazing Summer Cookout Ideas To Impress Your Guests

Hosting a backyard barbecue is one of the best things about summer.

You’ve got the sun shining overhead, warming body and soul… The feeling of fresh grass playfully brushing against the bottom of your feet… And the constant hum of crickets and chirps of birds, reminding you that the world is vibrantly alive.

Of course… You want to share this beauty with the ones you love most!

Hence, why you’re looking for some BBQ party ideas.

If you want this to be a get together your friends and family remember forever… You’re in the right place.

We’ll kick off the list with some hosting ideas, run through some fascinating themes, and wrap up the article with some menu ideas.

Let’s begin!

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linear outdoor kitchen on patio by beach with glass doors connecting inside space to outside

BBQ Backyard Party Hosting Ideas

While food and great company is more than enough for an excellent party… Consider having an activity to center the party around.

This will provide a unique twist on the average BBQ that your guests will remember for a long time!

Lawn Game Tournament

playing cornhole at bbq party

Do your friends and family have a competitive edge?

If so, a lawn game tournament might be up your alley!

It can easily become an all-day affair… And you’ll feel both the tension and excitement in the air as the final rounds approach!

You could have multiple rounds of a single game going at once… Or have a competition with multiple lawn games.

Cornhole, croquet, kan jam, bocce ball, horseshoes, and portable badminton are all excellent contenders.

You could even consider having a series of prizes for the winners. Some cash, a silly homemade medal… Or good ol’ bragging rights will make this BBQ a day to remember.

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Connect Over Movie Night

movie projector on rta outdoor kitchen counter

Would your guests prefer a more stationary activity?

A movie night might be in order.

You could have all your normal BBQ fare during the day… And transition the snacks to popcorn, nachos, and pretzels when it’s dark enough to start a movie.

Make it even more interesting by allowing guests to vote on the movie they want to watch.

Votes will be submitted in a ballot box… And tallied right before showtime.

And if anyone is still awake after the feature film is complete… Perhaps the second place choice can see its day on the silver screen!

Not a fan of your BBQ party extending into the twilight hours of the night?

Play Card or Dice Games

In a similar vein to a lawn game tournament… You might prefer some light-hearted competition.

Setting up a good card or dice game could be a happy medium!

Whether your group is more casual or competitive… The game you choose can be adjusted to the needs of your loved ones.

Plus, there’s a limitless amount of options to choose from!

There’s well over 40 options to play with a standard deck of cards alone… And another 10+ games just using regular dice.

After everyone’s filled up on their favorite barbeque food… It’s time to clear the table for some dice rolling and card drawing!

Mingle by the Fire

l shaped outdoor kitchen with firepit lit and under countertop lighting at night

Looking for something a little more low-key?

Your outdoor party can have an intimate ambiance with the help of a fire pit and outdoor lighting.

Lining the perimeter of your yard with string lights will provide a lovely charm… And a fire pit will light the warm faces of your loved ones from below.

As your barbecue party dies down, the party will shift to the fire… Where you’ll effortlessly reminisce with your guests about the past. (And create brand-new memories, too!)

And if you happen to have an outdoor kitchen with lighting… You can serve up some late-night snacks!

Or alternatively… Keep the drinks coming from your outdoor bar!

Even if that’s not an option… You can always cook up some fresh s’mores with the help of your fire pit. It’s the quintessential summer dessert to top off a perfect night.

All-American Potluck & Contest

tamara at rta outdoor kitchen with family

Whether it’s Memorial Day, the 4th of July, Labor Day, or just a regular summer day… Hosting a potluck is an absolute American staple.

A potluck is all about the mish-mash of flavors that while often seem at odds with each other… Typically work together in a surprising way.

Not to mention, a potluck is the perfect opportunity for your loved ones to show off their cooking skills and favorite recipes.

But if you want the theme of your potluck to be a little less free-form… Give your guests a little bit of guidance!

And to up the ante a little more… If your guests are up to it, why not add a pie contest to the schedule? (Or another favorite dish?)

Your palettes will be inundated with delicious flavors… And in truth, there really is no loser here!

And whoever is crowned champion of your contest… They’ll certainly be expected to bring their winning dish to every gathering in the foreseeable future!

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

dancing at bbq party

Are your friends and family the type that don’t like to sit still?

Well, you don’t have to! It’s your backyard BBQ party, after all!

A few days before the party… Ask your guests about their favorite songs to dance to.

Throw them all on a playlist, add your favorites… And it won’t be long before foot-tapping turns into a dance party!

If you want to go all-out… A large mat or rug could make an excellent makeshift dance floor. Set up some bright, rainbow lights for added effect, too!

And if you happen to have an outdoor kitchen bar… You could have sangria or other cocktails available… And appetizers served buffet style at the kitchen!

Alright. Now that you have some next level hosting ideas…

What about the theme?

BBQ Party Theme Ideas

Of course, you can have a cookout without a theme… But isn’t it so much better if you do have one?

We certainly think so!

Let’s explore a few summer BBQ party themes and BBQ party decoration ideas to consider.

Upscale Dinner Party

decorated kitchen with cloth napkins

While there’s nothing wrong with the standard outdoor BBQ party… Perhaps you’re looking for something a little more refined.

That’s certainly within reach!

It’s easy to take your BBQ up a notch with an upscale theme. You just have to make sure everything looks the part!

You’ll want to have a large table decked-out with centerpieces and tablecloths… With room for everyone to sit!

And if you don’t want to bring your nicest dishware outside… Consider using some decorative plastic plates to create a similar effect. (Same goes for silverware!)

You can also wow your guests by folding some cloth napkins into a unique design.

Add a more intimate feel with candles placed throughout the tablescape. If you can find some aesthetically-pleasing citronella candles… They’ll also double as an excellent bug repellent!

Don’t forget the greenery, either! Fresh-cut flowers will bring the abundance of summer to the forefront… And provide beautiful pops of color to the scenery.

Encourage your guests to dress their best… And your BBQ theme party will ooze with elegance!

BBQ by the Sea

indoor outdoor living area with outdoor kitchen on beach

Backyard barbecues aren’t the only activity that dominates the summer season… Beach days are probably next in line!

Sun, sand, and crashing saltwater waves have an incredible magnetism… But not everyone has a beach accessible to them.

Either way, a beach-themed BBQ party might be in order.

Sprinkling seashells and sea glass on the table will make you feel like you’re on the shore… And add a distinct beauty to your space!

A heavy dose of aqua blue decorations will give the impression of being at the ocean… And you could even sync up some of your food with the theme!

Offer up a couple self-serve dishes filled with boardwalk favorites. Saltwater taffy, fudge, and caramel corn are just a few to consider.

But it’s not just about the snacks. Centering your meal around seafood will definitely bring that ocean-feel to your backyard.

And if your guests are feeling up to it… A game of volleyball will guarantee you’ve brought the beach-vibes home!

Farmer’s Market Theme

farmers market bbq theme

If you want a theme that seamlessly integrates with your menu… A farmer’s market theme will be just the thing!

The summer season is full of abundance. Warm weather, longer days, and of course… Fresh produce!

Put this abundance on full-display in your party decorations, as well as your menu.

Create the impression of walking through a farmer’s market… Right in your backyard!

Setting up a wooden farm stand will be a must! Decorate it with baskets filled with fresh produce. You could also put fresh berries or cut vegetables into cartons… Encouraging your guests to self-serve.

Gingham table cloths will especially contribute to the farm-fresh feel… And fresh cut sunflowers will enhance the vibe!

And since this is a farmer’s market theme… This is the perfect opportunity to support your local growers. Source your produce and flowers from them where possible!

Speaking of produce… What’s going to be on the menu?

Host your BBQ Party

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BBQ Party Menu Ideas

If you want to host the best BBQ party out there… The menu has got to be good!

Lucky for you… We have a few ideas for you to ponder.

Gourmet Burger Bar

Burgers are typical BBQ party fare… But what if you kicked it up a notch?

A burger doesn’t just have to be a regular beef patty, with cheese, lettuce, tomato, and a bun.

Patties filled with brie and topped with caramelized onions would be a welcome change of pace… Or change the protein entirely, making lamb burgers topped with feta, red onion, and tzatziki. (Don’t be afraid to experiment with chicken, turkey, or pork either!)

No matter what flavor combinations you choose… Your guests will be sure to appreciate a well-crafted burger!

And if you happen to have an outdoor deep fryer on your hands… No one will say no to hand cut fries on the side!

By serving up a few options buffet-style… You’ll put less stress on yourself with cooking and prep.

Classic Smoked BBQ Favorites

grilling on coyote built in pellet grill

If you’re looking to really “wow” your guests but stay in the realm of traditional barbecue… Bring out your outdoor kitchen smoker!

Smoked BBQ items are always a hit… And that slow-cooked flavor is something your guests will be raving about for weeks to come.

Brisket, ribs, pulled pork, pork belly, whole chicken, and salmon are all excellent contenders for your smoked protein. (Or make more than one!)

And with a classic BBQ menu… You’ll be making side dishes galore!

Coleslaw, potato salad, corn on the cob, cornbread, pasta salad, veggie skewers, and baked beans are all tried-and-true favorites.

If you’re really feeling up to the challenge… Also consider whipping up a few different BBQ sauces. Tomato based and mustard based sauces are sure to be a hit!

Throw a Pizza Party

alfa brio gas pizza oven

Looking for something a little more out of the box… But still a fan favorite?

Homemade pizza automatically makes for a fun BBQ party!

Your guests can craft a pizza that perfectly matches their tastes… And watch it satisfyingly bubble in your outdoor pizza oven.

Whether it’s pepperoni, sausage, prosciutto, peppers, onions, mushrooms, olives, anchovies, or even pineapple (for the controversial palettes)… Having the full suite of pizza toppings on offer ensures your loved ones will enjoy their ideal pie!

Also consider having an array of different cheeses available. Outside of the traditional mozzarella… Provolone, gouda, parmesan, goat cheese, and ricotta offer unique flavor profiles to experiment with.

Your guests will love getting their hands dirty with kneading and shaping the dough… And they’ll certainly reap the rewards of their efforts!

Truly… Who could say no to a fresh, wood-fired pizza?

Summer Salads

salad with salad dressing being poured over

Perhaps you really want to lean-in on the freshness of summer produce.

In that case… There’s no better reason to set up a summer salad bar!

You can have all manner of freshly-picked combinations colorfully presented on the table.

Watermelon and feta salads are always well-loved… Or strawberry with slivered almonds and goat cheese.

But you don’t have to stop there!

Summer salads go well beyond the inclusion of fruit.

Corn salad, three bean salad, and orzo salad are all incredibly satisfying options as well.

And once you’ve filled up on all those healthy greens… How about something to satisfy that sweet tooth?

Ice Cream Social

Ice cream socials are an easy addition to an existing savory menu… Or can be the star of the show if you don’t want to cook!

If you’re seeking the simpler side of the scale… Just purchase a few gallons of your favorite ice cream flavors. Put out an individual bowl for all the classic toppings… And you’re good to go!

No one will complain about chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry doused with hot fudge, whipped cream, and peanuts.

But if you’re really looking to impress… Consider making your own gourmet ice cream  with complimentary toppings!

Coffee fudge, honey pistachio, cinnamon bun, malt ball, and lemon poppy seed are all uniquely delicious flavors to explore.

And to level-up your topping game… Butter pecan sauce, blueberry syrup, coconut chips, and crushed macadamia nuts all lie in wait!

Not enthralled by the concept of ice cream, but still want to provide sweet treats?

Have a Dessert Bar

baked goods on table outdoors

Dessert bars are another excellent option for a BBQ party!

Of course, s’mores are an auto-include for anyone with a fire pit! But you can bring that same marshmallow-y, chocolate-y flavor to your dessert bar!

S’mores bars, cookies, cheesecake, french toast… The options are endless.

But of course, you don’t have to go all-in on s’mores.

Blueberry crumble, key lime pie, lemon bars, and peach crisp are all classic summer desserts to consider.

Okay. At this point… You have seen quite a few BBQ party ideas!

Before we officially wrap up… We’d like to share a couple recipe ideas to spark your culinary imagination!

Recipe Ideas for a BBQ Party

To assist you in the party planning process… Let’s look at a couple easy recipes!

Grilled Caesar Salad

Recipe Credit: Coyote Outdoor Living

Serves: 1

Ingredients for Dressing:

  • 1/4 Cup Mayonnaise
  • 2 tb Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1 tb Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tb Anchovy Paste (optional)
  • 1 tb Dijon Mustard
  • 1 Garlic Clove, Minced
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Other Ingredients:

  • 2 tb Capers
  • 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
  • 1 Head Romaine Lettuce
chicken caesar salad for bbq party

Directions:

  1. First, make the dressing. Mix all ingredients together and set aside in the refrigerator.
  2. Then, heat olive oil over medium heat.
  3. Drop one caper in the oil. When it starts bubbling, add remaining capers and fry for one minute.
  4. Move capers to a paper towel with a slotted spoon and reserve remaining oil.
  5. Now, heat your grill to medium/medium high heat.
  6. Cut your heart of romaine in half, leaving the bottom intact to hold them together.
  7. Rinse the romaine halves with water, allowing to drain on a paper towel until dry. Drizzle the cut side of each half with reserved caper oil.
  8. With tongs, place the lettuce on the grill cut side down. Flip over once browned with grill marks, and remove when both sides are browned.
  9. Place grilled lettuce, cut side up, on a serving platter. Drizzle with the dressing, parmesan cheese, and cooled capers.

Kerrie Kelly’s Spice Grilled Chicken with Grilled Avocado Salad

Recipe Credit: Kerrie Kelly and Coyote Outdoor Living 

Serves: 4

Ingredients for Chicken:

  • 1 Whole Chicken
  • 2 tb Olive Oil
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, Chopped
  • 1/2 Cup Parsley, Finely Chopped
  • 2 tsp Ground Cumin
  • 2 tsp Paprika
  • 1/4 tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • Kosher Salt & Ground Pepper

Ingredients for Salad:

  • 1 Medium Red Onion, Sliced into 1/2” Thick Rings
  • 2 tb Olive Oil, Divided
  • Kosher Salt & Ground Pepper
  • 3 Bunches Scallions, Trimmed
  • 2 Ripe Avocados, Halved and Pitted
  • 10 San Marzano or Cherry Tomatoes, Halved
  • 10 Small Fresh Mozzarella Balls (ciliegine)
  • Flaky Sea Salt
  • Cracked Black Pepper

Directions:

  1. Combine chicken, olive oil, garlic, parsley, cumin, paprika, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper in a zip top plastic bag. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
  2. Prepare your built-in grill for high, indirect heat. Tie the chicken legs with twine and secure on the rotisserie rod. Cook chicken on indirect high heat until internal temperature reaches between 170°-180°F. If the chicken is browning too quickly, reduce heat to medium. Let chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving.
  3. Now, prepare the grill for medium-high heat. Combine onion and 1/2 tb of oil, season with kosher salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Grill until softened and slightly charred in spots, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
  4. Meanwhile, combine scallions and 1/2 tb of oil, season with kosher salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Grill, turning often, until softened and slightly charred in spots, about 2 minutes. Transfer to plate with onion.
  5. Rub cut sides of avocados with 1 tb oil and grill the avocados, cut side down until charred, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a platter with chicken, onion, and scallions. Fill avocados with cut tomatoes and mozzarella balls. Drizzle avocados with good olive oil, season with sea salt and cracked pepper, and enjoy!

Barbecued Apple Dutch Baby

Recipe Credit: Kerrie Kelly and Coyote Outdoor Living 

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 Golden Delicious Apples, Cored and Divided by 16
  • Lemon Zest
  • 4 Large Eggs, Room Temperature
  • 1 Cup Whole Milk, Room Temperature
  • 1 Cup All Purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 tsp Fine Sea Salt
  • 2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 2 tb Granulated White Sugar
  • Unsalted Butter (as needed)
  • Confectioner’s Sugar (optional)
apple dessert at bbq party

Directions:

  1. Position rack in center of barbecue. Preheat gas or charcoal grill to 425°F.
  2. Combine flour, cinnamon, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk to combine.
  3. Combine milk, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl. Whisk to combine.
  4. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Whisk to combine, cover, and set aside.
  5. Heat a large cast iron or heavy-bottom saute pan over medium-high heat, and add butter.
  6. When the butter melts and bubbles, add apples. Top with sugar, tossing occasionally and saute until golden brown.
  7. Place cast iron ramekins or saute pan in the barbecue to preheat.
  8. Carefully remove ramekins or saute pan from the oven, add butter to coat the bottom and sides.
  9. Arrange apples in the bottom of the ramekins or saute pan, pour batter over apples.
  10. Return to the barbecue and bake until the batter puffs and is golden brown at the edges, about 10-15 minutes.
  11. Transfer the ramekins or saute pan to a cooling rack, garnish with confectioner’s sugar to finish.

The Smartest Way to Host Your BBQ Party

friends gathering at outdoor kitchen to eat dinner

Now that you have an abundance of backyard BBQ party ideas at your disposal… It’s time to think about the easiest way for you to host your party!

You could get a prep table for your freestanding grill to make cooking a little easier… But an outdoor table just doesn’t offer you complete practicality!

If you want the experience to be as seamless as possible… There’s nowhere better to turn than a fully-functional outdoor kitchen.

You’ll have plenty of counter space to prepare all your grilling favorites… Plus, you can incorporate a smoker into your design if that’s what you love!

A refrigerator will keep beverages cool… And an outdoor sink will make it fantastically simple to wash your hands between preparing and cooking.

Plus, if you have a bar island as well… It can double as both a dining and a serving station!

How’s that for efficiency?

If you want your BBQ party to be as stress-free as possible… An outdoor kitchen is simply a no-brainer.

To begin your research, check out our Learning Hub! You’ll get all the great tips you need to get started with your potential project… And so much more!

When you’re ready to move forward with your new outdoor kitchen… We’ll be with you every step of the way!

Need Help With Your Plans?

Talk to one of our expert designers and they will guide you from planning to installation. Schedule a call today.

FAQ

BBQ parties are outdoor parties, often taking place during the summertime. The main event centers around cooking food on a grill or over a fire… And is a great excuse to bring your entire social circle together.

Make a BBQ party fun by having an event everyone can participate in! A lawn game tournament or pie contest are excellent options for everyone to connect and gather together.

A BBQ party is the perfect excuse to get together with loved ones! This is especially true for those you care about, but haven’t seen in a while. And if you’re the host, you have the benefit of having full control over the menu and festivities.

You really can’t go wrong with the classics! Coleslaw, potato salad, pasta salad, corn on the cob, macaroni, baked beans, and cornbread will never be turned down!

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