12 Backyard BBQ Essentials For Your Next Summer Party

Savour these fleeting Canadian summers by hosting an al fresco fête to remember. We’ve got your BBQ essentials covered with the best burgers, booze, appies, decor, accessories and more.
By Claire Sibonney
12 Backyard BBQ Essentials For Your Next Summer Party

In partnership with Sabra Hummus

Eating outdoors is one of the simple joys of summer—and what better way to share that experience with family and friends than with a BBQ? There are simple ways to elevate an outdoor cookout and keep it organized so you can kick back and relax a bit—or at least watch the grill with a cool drink in hand. We’ve got you covered with a list of all the essentials, from the right tools to easy-yet-elegant food, drink and decoration ideas. So, fire up the barbie, pour a round of iced drinks and turn up the tunes for a classic BBQ that your guestswon’t forget.

12 Backyard BBQ Essentials For Your Next Summer PartyPhoto, iStock

Sleek BBQ accessories

Whether you’re a grill master or feel a bit out of your depth, having the right BBQ accessories will make the work more enjoyable. Chefs and home cooks swear by using specially designed timers, tongs, spatulas and thermometers to get those perfect char lines and that medium-cooked perfection. But no one likes a dirty BBQ, so don’t forget a grill brush to help keep it clean.

Paul Lillakas, a chef and food expert on Cityline, says, “You definitely need a grill basket for grilling everything from veggies to small shrimp to nuts—for a smoky toast.” Look for a grill basket like this Williams Sonoma High-Heat Nonstick Steel Grill Roaster or this less expensive version from Weber.

12 Backyard BBQ Essentials For Your Next Summer PartyPhoto, Williams Sonoma

Easy and yummy appetizers

The BBQ will be the main attraction, but you’ll want to keep your guests happily noshing till the grilling is done. Keep it simple and scrumptious with dippable and spreadable appies which are ideal for relaxed get-togethers—whether it’s an intimate gathering in a cozy apartment or a boisterous backyard shindig. A tangy and refreshing yogurt dip with za’atar flatbread is so easy using ready-made pitas. And whether you’re serving flatbreads, homemade crispy crackers or store-bought ones (no judgement!), these carbs also pair perfectly with creamy hummus, which is taken to the next level when topped with other fancy ingredients, just like Sabra’s Roasted Red Pepper Hummus or Sabra Salsa Verde Hummus. If you want to do something halfway-homemade, Lillakas recommends blending plain, good-quality hummus with those grilled veggies from the BBQ. “Make it stand out by sprinkling some of those grill-toasted nuts on top of texture and drizzling it with olive oil,” says Lillakas. Serve with cut-up vegetables, fancy pickles and olives for acidic bites and crunch and you’re done! (Just warn your guests not to get too full!)

12 Backyard BBQ Essentials For Your Next Summer PartyPhoto, Erik Putz.

Made-from-scratch burgers

You can’t have a backyard BBQ without some version ofthe humble burger—and yes, meatless onescount too. From our famous quinoa veggie burger to a smoky harissa burger  and the new extra-beefy, extra-cheesy, extra-saucy classic, here are 31 of our very best burger recipes. No matter what kind of burgers you make, Lillakas recommends seasoning them well, and not overcooking them. If you want to go the extra mile, consider making sauces from scratch that you can lay out in a swanky burger bar with all the fixings.

Tired of burgers? Haute hot dogs with gourmet fixings or barbecued seafood are also sure to be crowd-pleasers. Go for Filipino grilled shrimp with limeor  any of these 14 super easy grilled fish recipes like barbecued trout with warm pineapple salad (which can be cooked in that BBQ basket or right on the grill).

12 Backyard BBQ Essentials For Your Next Summer PartyPhoto, Chatelaine.

BBQ-worthy sides

The mains may be the star of the show, but the sides are the backbone of any good BBQ. Side salads add variety, colour and so much fresh flavour to your table. Whether you’re serving a classic macaroni salad, a simple slaw or a mint cauliflower tabboulleh, you won’t disappoint your guests with any of these 23 best side salads for a summer BBQ.

Lillakas even recommends grilling your lettuce, like romaine and radicchio, for one or two minutes until it’s slightly charred and adding those grilled nuts which will give them that sophisticated smoky flavour and extra texture.

12 Backyard BBQ Essentials For Your Next Summer PartyPhoto, Ashley Capp. Food styling, Ashley Denton. Prop styling, Rayna Marlee Schwartz.

Cool and fancy drinks

Whether you’ve got Coronas on ice (don’t forget the limes!) or you’re going all out to make cocktails and mocktails, just keep those cool drinks flowing and your guests quenched. Lillakas personally loves to make blended frozen cocktails like frozen strawberry margaritas or frozen bellinis when he’s hosting a backyard BBQ. “Explore the world of frozen drinks with in-season summer fruit,” he says. “Don’t cheap out on the blender. It’s a good investment.” He uses a Vitamix, which can pulverize just about anything into slushie-like deliciousness.

You also can’t go wrong with refreshing rosé, a summer daytime drinking fave, which shines on its own or can be blended into delightful cocktails like a Mediterranean Spritz—a simple combo of pink wine, fancy tonic water and a splash of lime. 

12 Backyard BBQ Essentials For Your Next Summer PartyPhoto, Roberto Caruso.

Desserts that beat the heat

Among all the essential BBQ food and drinks, don’t lose sight of dessert. Ice cream or gourmet ice lollies will be a big hit—did someone just say mojito pops?! But if you’re grilling anyway, why not do something simple on the BBQ? Like this incredible-looking grilled pineapple recipe topped with ice cream (optional) and caramel sauce. Why, hello there!

12 Backyard BBQ Essentials For Your Next Summer PartyPhoto, Roberto Caruso.

Mood lighting

A backyard BBQ is all about the food but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it pretty. One of the most effective ways to make a space more inviting is by adding cool lighting. “At night, cute string lights are always fun and create a playful atmosphere. There are so many adorable designs out there,” says prop stylist Rayna Marlee Schwartz. “I prefer the simple and classic ones. But for a party with the right theme, I would totally rock a flamingo set.” You can easily find flamingo string lights like this delightful set or  more traditional vintage ones from Canadian Tire, so when the sun starts to set on those long summer days, your guests will smoothly transition to a party-night kind of mood.

Another impressive way to make a big impact is by setting up outdoor torches, like these tiki-style bamboo ones from Wayfair. Spread them around to add instant magic to any atmosphere.

12 Backyard BBQ Essentials For Your Next Summer PartyPhoto, Canadian Tire

Cute decorations

When thinking about outdoor decor, you don’t have to go overboard, but a few simple accents—like little bunches of wildflowers or greens from trees in cute jars—can go a long way, says Marlee Schwartz. Ditto for colourful paper decorations that can brighten up a bland table setting or bare wall.

If you’re not feeling crafty, check out these whimsical floral garlands made with crepe paper by Meri Meri or any number of charming buntings, pom-poms or tassel decorations on Etsy.

12 Backyard BBQ Essentials For Your Next Summer PartyPhoto, MERI MERI FLOWER BOUQUET GARLAND ETSY

Eco-friendly dishwear

Go ahead, use real dishes outdoors—they’ll feel fancy even if you’re just eating burgers or hot dogs. But if you want something that’s less breakable than glass, but greener and cuter than disposable plastic or paper, then opt for reusable bamboo dinnerware, like this striking colourful set from West Elm. They’re durable and dishwasher safe.

“I’m really feeling bamboo right now—either recyclable or reusable. Both options are more elevated and greener than the typical plastic plates,” says Marlee Schwartz.

12 Backyard BBQ Essentials For Your Next Summer PartyPhoto,

Food station styling

Let’s plan your buffet table-setting strategy, shall we? Make your table stand out with this hot tip from Marlee Schwartz: Set up all the food and condiments on fun trays. Not only are they easy to transport, but they’ll add a pop of colour or pattern to your table. H&M Home has a stunning selection of trays, including bold black and white patternswooden, metallic and floral designs. They also have a pretty collection of organic cotton tablecloths. But if that’s too much work, Marlee Schwartz recommends just rolling out some craft paper and calling it a day!

Napkins and cutlery should be organized and well-displayed, too. Put them in cups or small vases so they’re contained and easy to grab. Showcase pre-made drinks such as lemonade or cocktails in spouted jugs and serve them up in cute mason jars. Ditch the plastic straws and top your drinkswith fun, compostable paper ones.

And if you want to go all-out as a gracious host, you can even set up little stations for sunscreen, bug spray and cozy blankets. How thoughtful!

12 Backyard BBQ Essentials For Your Next Summer PartyPhoto,

Nostalgic games

There’s just something that feels wholesome and old-timey about a classic backyard BBQ, so why not extend that nostalgia intoyour entertainment? Everyone loves a good ol’ fashioned card game, and these playing decks from Indigo featuring the Golden Girls or Seinfeld characters are sure to get people to loosen up.

If you have extra space, there are even more options for fun activities like bocce ball, ring tossing or horseshoes

12 Backyard BBQ Essentials For Your Next Summer PartyPhoto,

Get everyone involved

You may be committed to the grill, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all the action. And why should your friends miss out on the fun of cooking? “I like to bring the party to the grill,” says Lillakas. “Invite company to make skewers and set up a station with various veggies,  pickles, halloumi and marinated meats and have them build and grill their own. It gets people up and moving during a backyard gathering.” Brilliant, right? Happy grilling, everyone!

12 Backyard BBQ Essentials For Your Next Summer PartyPhoto, iStock


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