What to Bring to a BBQ: Essential Items for Your Next Cookout

Discover a curated list of essentials you should bring to a BBQ to enhance the experience and cater to all attendees’ needs.

Key takeaways:

  • Choose a variety of meats for BBQ.
  • Offer a mix of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Pair side dishes that complement different meats.
  • Get creative with salads using fresh ingredients.
  • Select desserts that can withstand outdoor conditions.

The Meat

the meat

Selecting the right protein is crucial for any BBQ. Opt for variety to cater to different preferences – think beef brisket, pork ribs, and chicken drumsticks.

For a smoky flavor, infuse wood chips like hickory or applewood during grilling. Remember, ingredients like quality steak rubs and marinades can elevate the simplest cuts.

Always ensure meats are stored at safe temperatures prior to cooking to prevent any risk of foodborne illnesses. Consider the cooking time; low and slow for cuts like brisket and hot and fast for steaks and burgers.

Pre-cooking thicker cuts can save grilling time and ensure even doneness. Lastly, always rest meat before serving to retain juiciness.


Selecting the right beverages enhances the BBQ experience and caters to a variety of guest preferences. Include a mix of alcoholic options like local craft beers, light lagers for classic pairings, and a couple of red and white wines for those who prefer vino with their meal.

For non-alcoholic choices, cooling iced tea, homemade lemonade, and sparkling water are refreshing for all ages. Remember to provide plenty of ice and consider the weather; on hot days, doubling the amount of cold drinks prevents a mid-BBQ run to the store.

Diet diversities are prevalent; offering a few sugar-free or low-calorie options respects those with dietary restrictions or health-conscious tendencies.

Side Dishes

Pairing the right side dishes with the main grill can elevate a BBQ from good to great. Opt for a mix that complements a variety of meats and dietary preferences.

A classic coleslaw or potato salad offers a creamy counterpoint to smoky flavors. For a healthier twist, consider a quinoa salad with fresh vegetables.

Grilled corn on the cob with butter and herbs is both an aromatic delight and crowd-pleaser. Baked beans, rich in savory notes, are a hearty staple that can be quickly prepared.

Don’t forget a basket of mixed bread rolls to mop up sauces and balance the meal. Always include a few vegetarian and vegan options like grilled veggie skewers or a colorful caprese salad to ensure inclusivity.


In the realm of BBQ accompaniments, salads present an often-underestimated opportunity to enhance the overall feast. While potato and pasta salads are stalwarts, there’s room to innovate. Opt for fresh, seasonal ingredients to bring a refreshing counterpoint to the savory, smoky flavors of grilled meats.

A crisp watermelon feta salad, for instance, delivers a sweet and salty profile that plays well with barbecue sauce-laden dishes. Consider texture contrasts; add crunch with seeds or nuts to a coleslaw to complement the tenderness of slow-cooked ribs. For a lighter touch, a tangy Asian slaw with a vinaigrette base can cut through the richness of fatty cuts.

Always dress your salads right before serving to maintain the desired texture. Remember, the best salads at a BBQ not only provide balance but also stand up as memorable dishes on their own.


Selecting the right dessert for a barbecue hinges on balancing simplicity with crowd-pleasing flavors. Choose items that stand up well to outdoor conditions, avoiding those that may melt or spoil quickly in the heat. Classics like fruit pies and cobblers are excellent because they can be served warm or at room temperature. They also pair nicely with the smoky flavors of grilled meats.

Consider the ease of serving and eating when at a barbecue. Individual servings like brownies, cupcakes, or cookies are convenient, eliminating the need for plates and cutlery. They also allow guests to sample a variety without commitment to a large slice of a single dessert.

Bringing along a fresh fruit salad offers a refreshing and healthier option that can be a palate cleanser after a hearty meal. Use fruits that are in season for the best taste and value. If dealing with a more adventurous group, grilling fruit such as peaches or pineapples can introduce a unique and unexpected dessert choice that complements the barbeque theme.

Always consider potential food allergies and dietary restrictions of the guests. Provide alternative options like gluten-free or dairy-free treats to ensure everyone can enjoy something sweet. Remember, the goal is to complement the barbecue with a dessert that is hassle-free, satisfying, and suitable for an outdoor setting. Choose wisely to round off the meal on a high note.