Delicious Recipes for Backyard Grilling & Outdoor Parties

What to grill? How do you sort through the best grilling recipes on the internet? Beef, chicken, fish, pork, veggies, vegan... I can tell you some of MY family favorites and how I decide what to cook on different occasions.

There's more to think about than just falling back on favorites.

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Establishing the scene

When trying to decide what to grill, the first question to ask yourself is "What's the occasion?" Are you trying to decide what to grill for a weeknight dinner for your family, a fun experiment to try out a new tool or technique, an outdoor party with lots of guests, or something else in between?

The circumstances can have a big impact on what you choose to grill. One item or multiple items? Something quick and easy or something that involves more time? Something "tried and true," or something that you've never done before?

Chicken stir fry for the Weber wokChicken stir fry for the Weber wok

Knowing your audience

To me, one main deciding factor about what to grill is my audience. If I'm cooking for my own small family on a weeknight, I'm usually going to choose things that I already know they will enjoy. I'm also going to choose something that I know how to do without screwing up, and something that can be done start-to-finish in an hour or two, at the very most. 

Close family or friends can be a forgiving audience when it comes time to try out new flavors, different cuts of meat, or different techniques, but a busy night is not the best time to be experimenting. This is a good time to stick to proven favorites, and to make sure to have something that everyone in the family will enjoy. Traditional hamburgers or bratwurst are likely weeknight candidates for our family.

If you're just grilling for yourself or have more hours (and possibly spare ingredients!) for some trial and error, that can be the time for trying something new. Maybe a wood-fired flatbread pizza, whiskey-marinated pork ribs, or a whole smoked turkey.

What if I'm having a backyard party for a whole afternoon & evening on the weekend? Well, that opens up another layer of decisions.

What to grill for an outdoor party

An outdoor party with a large number of people can be a great time to expand your repertoire or even do a little showing off of your growing "grill skills," but you still want to choose your breadth of recipes wisely.

If I'm expecting a crowd that will hang around socializing for several hours, I take the following into consideration:

  • more than one type of meat or protein (beef, chicken, pork, fish, etc.)
  • at least a couple of non-meat items for any vegetarians or vegans in the group
  • some recipes that can be prepped ahead of time, and others that require little to no preparation
  • some "small bites" or appetizer items that people can nibble in the earlier hours
  • a more substantial entree that might be the main course or main event 
  • a "showstopper" item that will entertain the crowd and keep them coming back for more! I just can't resist a little theatricality!

That might sound like a lot, and it certainly can be if you don't have a lot of experience or assistance. Another key in deciding what to grill (particularly for a big occasion like a party) is to keep it within your comfort zone. I think of it like designing a first date: don't overplan or overextend. Start with something you know you can handle, and be flexible enough to roll with any mishaps or changes in plans.

Not all of your party's food items are likely to be kissed by flame, but determining what to grill is a good place to start building your menu. Start with some recommended recipes here, experiment over time, and soon you'll have a long list of your own favorites.

We're always adding new recipes, so check back soon!