Looks like it’s going to be a perfect day for a BBQ, but whoops! You didn’t plan one. Don’t let that stop you. Here’s how to throw a cookout on the fly with easy recipes and party decorations that make it look like you’ve totally got this. Because you do. #BBQgoals
- Build your last-minute BBQ around crowd-pleasing recipes that take mere minutes to prep and not a whole lot of time and effort to cook.
- Consider asking for help. It’s usually a good idea for you (the host) to tackle the main dish while guests help with appetizers, sides, desserts, and drinks. After all, you want energy left to have fun at your own party, right?
Start by choosing one of these main dishes. There’s one you can make in the slow cooker, and the other three are simply marinated and grilled.
- Slow Cooker Carolina BBQ: Prep 15 minutes | Cook 5½ to 6 hours on HIGH or 11 to 12 hours on LOW
This is when your slow cooker pays for itself. Throw a pork shoulder in there with a handful of ingredients and let technology take over.
- Grilled Skirt Steak with Homemade Asian Barbeque Marinade: Prep 5 minutes | Marination 15 minutes | Grill 8 minutes
A quick marinade and a few minutes on the grill is all it takes to make this tasty steak. Instead of pricey rib eyes, this recipes uses budget-friendly skirt steak Sliced thin and served with grilled vegetables, this is a dish you’ll want to put in your summer rotation.
- Spicy Grilled Shrimp: Prep 15 minutes | Grill 6 minutes
Even if you have to factor in thaw time for frozen shrimp, this dinner cooks in a flash.
- Chili-Lime Chicken Kabobs: Prep 15 minutes | Marination 1 hour | Grill 15 minutes
You probably already have everything you need for this tangy marinade.
Find more quick and easy BBQ and grill recipes.
Every BBQ needs just the right sides to round out the menu, and these are all quick and easy to make.
- Thornehedge Peach Slaw: Prep 25 minutes | Chill 45 minutes
Use summer’s juiciest peaches in this crisp, cool slaw. Check out more coleslaw recipes.
- Savory Spanish Potato Salad: Prep 15 minutes | Cook 10 minutes
A little different and a lot more colorful than your usual potato salad. You can make this early in the day and stash it in the fridge until guests arrive. We’ve got a massive potato salad recipe collection you can explore.
- Corn on the Grill: Prep 15 minutes | Grill 15 minutes
Lots of reviewers soaked the corn in water with the husks on for about an hour, peeled back the husks, spread on the seasoned butter, and grilled the corn with the husks pulled up again. The husks might char while the corn cooks, but that just adds to the roasted flavor. Find more recipes for BBQ and grilled corn on the cob.
Find all the sides you’ll need for summer cookouts.
You could just rip open bags of chips and call it good, but you’re better than that. Try these easy ideas instead.
- Grab a basketful of crisp, fresh vegetables and serve them with Green Goddess Salad Dressing. Find more dips that’ll go great with the chips someone else is sure to bring. And check out 5 healthy dips that won’t bust your yoga pants.
- Layer slices of juicy tomatoes and fresh mozzarella with basil leaves and top the whole thing with good quality olive oil, freshly ground pepper, and flaky sea salt. Guess what? You’ve just made Insalata Caprese. Find more caprese salad recipes, and learn the 2 ingredients that will up your caprese game.
- When life hands you ripe avocados, you’re loco if you don’t make guacamole. This recipe for Simply Guacamole takes only 4 ingredients and a few minutes to mash together. Find more guacamole recipes and read up on how to make the best guacamole ever.
Find more summer appetizer recipes.
No need to get all fancy for this casual cookout. Go with easy dessert ideas that still look party-perfect.
- Summers were made for berry cobbler, and this Best Ever Blueberry Cobbler is a 5-star favorite. The recipe uses blueberries, but any plump and juicy summer berries would play well.
- Throw a pan of Caramel Turtles® Brownies in the oven and serve them up with scoops of ice cream. Easy peasy. Find more brownie recipes, or discover shortcuts to deliciousness with recipes that start with brownie mix.
- Simpler yet, make magnificent mug cakes in the microwave. These scrumptious Red Velvet Mug Cakes topped with cream cheese frosting are ready in minutes.
If someone asks if they can bring a bag of ice, the answer is always yes. If they bring drinks to go with the ice, put them on your permanent guest list.
- Frosty pitchers of refreshing lemonade, iced tea, and fruit-infused water make for easy beverage service. Freeze juice or sliced fruits to use as ice cubes to flavor your drinks.
- This year’s hottest (coolest) summer drink is Watermelon Agua Fresca. You’ll want to break out your blender for this one. Add a shot of spirits if you want to go all adult beverage on it.
- If you have an ice cream maker, put it to work making frozen sangria slushies. You can make batches ahead of time and freeze them in zip-top bags until party time.
BBQ Party Decorations
With just a few key moves, you can give your last-minute BBQ a summer party vibe.
- Fill jars with blossoms and greenery from your garden or grocery store and arrange them down the middle of your outdoor buffet or dining table.
- Small pots of plants and herbs make easy centerpieces, too.
- Choose compostable plates and napkins in bold colors.
- Gather blankets and pillows for guests to lounge on, or ask them to bring their own.
- If you have the space, set up a croquet course or badminton game.
- String up lights and set out candles to create midsummer magic when the sun goes down.
- Don’t forget to put together a summer playlist, or farm it out to a trusted friend.
Speaking of Summer BBQs
- Get our top tips for successful grilling.
- Find out which grilling tools you’ll need for a summer’s worth of BBQs.
- Is it done yet? This guide to grilling times for chicken gives you the answer.
- Check out more summertime party ideas in our complete guide to summer entertaining.