Chef Symon’s 5 Tips for Pulling Off the Perfect Barbecue

chef in outdoor kitchen

Chef Michael Symon knows a thing or two about barbecuing. Besides penning multiple grilling cookbooks and owning several restaurants dedicated to that perfect char, he’s also a co-host of ABC’s The Chew and Food Network’s Throwdown with Michael Symon, and a winner of the prestigious James Beard Award for Best Chefs in America.

This year, we’ve teamed up with Chef Symon to provide insight and inspiration for your next outdoor event. So, what goes into pulling off a backyard bash without a hitch? Chef shares his 5 favorite tips below.

outdoor beverage station

“Make sure to prepare a large bucket of ice for beverages or use a built-in station with easy guest access.”

Keeping guests happy and hydrated with an assortment of chilled beverages is essential for any outdoor gathering. A variety of options and styles, from portable ice buckets to bar carts with built-in tubs, means there’s a solution for every space. And with beverage stations often becoming organic gathering spots, it’s a good idea to offer more than one destination for ice to avoid any party bottlenecks. Be sure to offer a variety of grab-and-go beverages, both alcoholic and non, to make sure everyone’s thirst is quenched!

Barbecue Bonus: Upgrade your ice station with beverage accoutrements like festive cocktail napkins, straws, koozies and more.

“Have a table in front of your cooking station large enough to prep and serve food (about 5–7 feet).”

Always consider adjacencies when setting up your outdoor kitchen. Modular designs can help you customize your arrangement – and positioning a table or island near your cooking station will make entertaining a breeze. Providing an easy transition from prep to presentation simplifies the task and puts your focus back on the meal. Not only will this table provide more space to prep, but it will also minimize any transfer time, making sure your guests enjoy the meal while it’s still hot.

Barbecue Bonus: Consider serving trays that are not only functional, but also stylish, so you’re utilizing less dishware in the process – and cutting down on the dreaded post-party cleanup.

chef preparing ingredients

chef grating a lime

“Do all your cutting and sauce work ahead of time.”

Completing any food prep in advance not only saves time when the party is about to begin, but also ensures you have all the ingredients needed to finalize the meal, so you can cook with confidence.

Barbecue Bonus: Having your chopped ingredients at the ready doesn’t need to stay behind the scenes. Consider stylish trays and bowls to show off colorful fixings and give your guests a sneak peek at the fresh meal to come!

“Have a batch cocktail pre-made so guests can grab a drink as soon as they arrive.”

Pre-made cocktails can set the tone (or theme) for any successful party. Whether you are serving up a batch of margaritas or a signature sip, make sure to keep your cocktails cool throughout the event using an insulated beverage dispenser.

Barbecue Bonus: A great way to elevate your batch cocktail is to provide a garnish bar. Guests can personalize their drinks in style with everything from citrus to salts.

chef at beverage station

chef drizzling seasonings on food

“Make sure you are not doing a lot of cooking when guests arrive. Instead, focus on finishing touches.”

Outdoor gatherings can be warm all on their own, so no one should spend the whole party overheating at the grill. Optimize your pre-party prep to reduce your cooking time in front of guests, and consider menu items that can be made in advance or simply need a finishing touch – whether it’s a final, quick sear or merely adding a garnish. The goal is to minimize work and maximize your time connecting with friends and family.

Barbecue Bonus: If you do have to cook after guests arrive, consider setting up and offering outdoor games like cornhole or croquet. These are easy distractions that guests can enjoy with their premade cocktails and appetizers until the entrée is ready.

Check out the Collection and find exclusive content from our partnership with Chef Michael Symon.