It's time to get your grill on.
Published: 2021-07-26 03:42 pm
Expert recommendations for backyard BBQ party essentials for summer 2021
nypost.com

It’s never too late to throw a backyard party. Even in the midst of August, we’re all happy-go-lucky to catch up with family and friends we only saw on screens last year.

That’s why we’re all about the backyard parties and outdoor BBQs while the weather is still at summer peak. As long as you organize safely and follow CDC guidelines, you can throw on a cute sundress, buy some hamburger buns and look on Pinterest for party inspiration.

But, you don’t have to search any further. The Post spoke with a party consultant and two grill experts for the best products to buy for your backyard event along with tips and tricks for a perfect day.

“I’m a soup-to-nuts type planner for my clients and we take on everything from custom decor to working with caterers and bringing in all the vendors,” Seri Kertzner, chief party officer at Little Miss Party Planner, told The Post. “We want our clients to be the guests at their own party. What makes us unique is that none of our parties look the same; we make customized logos and unique floral arrangements in-house, which is why people keep coming back to us.”

(image)
Courtesy of Seri Kertzner

Kertzner also said it’s easy to plan a barbecue with safety in mind, too.

“You can decorate your outdoor table in a fun way and dedicate one bathroom for your guests to use with paper hand towels — instead of a bath towel — to keep things safer, ” Kertzner said. “And now, it’s normal to have a bottle of Purell on the table, in fact, it’s not just normal, it’s appreciated.”

What’s more, your grill is likely the star of the backyard party show. Susie Bulloch, Founder of “Hey Grill, Hey” and Andrew Koster, author of two bestselling grill cookbooks, provided some of the best grill products and how to use them, too.

Ahead, find the top products for your summer backyard party. We assembled a one-stop-shop, filled with expert-backed, party-planning advice — so you just have to scroll in one place.

  • Backyard Party Essentials
  • Grill Essentials
  • FAQ
  • Backyard Party Essentials

    La Jolie Muse Citronella Candles (Set of 3), $36.99

    (image)

    “Something I’m big into is citronella candles,” Kertzner said. “Bugs are super annoying and they help keep them away, so I love having those around.”

    Murphy’s Naturals Lemon Eucalyptus Oil Insect Repellent Spray (Set of 3), $15.99

    (image)

    “Presumably, your party is before sunset — possibly right before — but it’s still good to have bug spray available for your guests if they want,” she said.

    Neutrogena Ultra-Sheer Dry-Touch SPF 45 Sunscreen Lotion (Set of 2), $13.97 (originally $14.99)

    (image)

    Sunscreen is another good protectant to have on hand for guests,” she said. “It’s one of those things that’s good to apply even if the sun isn’t out.”

    TecUnite 100-Piece Foil Frill Firework Picks, $7.71

    (image)

    “I love cute toppers, like colored toothpicks to put on top of hamburgers or whatever you’re serving,” she said. “It adds a pop of color and makes things a little more festive.”

    Sunjoy Audrey 60 Qt. Cooler Cart, $121.25

    (image)

    “You need tons of ice on hand, and I love my cooler on wheels to fill up with ice and drinks,” she said. “It’s super convenient for drinks for a portable option by the pool or next to your deck.”

    TableCraft Galvanized Oval Beverage Tub, $45.81

    (image)

    You can also get a beverage bucket to hold wine, beer, soda or whatever you’re serving at the party,” she said.

    Hershey’s S’mores Variety Kit, $20.99 (originally $26.99)

    (image)

    “I love s’mores,” she said. “Buying the sticks, marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate bars — and displaying them in a fun way — is a fun idea.”

    OOFit Foldable Wood Cornhole Set, $159.97

    (image)

    “I like to set out games before the party so it’s not something you’re worrying about once the party’s on,” she said. “It’s also an icebreaker for some people to say, ‘hey, let’s play some cornhole or throw a frisbee around.’”

    Sonos Outdoor Speakers, $749 (originally $799)

    (image)

    “I would be mortified to throw a party and not have music,” Kertzner said. “You need good music and a good speaker, and Sonos speakers are the most recommended splurge that I swear by.”

    For a more affordable option, she recommends the JBL Clip 3 speaker — Bluetooth, portable and perfect for a backyard party.

    Supreme Ware Drink Pouches with Straws (100 Pack), $21.95

    (image)

    “Something I did recently that people loved was serving drink pouches,” she said. “Instead of using ice cubes for these, I took some fruit, froze them overnight, and threw them into cocktails. They’re a fun alternative to ice cubes.”

    Windy City Novelties Multi Color Light-Up LED Ice Cubes (12-Pack), $23.99

    (image)

    LED ice cubes are little squares that go into your drink,” she said. “If you’re having a party post-sunset, your drink is glowing and it’s a great way to jazz things up.”

    Jasonwell Inflatable Unicorn Pool Float, $18.39 (originally $23.99)

    (image)

    “I once had a unicorn float that didn’t have a hole in the middle,” she said. “I filled up the middle of the unicorn with ice and added the drink pouches in there.”

    Cuisinart Smart Power Duet Blender/Food Processor, $69.99 (originally $165)

    (image)

    “I use a Cuisinart blender to make frozen drinks,” she said. “It’s a good thing to have on hand.”

    Hawaiian Shaved Ice and Snow Cone Machine, $39.99 (originally $59.95)

    (image)

    “A shaved ice maker is so easy to use,” Kertzner said. “You just throw ice in and you’re good to go — just pick up simple syrup or make it at home.”

    She said it’s great to set up alongside a drink station with glasses and fun umbrellas for garnishing.

    Vingli 10-Pack White Folding Chairs, $241.99

    (image)

    “Patio furniture doesn’t have to be fancy, but you just want to make sure everyone has a seat, which is where folding chairs come in handy,” she said. “It’s great to pair with an outdoor pillow to avoid setting up and putting away cushions for your events.”

    Brightown Outdoor String Lights, $15.98

    (image)

    “For string lights, be sure to measure out your space and account for where the outlets are,” she said. “Sometimes, they can be unusually short, so you want to be sure you have enough on hand.”

    Vivere Double Cotton Hammock with Steel Stand, $80.99 (originally $119.99)

    (image)

    Hammocks are great for daytime parties and when it works perfectly for people who want to lounge during the day,” she said. “For evening parties, I don’t necessarily recommend one.”

    Craft & Kin Melamine 12-Piece Dinnerware Set, $39.99

    (image)

    “A melamine-type dish is best because it’s a type of plastic, but it’s nice,” she said. “There’s no fear of anything breaking and they’re good quality, so you’re not using something flimsy.”

    AVLA 4-Pack Porcelain Bowls, $25.99

    (image)

    “I love oval serving plates that can divide different appetizers and even desserts,” she said.

    Estilo Beverage Dispensers with Metal Stand, $39.99

    (image)

    “I find that drinks taste better when they’re poured out of a glass beverage dispenser with a spout,” she said. “They’re great for parties and you can throw some lemon slices and fresh mint to make it even more refreshing.”

    Funboy Rainbow Cloud Lounger, $31 (originally $39)

    (image)

    “There are so many cool floats right now, it’s insane,” she said. “Even if your guests aren’t swimming, they’re just fun decorations to have in your backyard.”

    For more fun pool options, read our guide to the best pool floats.

    Kiralumi 16″ LED Beach Ball, $15.99 (originally $21.99)

    (image)

    “Throwing fun beach balls in the pool just screams ‘party,’” she said. “There are some that light up, too.”

    Makumari Lotus Floating Lanterns (Set of 10), $29.99 (originally $34.99)

    (image)

    “I love lining the pool with lanterns or battery-operated candles, especially if your party is going after sunset,” she said.

    Goldsun Aluminum Outdoor Lounger, $169.99 (originally $199.99)

    (image)

    Lounge chairs are great to display by the pool,” she said. “It’s important you have enough out for when you’re hosting, even if it’s a small gathering.”

    Utopia Towels Cabana Stripe Beach Towel (Pack of 4), $33.99 (originally $39.99)

    (image)

    “It’s nice to put a towel behind each lounge chair, especially if your guests want to swim,” she said.

    Grill Essentials

    “Grilling is not just about the flavor of the food but it sets this ambiance,” Bulloch said. “There’s nothing more cozy, homey, and fun than standing around a grill and talking about what’s being cooked and served. Having smoke coming up is as much a part of that backyard atmosphere as the food that hits the table.”

    Pit Boss Portable Tabletop Pellet Grill, $197

    (image)

    This pellet grill can fit just about anything you want — a full chicken and a good amount of burgers — and doesn’t take up a lot of real estate on your porch,” Koster said. “It’s great for smaller backyards and gets up to 500 degrees fast.”

    He said it’s “one of the best grills out there” because it’s great to take to tailgates and to the park — as long as you have an outlet.

    Louisiana Grills 838-Sq. Pellet Grill, $978.95

    (image)

    This grill is a tank, clad with double-lined stainless steel and accents all throughout the grill,” Koster said. “It will get up to 600 degrees in about 20 minutes, so it’ll get really hot really fast.”

    Plus, he said you have more “bells and whistles,” including an inside light for evening grilling and Bluetooth and WiFi activation so you can check on your food while working out.

    Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill, $359

    (image)

    “Everyone seems to have a classic Weber grill on their back porch,” Koster said. “It gives you that charcoal smell and you can throw anything on there — it’s an all-American grill.”

    Prestige Pro 665 Grill On Cart with IR Rotisserie and Side Burner, $3,149

    (image)

    This grill is for the person who wants to have a nice showpiece for their backyard,” Koster said. “It’s high-quality stainless steel, comes with lights all around the grill for evening grilling, and has a wealth of cool features — including a built-in rotisserie.”

    Spicewalla 6-Pack Grill Seasonings & Rubs Set, $32.99

    (image)

    “Ultimately, rubs and seasonings are up to preference,” Koster said. “With pork, I’m into sweeter flavors — like a honey and herb rub — and the Traeger Coffee Rub for beef to break down fats when grilling.”

    A-Maze-N Adjustable Length Stainless Steel Briquette Grate, $24.98

    (image)

    “This is a smoked tube that you can put wood pellets into to serve as a cold smoker,” Koster said. “Sometimes, people want a little more smoke and you don’t even have to light your grill.”

    Specifically, it’s great to smoke cheese, nuts, and other snacks for a BBQ-style flavor.

    Pit Boss Pro 3-Pack Stainless Steel Tool Set, $47.98

    (image)

    “A big spatula is super useful to have on the grill,” Bulloch adds. “Look for something with a heavy-duty metal head and a long spatula, as well as durable tongs.”

    For carving, Koster recommends a fork like the one on the far left. The wide spatula on this set is perfect for flipping salmon, thanks to its big head, too.

    CitruSafe BBQ Grill Cleaner, $12.99

    (image)

    Both Bulloch and Koster recommend using tinfoil on tongs to scrape your grill’s grate. “Cheap grill brushes with metal bristles are a big no-no,” Bulloch said. “The glue dissolves and the bristles fall onto your grill grate, transfer to your food, and you don’t want tiny metal needles in your stomach.”

    For a safe solution, she recommends balling heavy-duty tin foil onto your tongs and running them along your grill grate while your grill is still hot.

    Pellet grills tend to get greasier, so Koster takes everything out of the grill every two months and sprays it down with the CitruSafe BBQ Grill Cleaner to make it look new.

    ThermoPro Waterproof Digital Meat Thermometer, $18.99 (originally $19.99)

    (image)

    “When you have a good meat thermometer, you don’t have to guess about undercooking or overcooking things, and you certainly don’t want to make your guests sick,” Bulloch said. “Having a good instant-read thermometer will make sure your food is up to safe serving temperatures, nothing is overcooked, you get the perfect medium-rare steak.”

    Plus, she said you’ll look amazing when “all of your food comes out perfectly done.”

    Smoke & Grill Stainless Steel Grill Basket, $21.99

    (image)

    “A grill basket is an awesome addition because it transforms your grill into more than a flat-cooking surface,” Bulloch said. “You can put in shrimp, vegetables, and other small items that might fall through the grate.”

    Legend Cast Iron Reversible Griddle for Gas Stovetop, $49.69

    (image)

    “A cast-iron skillet is super useful to have because it’s a great surface for searing or roasting sauces,” Bulloch said. “It transitions from the grill to the serving table pretty easily.”

    Cedareo 8-Piece Grilling Planks Set, $29.92

    (image)

    “I would get cedar planks because they’re one-time-use,” Bulloch said. “You don’t have to store them, preheat them, and you can add some good smokey flavor to your food all the same.”

    Interestingly, she doesn’t recommend the much-used Himalayan planks for grilling. “They take a long time to come up to temperature because they’re typically thick, so you would have to preheat them for a long time before you start grilling,” she explains. “I’ve owned them, but I haven’t kept them. They’re trendy but not completely utilitarian and beginner-friendly.”

    Weber Compact Rapidfire Chimney Starter, $14.99 (originally $17.99)

    (image)

    “If you have a charcoal grill, a chimney starter is amazing,” Bulloch said. “It helps get your charcoal up to temp pretty quickly, feeds the air exactly where it needs to go and you can preheat charcoal with a chimney starter just as fast as you can preheat your oven inside. It makes charcoal grilling fast and accessible.”

    Zorestar Wood Chips for Smoking and Grilling (Set of 6), $18.99

    (image)

    “Whether your grill is gas or charcoal, it can be turned into a machine that produces smoke if you buy wood chips,” Bulloch said. “I make foil packets by tearing off a large sheet of foil, putting in a couple of handfuls of the wood chips — you don’t need to soak them — folding it up so none of them fall out, and stabbing it with a fork all the way around.”

    And, when you put them on your burner and close the lid, the direct heat from the grill will ignite the wood chips and won’t burn because they’re in foil — they smolder and release smoke.”

    An FAQ on all things party planning & grilling

    From questions on how far in advance to invite guests to what to serve, find out unique, compliment-worthy party tips below. But first, meet our experts who shared insights with The Post:

    • Seri Kertzner: Chief Party Officer at Little Miss Party Planner with more than 10 years of experience in the event party space. She even has “party in place” expertise with her custom “party in a box” offerings.
    • Susie Bulloch: Founder of Hey Grill, Hey, a publicly acclaimed hub filled with grill recipes for BBQ novices and skilled tong-turners alike. Her mission is to create a network of backyard BBQ enthusiasts through professional recipe development and helpful tips.
    • Andrew Koster: Pellet grill master and Quality Manager for Pit Boss and Louisiana Grills. As the author of the “Master the Wood Pellet Grill” cookbook, he shared his best technical grill skills with the Post.

    How far in advance should I send invitations out for a backyard party?

    “If it’s a basic summer gathering, I’ll usually send out the information anywhere between a week to two weeks,” Kertzner said. “If it’s something you really want people to commit to, I’d start planning four to six weeks in advance because people’s calendars tend to get booked up in the summer.”

    What’s something people often forget when party planning?

    “People always arrive at a party hungry, so you absolutely want to have food and drinks ready to go once your guests arrive,” Kertzner said. “Definitely clean your bathrooms, too,” she adds. “Make sure there’s enough soap, toilet paper, and that everything is wiped down. It’s more important than ever, right now.”

    What should I serve as appetizers?

    Kertzner recommends serving skewers. She also loves serving crudités and fruit as an appetizer.

    A unique offering, too, is personalized charcuterie boxes (especially now!) filled with an assortment of cheese, dried meats, crackers, fresh and dried fruit, olives and nuts — keeping allergies and dietary restrictions in mind.

    (image)
    Courtesy of Seri Kertzner

    What should I serve as dessert?

    For dessert, Kertzner recommends homemade popsicles, delicious dessert parfaits, and conversation heart cookies for any occasion.

    What drinks should I serve at a backyard party?

    For drinks, Kertzner recommends serving white sangria for a refreshing, crisp summer offering. She also loves making lemonade with fresh lemons and mint.

    What should I grill (that isn’t the same ‘old hamburgers and hot dogs)?

    “You can grill everything — when I think of an outdoor party, anything you can cook inside will probably taste better outside,” Bulloch said. “Steaks and burgers taste amazing on charcoal grills and seasonal spring vegetables, like asparagus, and summer vegetables, like zucchini and squash, make great grilled side dishes.”

    Additionally, Bulloch loves grilled salads. “You can grill entire heads of romaine lettuce: cut them in half, drizzle them with olive oil, put them right on the grill grates, and top them with whatever you like,” she adds.

    Grilled pizza is one of her favorites, as well as pork chops. “Pork chops got a bad rep in the ‘50s to the ‘70s because you had to cook them to such a high temperature, but I think they’re about to have a real ‘moment,” she explains. “They can be safely cooked at 145 degrees instead of 175 degrees in the past, so they used to be dry and drenched in sauce. Now, you can create the most delicious charred, juicy flavor and are great with a simple sweet rub.”

    What’s more, Koster loves making his cookbook-famous smoked guacamole and pulled pork.

    What should I know if I’m a first-time griller?

    “The most important thing is knowing your grill,” Bulloch said. “Don’t make the first time you grill in front of a crowd. Spend a little time on your grill, cook different things, and know where the hot spots and temperature settings are on your grill. You won’t be super stressed when you have guests over.”

    For Koster, he recommends starting on cheaper meat cuts. “People get disappointed when they try an expensive brisket and it doesn’t turn out as planned,” he said. “Make sure you have a clean grill when you get started, a nice fire going, and have fun.”

    For related content, check out our roundup of small backyard party ideas and the best grills.

    Read Full Story

    Tom Konchalski, legendary HS hoops scout, dead at 74

    nypost.com - 8 months ago
    Tom Konchalski, one of the country’s most respected high school basketball scouts, died Monday at the age of 74, according to sources. The Forest Hills native, who attended Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens, battled metastatic cancer for the past tw
    Read More

    How media monetized polarization and other commentary

    nypost.com - 8 months ago
    Media beat: How Media Monetized Polarization How did our public square become so intensely polarized? By sucking up advertising dollars, the Internet devastated traditional newspapers that treated opinion “like a volatile substance” to be “fenced off from
    Read More

    New Jersey beats out New York for ‘Best Pizza’ title

    nypost.com - 5 months ago
    You want a pizza me? This week, New Yorkers — who pride themselves on slinging the finest slices — found themselves dethroned and defeated in a shocking new ranking that gave its pizza a mere bronze medal. That’s according to Food & Wine Magazine‘s latest
    Read More

    Luis Rojas blames Corey Oswalt’s struggles on Yankee Stadium

    nypost.com - 3 months ago
    Corey Oswalt got Yankee Stadium-ed, according to his manager.
    Read More