Memorial Day is rounding the corner and that can only mean one thing… it’s time to throw the ultimate backyard BBQ!
Growing up, my dad was the ultimate grill master. He was always playing around with new flavor combinations and he knew how to cook everything just right. I thank him for teaching me the ins and outs of grilling, and I’m especially thankful for all of the recipes he inspired.
While Dad wasn’t much of a party person, his backyard BBQ expertise inspired me to create my own fun experiences of my own. These days I like to add fun drinks and appetizers to the main meal.
I also like to spruce up my backyard with vibrant warm-weather additions. Sometimes, the atmosphere is the best part!
Remember, we’re only a couple of weeks away from the holiday weekend. So if you’re in the mood to try your shot at a backyard BBQ this year, you better get to planning!
Here’s how I like to throw my own flavorful backyard gathering at home.
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Marinades, Marinades, Marinades!
Dad loved to experiment, but his marinades always included a magic combo of oil, soy sauce and juice.
The soy sauce provided subtle saltiness that was necessary for pork, chicken and steaks. That, in combination with the acidic citrus of the juice, packed a real flavor punch. And the oil? A great way to bring it all together so that the marinade would retain moisture and keep the sharp flavors from dominating the natural taste of the meats.
When making the marinade, all of the ingredients are added in equal parts. Talk about a simple recipe! My dad always used to use about 1/4 cup of each for around 1-pound of meat.
Here are a few of my own combinations based on his tried-and-true marinade recipe!
My Favorite BBQ Marinades
- Orange juice/soy sauce/olive oil. Add brown sugar, garlic, Sriracha, and red pepper flakes.
- Lime juice/soy sauce/olive oil. Add chopped cilantro, garlic, and jalapeños.
- Pomegranate juice/soy sauce/olive oil. Add red wine, peppercorns, and rosemary.
- Balsamic vinegar/soy sauce/sesame oil. Add honey, garlic, and ginger.
Plenty of options to go around!
Sides and Starters For Your Backyard BBQ
A main course isn’t the same without some homemade sides. Here are some recipes you can make this Memorial Day Weekend.
American Macaroni Salad
It’s hard to choose, but I think my favorite side dish for a BBQ is macaroni salad. There’s something nostalgic about it and if I didn’t have one of those portioned plates, I might end up eating a couple of helpings!
This American Macaroni Salad recipe takes only 20 minutes to prep and 10 minutes to cook. It serves six people, but if you’re going to a big bash, you can always double the recipe for more! Here’s how to make it.
- 2 cups dry elbow macaroni, cooked, rinsed, and drained
- 1/3 cup diced celery
- 1/4 cup minced red onion, soaked in cold water for 5 minutes, drained
- 1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley
- 1/2 cup prepared mayonnaise
- 3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons sour cream
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup diced vine-ripened tomato (optional)
- In a large bowl, combine the macaroni, celery, onion, parsley and tomato, if using.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, sugar, vinegar, sour cream and salt.
- Pour the dressing over the salad and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Since corn is a classic side dish for backyard BBQ gatherings, I thought this would be a good addition as well.
Finished with a Mexican flare, this salad is hearty and filling. It’s also one of those you can’t mess up because the ingredients don’t need to be measured perfectly. You can even change them up a bit based on your heat and flavor preference!
In my option, the thing that makes this extra special is Whitley’s hot jalapeño ranch peanuts. You know how much I love Whitley’s and these peanuts are beyond addictive!
Find the full recipe HERE.
I know you’ve had watermelon before, but have you ever had it grilled? I haven’t, but after seeing this recipe it’s definitely on my list of things to try!
According to the Pioneer Woman, giving watermelon a quick sear on the grill allows the flavors to concentrate—giving the sugar the chance to caramelize on the outside while picking up flavors from the grill.
I’m sure it would taste good on its own, but this recipe calls for some lime zest, cilantro and salt. Doesn’t it sound delicious?! If you’re just as interested as I am, you can find the recipe below.
- Vegetable oil, for grilling
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 large watermelon (about 5 pounds), cut into 1-inch thick wedges
- Zest of 1 lime
- Fresh cilantro for serving
- Heat grill to high heat (about 450-500 degrees) and oil the grill grates with vegetable oil.
- In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, salt, and lime zest. Pinch the mixture together with your fingertips to combine.
- Lay the watermelon wedges in a single layer on a sheet tray. Reserve 1 teaspoon of the salt mixture and set aside. Sprinkle half of the remaining salt mixture all over the watermelon wedges. Flip and sprinkle the wedges with the other half of the salt mixture. Place on a cooling rack set over a sheet tray and let rest for 15 minutes. Using paper towels, press firmly on the slices to remove excess moisture.
- Place the wedges on the grill over direct heat and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side (until grill marks appear). Remove the watermelon from the grill and place it on a sheet tray or serving platter. Sprinkle with the reserved salt mixture and add some cilantro. Serve.
Mains To Make For Memorial Day
You can’t have a backyard BBQ without some meat! Here are some options including a chicken recipe, burger recipe and a pork recipe.
Citrus BBQ Chicken
Some families are all about the red meat at summer BBQs. But by the looks of this chicken, you won’t want to leave it out of the mix.
This Tangy Recipe from The Food Network includes a variety of ingredients—like brown sugar, orange zest, Dijon mustard and more—and they all come together in a triple-threat coating that acts as a marinade, glaze and sauce.
- 4 skin-on chicken leg quarters, cut into 8 pieces
- 1 1/3 cups ketchup
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- Juice and zest of an orange
- Juice and zest of a lemon
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 3 cloves garlic, grated
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
- Place your chicken in a large resealable plastic bag.
- Whisk together the ketchup, brown sugar, orange zest and juice, lemon zest and juice, garlic, Dijon, Worcestershire sauce, cumin, smoked paprika, salt and a few grinds of black pepper in a 4 cup liquid measuring cup until combined.
- Remove 1 cup of the sauce and add the remaining sauce to the resealable plastic bag with the chicken. Marinate the chicken in the fridge for at least 1 hour and up to overnight.
- Meanwhile, add the remaining sauce to a small saucepan and bring the sauce to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until it thickens, about 10 minutes. Reserve reduced sauce for glazing and serving.
- Prepare a grill on medium-high heat.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade and allow excess marinade to drip off. Arrange the chicken skin-side down on the grill (make sure to leave space between each).
- Cook until deep grill marks form and the chicken releases easily from the grill (about 4 minutes). Flip the chicken skin-side up. Cover the grill and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of each thigh reads 165-degrees F (20-25 minutes more).
- Brush the skin side of the chicken with reduced sauce. Flip the chicken pieces and brush the other side with sauce and continue to cook, sauce-side down, for an additional minute. Flip and grill for 1 minute more. Transfer the chicken to a platter and let rest for 5 minutes.
- Serve the chicken with the remainder of the sauce.
Juicy Grass-Fed Beef Burgers
A backyard BBQ doesn’t feel the same without burgers. Agree? And while burgers are pretty simple to make, these Juicy Grass-Fed Beef Burgers will put a lighter twist on your Memorial Day weekend.
The burgers are made with 93 percent lean grass-fed ground sirloin. And while the fat content is lower than some patties, the seasonings make them just as flavorful.
- 1 teaspoon canola oil
- 3/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
- 1/4 cup canola mayonnaise, divided
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- A pound of 93% lean grass-fed ground sirloin
- Heat oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and cook onion until soft and caramelized, stirring frequently (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
- Combine caramelized onions, 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, garlic powder, pepper, and ground beef in a bowl, stirring just until combined. Gently shape mixture into 4 (1/3-inch-thick) patties.
- Heat a grill pan or cast-iron skillet over high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add patties and cook for 3 minutes or to the desired degree of doneness.
- Spread ketchup evenly on the bottom halves of buns. Spread the remaining 2 tablespoons mayonnaise evenly on the top halves of the buns. Top the bottom buns evenly with patties, tomato slices, lettuce leaves and pickles. Cover with top halves of buns and serve.
Easy Pulled Pork Sliders
Onto more bun fun! These easy pulled pork sliders might be petite, but their flavor looks extra bold.
This recipe comes from Kim’s Cravings and I love that it can be customized depending on what you want at your backyard BBQ.
If you’re not a fan of pork, you can swap the meat for shredded chicken instead. If BBQ sauce isn’t your thing, you can cover the meat in a tangy Asian sauce or even a buffalo sauce if you’re looking for a little spice.
But if you’d like to take a peek at Kim’s original recipe, you can find it below.
Ingredients for coleslaw:
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 (9 ounce) package slaw
Ingredients for sliders:
- 12-pack slider buns
- 3 cups pulled pork (or use store-bought)
- Coleslaw (recipe above)
- 1/2 cup BBQ sauce
- 1/4 cup butter
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon onion salt or garlic salt
- 1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds
Directions for coleslaw:
- In a large mixing bowl, combine mayo, mustard, apple cider vinegar, onion powder and sea salt. Toss in the coleslaw mix.
- Stir everything together until the slaw is completely coated in the dressing.
Directions for sliders:
- Preheat your oven to 375-degrees F.
- Slice the slider buns in half and remove the top half of the buns. Set aside.
- Place the bottom half of the buns in a 9×13 dish. Layer the pulled pork over the buns, top with BBQ sauce if desired, and replace the top of the buns.
- In a small microwave-safe bowl, add butter, Worcestershire sauce, onion salt and poppy seeds. Microwave for 30-60 seconds, or until completely melted.
- Slowly pour the butter mixture over the top of the buns. You can also spoon it over them instead.
- Cover the dish in foil and bake at 375-degrees for 10 minutes.
- Remove the foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes.
- If using slaw, take the sliders out of the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Remove the bun tops, add a spoonful of slaw, and replace the tops. Serve!
I recntly shared this recipe for National Shrimp Day, but it’s a great option for all of my friends who don’t eat meat!
My Halibut and Shrimp Kebabs marinate quick and soak up flavor like no other. So make sure you don’t let them sit for too long! Besides the timing, they’re super easy to make and they require very little time to make.
Want to try them for yourself? Check out my recipe HERE.
Fun Extras To Top Off Your Backyard BBQ
Sure, a BBQ is great no matter what. Especially with amazing company! But I have this idea that it can be ten times better with the right outdoor decor, accessories and table setting.
Check out some of my favorite summer outdoor entertaining necessities.
You aren’t going to make it very far without some grilling tools! I like the 17-piece Room Essentials set because it includes everything you need and it comes in a convenient carrying case for easy transportation.
Have some eager eaters? This Lodge Grill Press will speed up cook time while pressing unwanted fats from burgers or sausages. When you aren’t using it for your BBQ meal, you can use it as a panini press!
Don’t let some spilled sauce ruin your outfit! Instead, suit up in this Foster and Rye Grilling Apron. It’s made with canvas and features two front pockets for all your grilling accessories. The adjustable neck strap is also a nice touch!
Here’s a new find that came just in time for Memorial Day Weekend! They’re called NEATsheets and they’re designed to protect you from unwanted spills. They’re basically disposable adhesive napkins that stick right on your shirt for ease of use. They also work perfectly as a placemat!
I love the red and white diamond pattern, but they also come in dots, stripes and more.
Oh! And they also have NEATwipes which are individually wrapped hand wipes that will get off all of that sauce without completely drying out your hands.
Made with lavender essential oils and aloe vera, I actually enjoy using them!
This classic Checker Outdoor Tablecloth is the perfect companion to any backyard BBQ. I remember using a similar one when I was a kid, so it sure brings up some good memories!
When the weather is nice, I love sitting out on the backyard patio. These string lights will allow you to enjoy the outdoors without having to worry about the setting sun ruining all the fun!
This cooler is an investment, but I’m a full believer in the YETI brand in terms of quality. This Tundra Cooler, made with three-inch insulated walls, will keep your Memorial Day Weekend drinks cold for hours.
It has durable lid latches to keep the cooler insulated and Doublehaul handles for easy transport. The best part? It has its own drain system so you don’t have to worry about a complicated clean-up at the end of the night!
Are store-bought sauces not working for you? Check out this super fun Make Your Own BBQ Sauce Kit from Uncommon Goods. If you’re inviting a few guests over, it will give them a fun activity to do while they’re waiting for food.
It’s also a great Father’s Day gift… don’t you think?
If you’ve already got a lot on the menu and you’re running out of time, you can actually order these Seasoned Oven Roasted Drumsticks straight from QVC!
This BBQ chicken is rubbed with sweet and smokey seasoning and frozen in a resealable bag. All you have to do is bake them in the oven for 30 minutes!
So what do you say? Think you can put together a fun backyard BBQ for Memorial Day Weekend? No matter what you decide to do, I hope you’re able to sit back, relax and enjoy some much-needed time with your loved ones!
From my backyard to yours,