Grill & Gather: How to Host the Ultimate Outdoor BBQ

Explore the best barbecue tips from an expert, discover essential serving items, new grilling tools, plus delicious side dish ideas. Is it possible to master the perfect summer BBQ setup? Read this, and you’ll make it look easy.

Summer is officially here. Longer days and warmer temperatures inspire us to cook and eat outdoors, and a barbecue is never a tough sell when it comes to luring friends and family over to your patio, deck or backyard – to eat.

a grilling stand with sticks of meat lined up next to burger meats with other grilling tools and ingredients around
PC Charcoal Spiedini Grill

Gas grills have been a mainstay when it comes to our own outdoor cooking for years, but as we know, real barbecue is not cooked that way. If you love the authentic flavours that come from sizzling meat cooked over charcoal or wood chips perhaps it’s time to trade up. Loving this new compact and lightweight PC® Charcoal Spiedini Grill, which holds up to 43 skewers (Spiedini is the Italian name for that authentic street food) or shares the cooking space nicely for veggie burgers or sausages, chicken and more. For authentic barbecue flavour use lump charcoal, briquettes or wood chips. Look at you this summer – a serious pitmaster.

Speaking of serious pitmasters, I asked Chef Karl Gregg of Rosie’s BBQ & Smokehouse to share some of his expert tips and tricks with us:


CD: What do you think of bottled barbecue sauce?

KG: Make your own from scratch – the mistake we all make when making a good BBQ is doing the oh a dash of this and a dash of that. If you’re making your own sauce, measure, weigh and record each step and all ingredients so you can replicate it.


CD: Your method is low and slow when it comes to barbecue, isn’t it?

KG: Live fire is the best ingredient over any sauce, marinade or rub when cooking – whether vegetables, fish, or other meats. If you can use live fire, it will give you the best results. The one mistake people make is aiming for speed, you can’t make things go fast with more heat, and will not be as good. I just use salt, pepper, time and patience.


CD: How do we choose the right meat to BBQ?

KG: Pick great meats – look for fat content, locally-raised and grass fed. If you’re having steak buy a really good one, this is not the place to save money.


a layered gas grill with yellow and purple carrots above and a slice of salmon with lemon slices beneath
Crate and Barrel

Frustrated with food like delicate fish and vegetables falling through the cracks on your outdoor grill? Nonstick grill trays with holes are meant for this task and this set of two from Crate and Barrel does the job beautifully.


an outdoor brown wooden table with layers of drinks, plates, fruit punch jars with taps, and utensils
Pottery Barn

Set up your outdoor gathering so that guests can serve themselves.  A dedicated station for drinks, plates, and utensils is wise. Fill a galvanized metal bucket or two with lots of ice chilling bottled or canned drinks and wine. I love large mason jars with taps you can fill with lemonade, cucumber water, sangria, or whatever suits. Pottery Barn has some barbecue-cute options.


cutlery and towels in a brown four-parted basket-ish bag

Choose cutlery that is either recyclable or compostable, or good-old-fashioned metal you can throw in the dishwasher. Use a caddy accessory, like this rattan one from Simons, to corral the same item together and guests can just grab what they need.


an outdoor wooden table covered with wide glass plates, glasses, a bowl of bread and pineapple, a tray of grapes and cake, and a bucket of drinks

I’m not a fan of disposable paper plates or plastic throw away cups, and with all the dishwasher-safe and gorgeous acrylic dishware and glasses on the market, why not buy something you can use and reuse for years? HomeSense always has fabulous, stylish options.

a black napkin holder anchoring a blue napkin in place by an arc-shaped rod with a metalball tip

Count on extra napkins. Messy barbecue ribs, corn on the cob, burgers or other finger foods require more personal clean up than usual. Paper that is compostable is nice, or at least made from recycled materials. On a breezy day, you’ll appreciate this napkin holder from Ikea that anchors them in place.  


Side Dishes

Choose a theme for your grill and gather, and then plan side dishes to suit. For instance, grill Mexican-spicy marinated pork and serve with a purple cabbage slaw with lime juice and cilantro, plus grilled corn on the cob brushed with butter, queso fresco and lime. 

Going with classic southern BBQ rack of ribs, brisket and such? Serve baked beans, cornbread, creamy coleslaw, and potato salad.

What to serve alongside those Italian spiedini skewers mentioned above? Panzanella, Caprese salad, and grilled artichokes. Or go with a Greek theme and grill up souvlaki skewers with any protein and lots of vegetables. Be sure and toss some pita bread on the grill for a moment to get those essential grill marks and serve those warm with tzatziki and a fresh Greek salad.