Being polite is always the best course of action in a situation like this. Your default should always be asking the host in advance what you can bring. Often times you will get a polite, “just bring yourself.”

But if you are like me, it is always in my nature never to show up empty handed regardless. Now a lot of this depends on knowing the people putting on the barbecue.

I will often bring paper plates and buy one of those assortments of plastic utensils. These situations can be delicate, so as a courtesy, I will call before I am on my way and ask if they are actually in need of paper towels, ice, hamburger and hot dog buns, tin foil, etc.

forks knives cups plates

List of Some Ideas Of What You Can Bring to a Barbecue

  • Mustard
  • Ketchup
  • Mayonnaise
  • Napkins
  • Plates
  • Plastic Cups
  • Plastic forks & knives
  • Cookies
  • Brownies
  • Pickles
  • Buns
  • Extra Chairs
  • Potato Chips
  • Sweet Tea
  • Cheese Curls
  • Sodas
  • Bottled Water
  • Games
  • Salsa & Chips
  • Ice
  • Pretzels

What side dishes to bring to a barbecue

When I really want to contribute to the event, I like to provide something a little different in the way of a side dish or even a dessert. These dishes are always more than welcome at a traditional barbecue. Some people who organize these parties will sometimes already have a list, so the easiest thing would be to just ask.

Collards – Always a traditional favorite for purists. So if you are going to make them, you need to bring your “A” game.

Mac & Cheese – From simple to gourmet, you will find this staple at most gatherings.

Baked Bean – This northern influence is becoming very popular and has a wide variety of styles nowadays.

Potato Salad – This dish has a variety of styles in which to serve, so get experimental.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts – Picking up in popularity. You can even grill them on skewers.

Cole Slaw – Simple easy and one of the healthier additions.

Green Beans – Simple and delicious.

Salad – Yes, you heard me.

Pasta Salad – Flavorful, delicious and easy to make.

Desserts for a BBQ

No BBQ is complete without the finale of the evening. Almost any desert is welcome but there are some that are just known to go hand in hand with a cookout. Here are a few below but never be shy about bringing a sweet for the end of the evening. Just keep in mind that this is an outdoor event and likely warm outside. Items like ice cream can be a risky proposition unless served quickly. Other than that, enjoy.

cobbler desert

Cobbler – Peach, blueberry or so many options.

Banana Pudding – Fun and traditional… a welcome addition to the party.

Strawberry Shortcake – A little lighter than some of the others.

Sweet Potato Pie – Always a good idea

Let’s discuss adult beverages

By rights, the host and hostess should not be expected to provide food and beverages so it is customary to bring and contribute. I clarified that statement because manners state that you are bringing this for those throwing the party and they are thereby sharing with everyone. By doing so there is an implied gesture that these are for everyone… just as you will be welcome to partake in the communal beverages that other guests have brought.

Now if it is a group of people that you know well enough, then there is usually an existing understanding that people drink what they are going to drink. BYOB, or bring your own bottle is perfectly acceptable in situations like this. There are plenty of drinks that I enjoy that my friends do not. Just a note: If someone asks if they can have one, the proper response is yes. This is not your party so those communal rules still apply.