Food & Drink

Your ultimate summer barbecue checklist

Summer is the perfect season to invite your friends and family over for delicious barbecue food. And a well-prepared food checklist ensures your barbecue is a hit. Waitrose offers a range of easy eats and refreshing sips that taste GOOD right now so you can kick back, relax, and start the good times.

 - 12 Min Read
Last updated and fact checked:
Your ultimate summer barbecue checklist
  • A hot summer’s day is the perfect time to get the barbecue going.
  • You can barbecue a range of meats and vegetables.
  • Keep the drinks flowing with a little help from Waitrose Cellar.
  • Thank your host with a bouquet of beautiful flowers from Waitrose Florist.

Summer barbecue: FAQs

  • What do you serve at a summer barbecue?

    Considering your guests’ dietary preferences, a summer barbecue typically includes grilled meats like burgers, chicken, and pork belly. Classic side dishes such as potato salad, coleslaw, and corn on the cob are also included. For a perfect summertime feast, don't forget refreshing drinks like lemonade and beer, plus dessert options like watermelon slices and ice cream.

  • What is a great gift for a barbecue host?

    A great gift for a barbecue host is a bottle of good wine, such as a crisp Sauvignon Blanc or a versatile Pinot Noir, paired with a bouquet of fresh, seasonal flowers. The wine complements the meal, while the flowers add a touch of elegance and brighten the host's home.

  • What sides should I serve at a barbecue in the UK?

    In the UK, a barbecue typically features classics like burgers, sausages, and grilled chicken. Side dishes often include coleslaw, potato salad, and corn on the cob. Finish off with favourites like Eton mess or strawberries and cream. And, of course, keep the drinks flowing with perfectly chilled wine for the perfect summer feast.

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When the sun is shining bright, there is no better time to fire up the barbecue and enjoy a classic British cookout. Whether you're a seasoned grill master or just getting started, being well prepared is key.

From mouth-watering main dishes to delightful sides and perfect wine pairings, here are some essential summer barbecue ideas.

  • Snacks and starters.
  • Salads and dressings.
  • Main dishes.
  • Summer desserts.
  • Ice cream and ice lollies.

Snacks and starters

Before the main event, you can serve snacks and starters for your guests to nibble on. These tasty treats will keep everyone happy while the barbecue heats up and the main dishes are prepared.

Caprese Inspired Aperitivo Platter

This Caprese-inspired aperitivo platter is an arrangement of ripe tomato slices, fresh mozzarella balls and basil leaves on a platter - it makes a fresh, elegant starter. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic glaze and sprinkle with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Add a selection of cured meats like prosciutto and salami and a variety of olives for a Mediterranean touch.

Wine pairing: The sharp tastes of the tomatoes and mozzarella go very well with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc or a light Prosecco.

Picnic Eggs

Picnic eggs, a twist on the classic Scotch egg, are a tasty and filling appetiser. A crowd-pleaser, these hard-boiled eggs are wrapped in seasoned sausage meat, fried or baked until golden and crispy, and then covered with breadcrumbs. Present them alongside an assortment of mustards or a zesty dipping sauce, like a hot tomato chutney.

Wine pairing: The rich tastes of the banger meat and egg complement a fruity Chardonnay or a Pinot Grigio.

Crisps and Dips

Crisps and dips are a barbecue staple. Offer a variety of crisps, such as tortilla crisps, potato crisps and vegetable crisps and pair with a selection of dips, like onion and garlic, sour cream and chive, cheese and chive, sweet chilli, or a buffet of all four.

Wine pairing: A refreshing sparkling wine or a light, crisp rosé pairs perfectly.


Olives are a simple yet flavourful addition to your snacks and starters. Present an assortment of green and Kalamata olives, or try them marinated in herbes de Provence for even more taste. For simple snacking, arrange them in little dishes around your barbecue area.

Wine pairing: A dry, herbaceous Sauvignon Blanc or a fruity, robust Tempranillo pairs excellently with olives' briny flavours.

Salads and dressings

Salads and dressings add freshness to your barbecue. A mixed leaf herb salad or a zingy side dish of potato salad perfectly complements grilled meats, enhancing your spread with vibrant flavours.

Greek Salad Antipasti

A Greek salad antipasti brings vibrant Mediterranean flavours to your barbecue. Ripe tomatoes, cucumber slices, red onion, Kalamata olives, and chunks of feta cheese. Add some thinly sliced coloured peppers for extra crunch and colour. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Wine pairing: A crisp Sauvignon Blanc complements the salad's fresh and tangy flavours.

Potato Salad

Potato salad is a classic barbecue side dish, and this version with roast garlic aioli offers a delicious twist. Tender potatoes are mixed with spring onions and parsley in a creamy roasted garlic mayo. It’s delicious with grilled lamb chops or tender vegetable skewers.

Wine pairing: Enhance the richness of the roast garlic aioli with a buttery Chardonnay.

Mixed Leaf Salad

A mixed leaf salad makes a light and refreshing addition to your barbecue spread. Combine various fresh leaves, such as romaine, rocket and spinach. Add some thinly sliced radishes, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber (or, for a twist, fresh figs!) for added texture and colour. Dress the salad with a simple vinaigrette made from olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard and a touch of honey.

Wine pairing: A bright, herbaceous Sauvignon Blanc or a crisp Pinot Grigio pairs beautifully with the fresh leaves.

Main dishes

On a hot summer's day, there's nothing better than enjoying delicious barbecue food at outdoor gatherings. From succulent grilled meats to flavourful vegetarian options, these main dishes will be the highlight of your barbecue.


Start with the traditional burgers: succulent beef burgers, soft chicken burgers, or tasty plant-based patties for vegetarians. Offer an assortment of toppings, including cheese slices, crispy lettuce, juicy tomatoes, red onion and pickles, so that each person can personalise their burger to their exact liking.

Serve your mouthwatering burgers with sesame, brioche, whole wheat, or gluten-free buns Wine pairing: A robust red wine like a Cabernet Sauvignon, is a great match for any burger. 


Sausages are always crowd-pleasers. Grill traditional British bangers and flavourful Cumberland sausages over hot coals for that authentic barbecue flavour.

Once they're cooked, pop them into hot dog buns, gluten-free rolls, or hearty bread rolls, and top with fried onions for extra savouriness.

Wine pairing: A light and fruity red like a Beaujolais or a chilled rosé pair well with sausages. 


For poultry lovers, chicken thighs, breasts, or drumsticks are excellent choices. Prepare a variety of marinades in advance to cater to different tastes, such as zesty lemon and herb, smoky barbecue or spicy peri-peri with paprika and cumin.

Wine pairing: Chicken matches nicely with a versatile Chardonnay or a crisp Sauvignon Blanc.


For your red meat lovers, cuts like ribeye and sirloin will be much appreciated. Season your steaks well with salt, pepper and aromatic spices and cook them to order from rare to well-done.

Wine pairing: An earthy red like a Cabernet Sauvignon pairs perfectly with steak. 


Both pork and beef ribs, seasoned to perfection, are a great addition to a barbecue. Pre-cook the ribs in the oven until tender, then finish them on the grill with a sticky barbecue glaze. This method ensures the meat is deliciously caramelised and falls off the bone.

Wine pairing: A rich and spicy Syrah/Shiraz complements both pork and beef ribs. 


For a lighter option and a fresh alternative to meat and chicken, consider seafood like prawn skewers, salmon kebabs, or fish tacos. Marinate the seafood in lime juice, garlic, and herbs to enhance the natural flavours and grill until just cooked through.

Wine pairing: Seafood works well with a refreshing Sauvignon Blanc or a light Pinot Grigio


Why not go veggie for quick and easy barbecue food (that also makes an ideal weeknight dinner)? Enjoy grilled portobello mushrooms, halloumi skewers, charred courgettes or colourful veggie kebabs. Pineapple grills brilliantly on the barbecue, and makes a deliciously sweet addition to your veggie dishes

Keep things interesting by offering a variety of marinades and seasonings, ensuring each bite is as flavourful and satisfying as its meaty counterparts.

Wine pairing: A medium-bodied Pinot Noir or an aromatic Viognier 

Summer desserts

No barbecue is complete without a selection of summer desserts. End your meal on a sweet note with these refreshing and indulgent treats, perfect for a hot sunny day.

Lemon and Lime Cheesecake

A lemon and lime cheesecake is a lovely summer dessert. It features a buttery biscuit base topped with a smooth, tangy cream-cheese filling infused with fresh lemon, lime juice and zest.

Chill well before serving to make the most of its fresh, zingy flavours.


Tiramisu is a classic Italian dessert that will bring a touch of elegance to your summer entertaining. Coffee-soaked Italian sponge is covered in rich mascarpone with marsala wine topped off with a dusting of cocoa powder.

Assorted Mixed Platter

For a lighter option, an assorted mixed fruit platter is a refreshing choice. This fruit platter by Waitrose includes pineapple wedges, watermelon triangles, melon wedges, mango strips, kiwi slices and seasonal berries and makes a colourful centrepiece. Offer honey for drizzling, or yogurt for spooning over.

Don't forget your dessert wines!

Dessert wines are an elegant way to end a summer barbecue. You can enjoy them alone - delicious! - or serve alongside your sweet course.

  • Port: A classic choice, Port is rich and sweet, with flavours of dark fruits, caramel and nuts. It is an ideal pairing for chocolate desserts or rich cheeses.
  • Sauternes: Sauternes offers complex flavours of honey, apricot and orange zest, with a lusciously sweet palate. Sauternes pairs beautifully with creamy desserts like crème brûlée or blue cheese.
  • Riesling: A sweet wine with aromas of ripe stone fruits and honey that pairs wonderfully with spicy desserts or creamy blue cheeses.

Ice cream and ice lollies

Nothing beats a nice cream or lolly to cool down on a hot summer's day.

Ice cream

Classic choices like vanilla, chocolate and strawberry are always a hit, but consider adding some gourmet options like salted caramel, mint chocolate chip, or pistachio for a more sophisticated touch.

You can even set up an ice cream station with an array of toppings such as sprinkles, crushed nuts, chocolate sauce, fresh fruit and whipped cream, allowing guests to create their own sundae masterpieces.

Ice lollies

Ice lollies are a fun and colourful option, especially popular with kids and a great way to keep everyone cool. You can opt for classics like a Twister or Solaro, or why not shake things up and try something new like these TruFru Strawberries White & Milk Chocolate bites?

Barbecue tips for hosts and guests

A successful summer barbecue combines great food, good company, and a relaxed atmosphere. Here are a few extra tips and gift ideas to make your next barbecue truly unforgettable.

  1. Prep ahead: With Waitrose’s Summer barbecue range, you can prepare all your barbecue food ahead of time to ensure you don’t forget anything.
  2. Temperature control: Ensure your barbecue is at the right temperature for each type of food. Use a meat thermometer to ensure everything is juicy and safe to eat.
  3. Keep bugs at bay: Use citronella candles to keep insects away from your guests and food.

Gift Ideas for the Host

If you're attending a barbecue as a guest, why not bring a thoughtful gift to show your appreciation?

  1. Wine: A bottle of good wine is always a welcome gift, and Waitrose Cellar is a fantastic choice. Consider taking a crisp white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or a light Rosé for your next barbecue. For red wine lovers, Pinot Noir is a versatile choice that pairs well with a variety of barbecue dishes.
  2. Flowers: A bouquet of fresh, seasonal flowers can brighten the host's home and add a touch of elegance to the event. Choose vibrant summer blooms from Waitrose Florist to reflect the festive atmosphere of a barbecue.

Image Credit: Evan Wise at unsplash

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