Picnic table overhead with burgers animation

Alison Bickel

Let's Grill! Throw the Ultimate Backyard Burger Bash

It's grilling season and we have everything you need from burgers to buns, the best sauces and sides, drinks and desserts for the ultimate cookout!

We know you love grilling season as much as we do and this summer Simply Recipes is here to help you throw the Ultimate Backyard Burger Bash!

It’s been a long year and we are all ready for a tall glass of lemonade, perhaps an ice-cold cocktail, and an outdoor gathering filled with happy kids running through sprinklers and adults holding plates piled high with grilled hamburgers, summer side salads, and, of course, dessert.

Consider us your one-stop shop for grilling guidance, burger recipes for carnivores, pescatarians, flexitarians and vegetarians alike, buns, sauces, sides, and salads. We’ll even throw a few pitcher drinks and sweet treats your way. We all know it’s not a party without cake.

Let's celebrate summer! It’s time to crown you king and queen of the neighborhood cookout!

A woman in a blue apron holding 3 burgers on a tray. One is beef, one is chicken and one is salmon. They all have vegetable and are on a buns.

Alison Bickel

The Burger

The hamburger has been around in some form for hundreds of years. If you pick up a copy of “The Great American Burger Book,” by George Motz, and I highly recommend you do, he shares the evolution of the burger from the Mongol Empire to the first White Castle opening in 1921 and beyond.

It’s a wonderful deep dive into the history of this iconic food and a country-wide tour of why we love it.

"People like hamburgers because they are good and easy to make at home. They click all the boxes. You get everything in that first bite—hot, cold, salty, sweet, savory, crunchy, soft," Motz said during a recent interview with Simply Recipes. "To make them at home all you need is fresh ground meat, a bun, some cheese and you're done."

While Motz has strong opinions about what makes an actual burger (beef is king) we take a broad stance at Simply Recipes—if it’s a delicious patty on a bun we’re going to indulge.

A picnic table filled with buns, drinks, watermelon. A plate in the front of the table has a hamburger on it, with blue cheese sauce dripping down the front. An ear of corn with a slice of watermelon is also on the plate.

Alison Bickel

Some of Our Favorite Backyard Burger Recipes

It’s nice to have options. When making a burger spread for your guests, provide a variety of patty selections, grill them, place them on a platter, and let everyone take their pick. It’s a great way to be inclusive of your guests and their dietary needs. Who knows, someone might find a new favorite!

Regional specialities like Minnesota’s famous Juicy (Jucy) Lucy Burger with its molten center of cheese is a crowd favorite and the crusty edges of Colorado's Smashburger open windows to different areas of the U.S.

Other burgers are all about the toppings. Set out all the fixings for the Nacho Burger, stick with the classics like the Swiss Mushroom Burger or Bacon Cheeseburger, or get creative and grill some pineapple for an island-inspired Hawaiian Pork Burger.

While we couldn't enjoy some of those regional burgers with out the all beef patty, we also like to branch out into other proteins – plant-based, fish, chicken, bison, and turkey are all on our list of patty-making possibilities.

Sink your teeth into Bison Burgers, Lamb Burgers, Salmon Burgers, Spicy Buffalo Chicken Burgers, and yes, even a great veggie patty like Black Bean Burgers with Spicy Mayonnaise or our Curry Spiced Lentil Burgers with Cilantro Chutney all make for a great cookout.

Need even more burger recipes? Look no further. We have what you’re craving with nearly 30 different burger recipes right here.

Make any of our burger recipes during the month of July, post it to Instagram and tag #simplyrecipesburgerbash. We want to party with you!

Burger dripping with blue cheese sauce, on plate with corn and watermelon
Alison Bickel

Tips for Making and Grilling the Perfect Burger Every Time

How do you master burger-making? Memorize the tips and tricks that'll get you there!

Start with the best ground beef mix ratio for burgers on the grill (hint: you don't want to go too lean!), then practice your patty-making with this trick for perfectly-shaped patties. Next, season properly (don't overmix!), then move those patties to the grill and time them to perfection.

Don't have a grill? Don't worry! You can also cook fantastic burgers inside on the stove.

Finally: if you're a vegetarian or vegan, check out Isa Chandra Moskowitz's essential building blocks for crafting a vegan burger even meat eaters will love. Our resident nutritionist, Katie Morford, also digs into everything you might want to know about Impossible and Beyond Beef burgers, and shares her thoughts on the taste, texture, and nutrition of these plant-based meat alternatives.

A tray full of homemade hamburger buns with sliced tomato, onion, and lettuce in the backgroun.

Alison Bickel

Toppings, Sauces, and Buns

Whether you're all about keeping it simple, "Ketchup only, please," or all about toppings piled high, we are here for you.

Go gourmet with easy to make homemade Honey Mustard, Dijon Mustard, Thousand Island, Grilled Onions, Onion Jam, Bacon Jam. Yes, I said it. BACON JAM! Layer and combine flavors to create your own version of the best burger ever.

You can even keep it simple by whipping up a batch of this Burger Seasoning. Sprinkle it on the outside of the patty just before grilling for a sweet, caramelized coating.

We haven't forgotten about bakers among us. After all, what's a burger without the bun! Roll up your sleeves and grab some flour. We have buttery homemade Brioche Buns for those who like a little luxury or easy to make classic Homemade Hamburger Buns for our no-fuss friends.

Mix and match sauces and toppings for new hamburger flavor combinations. Here are a few of our favorites:

Summer peach and cucumber salad in a bowl with a serving spoon. A blue linen is to the right and peaches, limes and basil are to the left of the bowl.
Kalisa Marie Martin

Sides and Salads

Backyard barbecue sides aren’t quite on the level of Thanksgiving sides, but we say they come in at a close second. What’s a gathering without slices of fresh cut watermelon, baked beans, potato salad and deviled eggs?  

Vegetable and fruit salads are high on our list of summertime sides. They are cool, refreshing and don’t require heating up your kitchen. Plus, it’s an easy project to hand over to guests who arrive a little early and offer to help. Make the most of what’s in season with:

How to Make Caprese Pasta Salad - bowl of caprese salad with pasta
Sally Vargas

Pasta Salads

Stretch your sides a little farther by making these vibrant and colorful pasta salads. Cherry Tomato Orzo Salad, Caprese Pasta Salad and Greek Pasta Salad. Each uses a different kind of pasta and is loaded with fresh summer vegetables. Who doesn’t love a garden tomato?

Warm German Potato Salad served in a bowl on a cloth mat with a fork
Coco Morante

Deviled Eggs and Potato Salads

Potato salads and deviled eggs are picnic tradition for many of us. You can go the traditional route with your basic Deviled Eggs or dress up your Deviled Eggs with Horseradish and Dill. Not into horseradish? Try Guacamole Deviled Eggs or Kimchi Deviled Eggs.

When it comes to potato salad there are two camps of people. Those who love the mayo-based version and those who don’t. We are here to keep both sides happy!

German Potato Salad is a favorite around here. It tastes great chilled, warm or at room temperature. This one is for the non-mayo crowd and it’s seasoned with bacon, mustard and fresh herbs. The recipe calls for yellow mustard, but it’s works beautifully with coarse grainy mustard or Dijon mustard.

Make the most of dill growing in your garden with this super simple New Potato Salad with Sour Cream and Dill. It requires only 5 ingredients plus salt and pepper.

If you need more potato salad ideas, just click here.

Picnic table full of grilled lettuce, corn, berries, watermelon and green beans.

Alison Bickel

Grilled Vegetables

Finally, you can always keep things simple. Not everything has to be an elaborate affair. Skip the salads, slice up some cantaloupe, half some fresh peaches and sprinkle them with a little lemon juice to prevent browning and use your grill to cook up a few veggies. Open a bag of chips and call it a day.

Start with Corn on the Cob (it’s pretty much a summertime requirement). Grilled Onions take on an even sweeter note once they’ve been softened by the flames. Season them with salt and pepper or add a little heat with cayenne.

Finally, try grilling Romaine Lettuce. Slice the romaine into quarters, top with chopped bacon and lemon zest then let your guest grab a section. You can even eat it with your hands.  

Baked Peaches Dessert in white cast iron skillet.
Sally Vargas

Desserts

Dessert is a just one way to keep the gathering going. As the day winds down and people linger having a sweet something to offer keeps the summertime vibe alive.

When it comes to barbecues is nice to have easy-to-pick up and easy to eat out-of-hand desserts like cupcakes or bar cookies. However, no one is going to be disappointed if you make pie.

Here are a few of our favorite handheld treats:

If you prefer a plate and fork cobblers and pies are one of the best ways to celebrate the season:

A tray with a pitcher of drinks, bottles, glasses and fruit.

Alison Bickel

Drinks

It wouldn’t be a barbecue without a bevy of drink options. Sure, soda and craft beer tucked away in coolers will do the trick, but a display of pitcher drinks both boozy and booze-free is a nice way to dress up a table and provide options for your guests.

When it comes to parties its best to go with pitcher drinks and punches. You don’t want to spend your whole afternoon mixing beverages for your friends. You want to mingle too.  

Cucumber Lime Agua Fresca
Elise Bauer

Booze-Free

For those who prefer to keep things light and non-alcoholic try homemade Lavender Lemonade. The slight floral notes from the lavender are just enough to make the drink a little special but not so over the top that it’s soapy. If you prefer to keep things simple, you can also make regular Lemonade, no lavender required. Either one is a great option.

Horchata is always at the top of our summertime drinks. It’s a wonderful gluten-free drink option made with rice, sweetened condensed milk and a little cinnamon. Plan ahead and make this the day before. It has a slightly nutty flavor and is one of the most cool and refreshing drinks you can enjoy on a hot summer day.

If you’re a gardener and looking for a way to use up all the cucumbers and mint then this Cucumber Lime Mint Aqua Fresca (pictured above) is for you. It’s a brightly colored vibrant green, cool, and refreshing so easy to make. Just blend it all in a high-speed blender, strain the solids and pour it over ice. If you like it on the fruitier side, Maggie Hoffman’s Virgin Pomegranate-Citrus Sangria is loaded with bright citrus flavors and infused with two kinds of tea.

If you’re looking for more non-alcoholic drinks and mocktails, just click here.

Sangria with Strawberries and Sparkling Wine
Sally Vargas

Boozy

When it comes to providing drink options with a kick lean toward seasonal pitcher cocktails and sangrias. You can make a big batch, display them in a variety of pitchers or drink dispensers and set drink stations throughout your yard.

Sparkling Strawberry Sangria (pictured above) has a soft, slightly sweet floral note from the strawberries and an elderflower liqueur called St. Germain. Keep with the berry theme and make this red-wine based Mixed Berry Sangria. You just need a bucket of ice and a few glasses then let people serve themselves.  

Make the most of melon season with Watermelon Pitcher Margaritas or get a little spicy with Pineapple Jalapeño Pitcher Margaritas. Rim the glasses with a combination of salt and Tajín for a little extra flavor.