9 Steps for the Best Summer Cookout

Nothing says Summer like the smell of a nearby BBQ wafting through the air. Suddenly you find yourself with a craving for burgers, s’mores, and a good time with friends. But nothing kills that buzz quite like the amount of planning that goes into a successful cookout. We’re here to help! Follow our guide to make sure you have everything you’ll need for a BBQ that everyone will be talking about for Summers to come. 

1. Guest List

Depending on who will be attending, the vibe of your cookout could go in countless different directions. Having older family will most likely mean you’ll need plenty of seating options. Having kids means you’ll need some simple foods for picky eaters. Your college buddies might want some games to keep them entertained, while your work friends might be all about playing music by a roaring fire. Know your intended audience and their needs, count them up, and make sure to pick a day that works for them. 

2. Weather Backup Plan

Once you have your date and guest list decided, it will be crucial to have a backup plan in case the weather doesn’t agree with you. Based on those attending, will you have enough space to host everyone indoors? Or will it make more sense to select a rain date. Be sure to keep your eye on the weather prediction plenty of days in advance. That way you’ll know if you should wait on purchasing supplies rather than letting anything go to waste.

3. Plan the Menu 

This will prove to be the most difficult and time consuming task. It encompasses everything from deciding what to serve, combing through your pantry for what you already have, writing up your shopping list, cooking what you plan to make, and making a game plan of when too cook it all. You’ll need your main dish (or a few), sides, dessert, and any necessary extras like condiments. Are there any important dietary restrictions you’ll need to meet. Though this may all seem like a lot, it can be made very simple by planning well enough in advance. If the list seems to be getting too long for you to handle, enlist the help of your guest. Do you have a friend who makes the worlds best brownies? If Lauren is one of your friends, then yes, you do! Invite her and she’ll bring brownies so you can check dessert off your to-do list!

4. Serveware

Probably the main thing people always forget is how you’re going to be able to serve everything. Of course, you’ll need plates, utensils, napkins, and cups. But if you plan on having food out buffet style, you’ll need to make sure you have enough platters and serving utensils for each dish. That also means that you’ll need a table or server for these dishes to live on. Make sure that the food is in a safe and clean area. Last thing you want is for all that cooking to go to waste because a corn hole sack goes flying into the dip. 

5. Drinks  

Always have plenty of ice and water so everyone stays cool and hydrated in the Summer heat, but you’ll want a few fun options as well. “Refreshing” is the key word! Fresh lemonade, iced tea, and citrus sodas and good go-to’s. If you’re feeling adventurous, try making a fruity punch, sangria, or a signature cocktail. If you’re looking for simple, grabbing a few different beer options might be the way to go. Know your audience and make sure everyone will have something they truly enjoy to sip on all day.  

6. Bug Spray

There’s no getting around it. If you’re going to be eating outdoors, bugs will be somewhere near-by. You won’t want them thinking all the food is actually for them, and you definitely don’t want them chowing down on your guests either. Place a few citronella candles throughout, especially wherever you have food. Be sure to have a few bottles of bug spray available so everyone can keep their bug barrier intact! You want everyone going home with a smile, not itchy bites!

7. Seating

Rebecca gave us her absolute MUST HAVE for any outdoor event…….shade! One way or another, everyone is going to want to take a moment out of the sun and relax. Making sure you have ample seating for your guest, some in the sun, and some far away from it, is critical. You will have to decide, based on your menu, if seating will be necessary while eating. For example, burgers and hot dogs don’t necessarily need to be eaten at a table, but steaks certainly will. Once you’ve assessed your audience and menus, you’ll have a better idea of how much and what type of seating you’ll need.

8. Entertainment

Eating is usually everyone’s favorite part of a BBQ, but once they are all too full or even one more bite, they’ll probably want an entertaining way to burn off some of those calories. Chuck a football back and forth across the yard, dance the night away to some fun music, have a limbo contest, or go all out and have a good old fashioned water balloon fight! The list is endless!


This step is by far the most important! What’s the point of gathering together your favorite people, your favorite foods, and your favorite activities if you’re going to be in panicked-host mode all day long? Set yourself up for success by planning far enough ahead and only biting off as much as you can chew. No one expects a five course gourmet meal at a Summer cookout (although if you know of one, send us an invite), and sometimes burgers, chips, and an ice-cold drink are all we really want. A happy host hosts a happy party!

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