How to Host a Summer Cookout

Host a wonderful gathering this summer with guide full of summer cookout ideas!

By: Natalie Taylor, Editor,

The best way to enjoy warm summer weather is with a cookout. When everything goes smoothly and the guests leave happy after a long, fun-filled day in the sun, it's the most satisfying feeling for a cookout host to have. If you're an experienced summer cookout host, you're probably filled with excitement in the days leading up to your summer bash. However, if you've never hosted a cookout before, maybe the only feeling you have before your guests arrive is panic!

We have created this helpful guide on How to Host a Summer Cookout to help your summer cookout go as smoothly as possible. Whether you are hosting your first or your hundred-and-first summer cookout we hope that you learn some helpful tips in our guide.

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How to Host a Summer Cookout

Create a Guest List and Choose the Location

  1. Decide if you want to host the party at your house or at another location.

  2. If you host the party at a park, this will require more planning. You will need to find out if you need to pay a rental fee, if alcohol is allowed, and the hours of operation for the park.

Plan the Food for the Cookout

  1. Stick to simple foods; the focus should be on the grilled food.

  2. If you would like to make the summer cookout a potluck, tell each guest what type of dish they should bring. For example give each guest a category such as vegetable, dessert, side dish salad, etc.

  3. Make sure to have plenty serving utensils in case a guest forgets to bring a spoon for their pasta salad, for example.

  4. Since the party will take place mostly outside, think about what types of foods are safe to leave unrefrigerated. For example, it is a good idea to steer clear of creamy deli salads since they cannot withstand warm temperatures for very long.

    Lightened-Up Broccoli Cranberry Salad

  5. If you are providing hot dogs or burgers, make sure to buy enough buns! Also, be sure to provide condiments such as pickles, tomato, lettuce, ketchup, and mustard.

    Southern Comfort Hot Dog

Plan Beverages for the Cookout

  1. Get enough bottled water so every guest can have at least one bottle.

  2. For soft drinks, it’s good to have a combination of carbonated and non-carbonated drinks as well as caffeinated and non-caffeinated drinks.

  3. If you want to make a large batch of punch or lemonade, it’s important to store it in a covered container to keep bugs away.

    Best Homemade Pink Lemonade

  4. For alcoholic drinks, provide a mix of light and regular beer as well as non-beer beverages such as alcoholic lemonade.

  5. Use different colored rubber bands for inexpensive drink markers.

  6. To keep drinks cold, fill a clean wheelbarrow with ice. This is an easy way to transport the “cooler” back to the house for a refill.

  7. Make sure you have plenty of ice. Ask your guests to bring along a bag of ice.

Decide on Outdoor Games and Music

  1. It’s a great idea to provide your guests with the option of playing a game. It can relieve some of the stress of entertaining and help your guests feel more relaxed.

  2. If you don’t have lawn games, ask your guests to bring any lawn games they have. They will most likely be happy to help you out!

  3. Be sure to have some type of music playing to help create a party atmosphere. Portable speakers are great for this.

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