5 Tips for the Perfect Summer Cookout
Few things scream summer more than the perfectly planned and executed backyard cookout. Think of breezy summer nights, fire pits, lawn chairs, bocce ball and, of course, the smell of a hot and sizzling grill. Backyard cookouts are a summer tradition, and after two long, lonely pandemic years, this season is "on fire".
Make the most of your backyard cookout with these handy tips. Whether you have a yard large or small, urban or suburban, there are some great ideas to help inspire your next summer gathering.
1. Prepare your grill
Food Network reminds us that a cookout is only as good as the food provided. Don't simply drag that cooker out from summer storage if you plan to grill. Instead, take a moment to clean your grill and check all components to ensure they're in working order.
Make sure you have the proper cooking tools and implements. Grab a spray bottle of water to help manage flare-ups and a meat thermometer (or veggie thermometer if you prefer). Understanding the internal temperature of your food will be well worth it no matter the meal and managing this temperature is essential. It might be tempting, but experts warn not to overcook your grilled food and also to let it rest for optimal flavor and texture. So, add a little patience to your shopping list.
2. The separation is in the preparation
To paraphrase quarterback Russell Wilson, the separation between a good backyard cookout and a great one is really in advance preparation. When it comes to your food, never put refrigerated foods directly on the grill, but instead, allow them to come to room temperature first. Marinate your meats and proteins for flavorful results, a process you'll often want to start at least a day in advance.
When it comes to the yard itself, do a walkthrough prior to your first backyard cookout of the season. Walk the property lines to find fallen branches or debris that might cause a tripping hazard. Mow the lawn and grab those extra clippings that might track dirt and debris across the kitchen floor. Remove standing water and dump extra runoff to avoid unwanted pests at your event.
3. Illuminate the event
Make sure you have adequate lighting for your backyard cookout. Lighting helps your entire event by:
- Ensuring you have enough light to cook
- Helping you and your guests avoid trips and falls
- Setting the mood and atmosphere
Popular outdoor lighting options include ideas like adding solar path lights to your walkways and keeping a low but helpful level of light where people walk. Other ideas include draping or Wi-Fi-based Edison strings that zig-zag like a starry ceiling across your area. Some people even incorporate glowing landscape effects, such as rocks, gravel or stepping stones to add a subtle complement without so much separation between light and dark.
There are so many ways to add the perfect lighting, so get inspired and customize your own setup.
4. Seating and dining
All you really need for a backyard cookout is a backyard and food, but most of your guests will appreciate ample and comfortable seating and areas to dine without food falling off their plates. Consider how many guests and your type of food before arranging your cookout dining design.
The Great Backyard Place reminds planners to first evaluate how much space they have and match that with their guest list. Guests will be most comfortable if there's room for adequate seating. Group your seats together, such as sets of Adirondack chairs, to make conversation sections and maximize the available tablespaces for food and drink. Avoid setting furniture near potential annoyances like mosquito-filled ponds or puddles.
Maximize space by creating food and drink stations so your visitors can comfortably self-serve and grab all the toppings and garnishes they need without taking up additional table space. Consider the placement of heaters or fans as needed.
5. Add the entertainment
A successful backyard cookout will also have a significant source of fun. Check out music ideas, such as wireless Bluetooth speakers you can place throughout the patio. If you or your guests play an instrument, make sure those guitars or drums are available — there's nothing like a fire pit sing-a-long in the summer.
Sprinkle some fun yard games throughout the area like Yard Jenga, bocce ball or a bean bag toss. If you have hot weather, set up some sprinklers or even a wading pool with lawn chairs to allow guests to chill.
Go forth and 'cue
Your backyard cookout can scale to the size of the event you wish, but large or small remember the details are in the planning and prep.