Plan an outdoor cookout

March 29, 2021 Kevin Solorio

Planning a cookout is an awesome way to celebrate with people you care about. You can host a cookout or barbecue for a number of reasons and they can be a small group gathering or a large affair. The process of hosting a cookout, however, can be somewhat convoluted and overwhelming.

Therefore, we want to provide some helpful advice for you to get the best out of your cookout! Follow these tips and you are sure to enjoy yourself with family and friends. The most important thing to think about when planning an outdoor cookout is what foods you want to serve. Plan the menu for your cookout based on the kinds of food you like. This will help make the event more enjoyable and delicious.

For instance, if you are planning on hosting a large party at a huge barbecue place, then plan out which meats will be prepared and how many people will be there. However, don’t make it too complicated! Instead, stick with dishes you know people will enjoy.


Plan the cookout details.

Date & time.

Select an appropriate day when the weather looks good. An outdoor cookout is an excellent way to celebrate with friends and family for a specific event, holiday, or just to get together You will want to select a date when the weather is nice but not too hot. Check the forecast in advance and make sure your guests have time to prepare. You want to be sure that your guests will be able to make it.


The next step is to prepare a guest list. Remember to set a maximum number of guests so that your cookout does not get overcrowded and unpleasant. Also, keep in mind that you may want to ask guests if they are bringing anything with them, such as a side dish or sauce recipe you can use for the party.


While they’re not required, you can make a special set of cards that include the date, time, and location for the cookout. You can also send a digital invitation like an email or evite. The invitations should include the event type, date, time, and location. It should also include an RSVP section for guests to indicate whether or not they plan to attend the party.

You can use cookout-themed stationery and accessories for your cookout invite. Invitations with graphics of grills, barbecue grates, skewers, and barbecue tools will make your cookout invitation stand out. If you have many friends who are likely to attend your event, then consider using personalized labels that match the invite.


Planning your cookout menu.


Check your kitchen, barbecue tools, and party supplies, and make a list of things you need for the cookout (other than food). Some of the items you may need include:

  • Plates
  • Utensils
  • Napkins
  • Barbecue fuel
  • Barbecue utensils
  • Decorations
  • Tablecloths
  • Aluminum foil

Consider how you want to decorate the outside of the barbecue and organize the table with plates and napkins for guests to eat on. You may want to also include an arrangement of flowers, candles, or decorations that relate to the theme of the party. Feel free to bring in some props that you have already made.

Snack and appetizers.

The most important consideration is how much food you need for your cookout. The food for your party should be delicious, yet easy to transport. Appetizers are typically prepackaged and easy to transfer but you may not want to prepare messy main course foods, such as hamburgers or hotdogs, in your cooler beforehand.

Some common cookout snacks include:

  • Chips and dip
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables

Main course.

The next step is to prepare your main course. Barbecue is the kind of food that people like to eat on the go, so you may want to cook up some items that will go well with a BBQ party. You may want to think about the main dish that you would like to serve for your cookout. For instance, beef, pork, chicken, and lamb are excellent options for barbecue.

Some common cookout main course options include:

  • Hot dogs
  • Hamburgers
  • Rubs
  • Steaks
  • Shrimp
  • Sausages
  • Brisket
  • Vegetarian or vegan options, such as tofu, portobello mushrooms, and more

Side dishes.

Side dishes, such as potato salad or coleslaw, are important parts of a barbecue meal as they provide contrast and flavor and can round out a simple main dish, such as chicken or beef, that does not have a lot of seasoning on its own.

Some common side dishes include:

  • Salad
  • Potato salad
  • Coleslaw
  • Baked potatoes
  • Corn
  • Other vegetables (can be roasted) like bell peppers and zucchini


It can be easy to forget about dessert when planning a party. While deserts are not as essential as the main dishes or side dishes, they can be a nice part of your party leave your guests feeling satisfied and full. You may want to consider preparing desserts like ice cream or fruit pies so that you have the option of serving dessert at any point during your party.


Drinks like lemonade, soda, and water can be a good choice for those who want to keep their drink simple and light. Non-alcoholic drinks are a great option for those looking to stay sober or drive after the party. You can prepare your drinks ahead of time, but don’t forget to keep ice coolers on hand so you can make more beverages at the end of your party if need be.

There are also alcoholic drinks to consider. While no one says that you have to serve alcohol at every barbecue, having it planned ahead of time can make it easier on your guests. If you do choose to have alcohol at a barbecue, then you should plan out how much you will need.

Dietary restrictions.

As part of your invitation, you should ask the guests to let you know in advance if there are any dietary restrictions that you need to be aware of. Some examples of dietary restrictions to plan for are vegetarianism, allergies, and religious observances.

Dietary restrictions are important because many of your guests may be unfamiliar with the food you serve, and they will likely not be very happy if there is an issue with their food. You should also discuss any home-cooked foods that you will be serving with your guests so they don’t have to worry about the food being served at the cookout.

You can check the Local Health Department’s website for information on where to find dietary information in your area.


Preparing for your cookout.

Grocery shopping.

One or two days before the barbecue, you may want to try to do most of your shopping at one time to avoid going back and forth from store to store. You can also try prepping food ahead of time in order to avoid waiting around while your guests arrive at your party.


Planning the day of the cookout.

Seating arrangement.

You may want to include several types of seating arrangements for your cookout. A good example would be the picnic area, where you can sit under the shade of several large trees and catch some sun while eating your food. Another good option is to sit lawn chairs with straight backs in an area that can be mowed, and then have a fire pit nearby in which you can roast chicken or other types of meats.

Prepare the food in advance.

There are a variety of foods that you can thaw ahead of time in order to prepare for your barbecue. For example, if you plan to serve pulled pork, you can start the thawing process several days before the party. This will give the pork plenty of time to defrost so it is ready for eating at the start of your party.

Keep cold food cold and hot food hot.

Prepare your cookout area.

Prep the cookout area. You will want to plan ahead in order to ensure that the area where you plan on hosting your barbecue is perfectly clean. You will also want to make sure that the area is well-lit and well-ventilated so it is a comfortable environment for everyone attending your party. Consider using extra trash cans or collecting all of the trash from the party into one container.

Make sure to inspect the grill and also clean that, if it’s necessary.

Put up decorations.

You may want to set up the atmosphere in preparation for your barbecue by adding decorations. You can use a variety of items such as string lights, candles, or an outdoor rug to make your party area more festive. A few examples of items you can use to add a festive touch include:

  • Plastic streamers: these are generally used in the autumn as they resemble nature’s fall leaves and berries
  • Extra balloons: you can hang these in a tree or on top of beanbag chairs for a fun effect
  • Floral decorations: flowers can be suspended from strings or used in vases

Set up food and drink stations.

Set up food and drink stations for those attending your party. You may want to put out a variety of food items that guests can serve themselves.

The items you consider putting out should be similar to the food you plan on serving during the party. For example, if you plan to serve hamburgers, then consider putting out the mustard, ketchup, pickles, relish, mayonnaise, and lettuce so that guests can add these toppings to their burgers.

Turn on the grill prior to the cookout.

Start your charcoal grill or gas grill for your party ahead of time to ensure that it is nice and hot when the time comes for you to start cooking. You should also check that the propane tanks are full in case you need to use them later.

Keep your guests safe. Keep guests safe by watching where they step when attending the party. If you can, put out some kind of barrier between food items and areas where guests walk so that they cannot accidentally trip or fall into a plate of food.

Start cooking as guests arrive.

When guests arrive at your barbecue, start cooking the foods that you have prepared ahead of time. With some dishes like ribs and burgers, it is important to start cooking as soon as possible so that all of the items are done cooking at the same time. If you are catering to a large party, it may be best to have several cooks serving different items so that the food will not be overcooked by the end.

Set out the food for the guests.

The final step is to set out food for the guests. You should also consider setting out some food items that guests can serve themselves, such as chips, for guests to munch on during the party.

Open a bottle of wine, beer, champagne, or sparkling cider. Open an additional bottle if you are expecting a large number of guests at your barbecue or if you are serving alcoholic beverages so that everyone can relax after the meal.

Enjoy the cookout!

Now that you’ve planned and prepared everything properly for your cookout, you should be able to enjoy yourself too! Don’t plan too much that you forget to relax and have fun spending time with your friends and family. That’s what this is all about - after all!