Host the Perfect Summer Cookout with These Ideas & Recipes

Host the Perfect Summer Cookout with These Ideas & Recipes


A Backyard BBQ Party to Remember: Hosting the Perfect Summer Cookout

Imagine this: it's golden hour, kids are tossing a football around in the grass, you're holding your favorite ice-cold drink, and the aroma of woodsmoke fills the air. These are the building blocks of a perfect summer cookout: good food, good vibes, and the people you love. Cookout season is here, and we’ve got the tools you need to bring people together, enjoy delicious food, and make lasting memories.

The crew at ATBBQ has thrown countless cookouts and backyard parties through the years and we’ve found what works. Stick around, we'll walk you through the steps to ensure you pull off the event of the summer.


Step One: Planning the Menu

You’ve got some options here. You can keep it simple OR do it up big. Setting a menu that works for you is key. If there are many other elements involved in your cookout, keep the menu simple and save your sanity. If food and its presentation is the main event, go all out. Our blog is packed with recipes that you could easily build a menu around.

Here are a few ideas:

  • For the “keep it simple” crowd: theme your summer cookout as a Burger Festival and pick a few of our burger recipes to feature. Ask friends and family to bring classic cookout sides to round out the menu.
  • Another simple option is to smoke a pork butt or two and provide a variety of toppings for a “build your own” sandwich bar. You can set out different sauces (sweet, spicy, tangy, mustard, or aioli) and toppings like pickles, coleslaw, pickled red onions, jalapenos, and onion jam.
  • Make a taco bar. Chopped brisket, shredded chicken, blackened shrimp – the possibilities here are endless. Here’s another opportunity to invite your guests to participate by bringing their favorite taco topping. This is also a good menu for a crew that needs a gluten free option. Provide corn tortillas and you’ve got a pretty solid gluten free meal.
  • Throw a classic southern-style barbecue with all the meats. Imagine a plate from a barbecue joint in the American South: you’ll have a few classic smoked meats (ribs, brisket, pulled pork, sausage), baked beans and slaw or potato salad, and the mandatory slice of white bread to sop up all the sauces. This will take some serious time organization, but it can be done! You may want to invite a trusted friend to help with the cook.
  • Don’t forget the drinks! From boozy to virgin, you’ll want to provide plenty of hydration options at your backyard party. Whip up a large batch of margaritas, stock a cooler with on-theme brews, and include iced tea for a refreshing touch.



Step Two: Prep the Backyard

The perfect outdoor summer cookout setup starts with ample, comfortable seating arranged around tables where guests can easily gather and enjoy their meals. Nearby, a dedicated space for food includes buffet-style tables with plenty of room for platters, utensils, and condiments, perhaps shaded by an umbrella or canopy. To ensure everyone has a great time at the party, leave some greenspace for cornhole or frisbee, keeping the atmosphere lively and fun for all ages. String lights and a few cozy blankets or outdoor rugs can add a warm, inviting touch as the evening progresses.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Determine seating needs. Depending on your menu, you may be able to get away with seating and no tables. Offering a variety of tables with seating and lounge seating will work in most situations. Think through your backyard arrangement, your guests, and your menu to determine the best setup.
  • Don’t forget about shade. If your outdoor space doesn’t naturally have shade, consider adding an umbrella or two for those looking to escape the heat. Clean your grill. Nobody needs a grill malfunction on the day of the main event. Check out our (link to grill cleaning articles) and make sure your grill is performing its best before you dive into the big cook.
  • Make sure to have a music setup. This could be as simple as grabbing a Bluetooth speaker and curating a playlist. Or maybe you’re ready to pull the trigger and install a dedicated outdoor audio system. Whatever the case, good music is a must-have for any outdoor get together.
  • Gather your lawn games. The possibilities here are endless: cornhole, giant Jenga, ladder golf, and Spikeball are all popular lawn games at the moment. Consider setting out a jump rope, hula hoop, sidewalk chalk, or playground balls if you’ve got kids attending. Making sure you’ve got a variety of entertainment options will keep everyone engaged and active throughout the event, ensuring there's something for every age and interest.
  • Have a plan for bugs. Flies and mosquitos can quickly put a damper on outdoor fun. Citronella candles and basic bug spray should be accessible if these pests decide to join your shindig.


Step Three: Execute the Menu Well

Executing a great menu is just as important as choosing the right dishes, especially for an outdoor cookout. The key to success lies in timing everything perfectly. Properly coordinating your cooking ensures that each part of the meal is served at its best. Preparing certain elements in advance, like sauces and sides, can help streamline the process and reduce stress. Additionally, planning the order and timing of your grilled or smoked items is crucial. Remember to factor in the resting time for meats, allowing them to achieve the perfect texture and flavor before serving. When everything comes together seamlessly, your summer cookout will be a memorable culinary experience for everyone.

Here are some of our most important tips and ideas to executing a menu well:

  • Prep ahead where possible. Slice veggies and toppings, prepare sauces, and make cold side dishes to store in the fridge. Finishing these tasks ahead of time will allow you to focus on more immediate items when the time comes.
  • Focus on the grill or smoker. When the time comes, keep a close eye on your grill or smoker so that every element is cooked to perfection. Consider a remote thermometer setup (Fireboard) so you can keep an eye on your cook without needing to stand over the cooker.
  • Factor in rest time. Many smoked or grilled meats will need rest time before they’re ready to serve. Typically, the larger the meat, the longer the rest time. Make sure you’ve considered this so you’re not caught waiting around while guests are ready to eat!
  • Don’t forget food safety. Ensuring food safety is crucial for a successful outdoor cookout. Keep in mind that many dishes can only sit out for a limited time before they need to be refrigerated. Plan your gathering so that food is served and enjoyed promptly, keeping everyone safe and satisfied.


Step Four: Create Lasting Memories

These backyard gatherings are more than just about the food; they're about making lasting memories with friends and family. Sharing good food, laughter, and stories outdoors brings everyone closer together. These moments turn into cherished memories you'll look back on with a smile, reminding you of the simple joys of being with loved ones. Some of our favorite moments over the years have happened around a backyard table.

Try incorporating these fun ideas:

  • Snap lots of photos to capture the fun moments. Make sure to take plenty of pictures throughout the gathering to preserve the special memories. These snapshots will be great to look back on and share with everyone later.
  • Plan a group activity like trivia. Organize a trivia game to engage everyone in some friendly competition. It's a fun way to test knowledge and spark interesting conversations.
  • End the night with a toast. Gather everyone together for a final toast to celebrate the great times shared. It's the perfect way to wrap up the evening on a high note. It doesn’t have to be formal, just one final moment to mark the occasion before everyone heads their separate ways.



These are just a few of the ways we’ve pulled off wonderful summer cookouts in the past. Since every gathering is unique, tailor these suggestions to fit your own style and preferences, making each event a reflection of your personal touch and creating unforgettable moments for everyone involved. Whether you’re throwing a formal gathering to mark a special occasion or just getting the family together for a long overdue reunion, these simple yet effective tips can give shape to your get together, ensuring it's filled with laughter, good food, and cherished memories that will last a lifetime.

Leave A Comment



Name *

Email *

Comment *