Beyond S’mores: How to Host a Better Outdoor Cookout

There are a few better ways to enjoy fresh summer air with your friends than with an outdoor cookout. Filling the space with delicious scents, enjoying amazing foods with the people you love, and relaxing while soaking up the sunshine are activities that are hard to beat.

But if you’re reading this article, you’ve probably already had many outdoor cookouts, and most of them have gone very similarly. There’s nothing wrong with a formulaic, tried-and-true approach to cooking outdoors, but if you want your next outdoor cookout to go even better, there are some important strategies you’ll need to use.

Invest in Your Outdoor Space

Investing in your outdoor space can make it livelier, more attractive, and more comfortable to your guests. These are some of the best pieces to assemble:

  • Fire pit tables. Fire pit tables are a kind of hybrid between fire pits and patio tables. They have a large, open area where you can build and cook over a fire, but they also have a surrounding lip and an elevated level, making the fire pit table an excellent centerpiece for people to gather around. Alternatively, you could purchase a standard fire pit, but either way, you’ll need to choose a model that affords you plenty of space and control over the cooking.
  • Comfortable furniture. You should also invest in comfortable outdoor furniture. Relaxing, adjustable chairs allow people to sit back and loosen up, while accessible tables give people plenty of room to store their food and beverages. You may also want to invest in umbrellas or other canopies to provide people with ample shade, especially on sunny days.
  • Outdoor lighting. If you plan on cooking into the evening, consider splurging on some outdoor lighting. Solar powered ground lights or dangling twinkle lights can add to the ambiance while also making the area safer to navigate.
  • Pest control. Are you concerned about mosquitoes or other bugs? Make sure you have a plan in place for pest control. Citronella candles, torches, incense, and repellent are all indispensable tools in managing these insects.
  • Sound/music. Outdoor cookouts are more stimulating and exciting when filled with interesting music. High-quality portable speakers can instantly allow you to create a more immersive environment.

Plan Ahead

Take the time to plan ahead for your outdoor cookout.

  • Start early. The earlier you start, the better. You’ll have more time and less pressure to plan everything, and you’ll give your guests more time to become available.
  • Plan the menu. What are you going to serve? Make sure your guests know so they can plan accordingly.
  • Send invites (and make requests). Consider sending physical invitations instead of purely digital ones to mark the importance of this event. This is also an opportunity to make requests; should your guests bring anything with them?
  • Procure supplies. Pick up supplies that you’ll need at least a week in advance of the cookout, so you have plenty of time for last-minute additions if you forget anything.
  • Get extra fuel. Whether you’re grilling or lighting up a fire pit, it’s always a good idea to stock up on extra fuel – whatever that fuel happens to be. Extra wood, propane, or gas could save a dying party.

Do Something Unique

If you want to spice things up further, consider doing something unique:

  • Plan around a theme. In some cases, outdoor cookouts are elevated by an underlying theme. Coordinate decorations, foods, and activities to align with that theme.
  • Play games or activities. Games and activities are great ways for people to get to know each other and bond.
  • Experiment with new foods or beverages. Hamburgers, hot dogs, vegetable skewers, and s’mores are all considered classics for good reason; they’re delicious and widely well-received choices for an outdoor cookout. But there are countless other options to explore. Don’t be afraid to experiment and surprise your guests with something new.

Welcome Your Guests and Make Them Comfortable

When your guests begin to arrive, greet them warmly and make them comfortable. Direct them to the outdoor area and make sure they understand that you want them to make themselves at home.

Get Feedback

Finally, consider getting feedback from the people who attended this cookout. What did they like the most about it? Is there anything they think could have been improved? Take their opinions seriously and consider implementing their ideas into the next outdoor cookout as you see fit.

Your next outdoor cookout won’t be your last, so don’t feel pressured to make this perfect. Every effort you make to step up the quality and uniqueness of this cookout will win you favor with your invitees, so plan your time and spending adequately to accomplish your main objectives.