10 Secrets for the Perfect Summer Cookout

Updated: Feb. 10, 2022

These easy ideas will help you host a perfect summer cookout. You'll even be able to kick back, relax and enjoy the party yourself.

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abstract blur image of day festival in garden
BLUR LIFE 1975/Shutterstock

What could be more perfect than spending a warm summer night outdoors in the company of friends and family? If you’re ready to take your backyard barbecue to the next level, these party tips will help you get there.

Don’t miss our best-ever cookout recipes.

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Getting the grill ready for some cooking - rubbing halved onion on the hot grate.
elbud / Shutterstock

Clean the grill with an onion

Looking for a chemical-free way to clean your grill? Rub a cut onion on the grates and it will work magic! The enzymes in an onion loosen up baked-on grime and grit while also seasoning the grill at the same time. Once your grill is clean, try these tips for grilling vegetables like a pro.

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Picnic in the park
Geet Theerawat/Shutterstock

Use your lawn for extra seating

Don’t let your patio seating hold you back. Host a picnic by spreading out a few blankets and providing makeshift “tables” by hiding crates or palates underneath tablecloths. Add a few pillows and you’ll have enough seating for even the largest party. (Bonus: Try these picnic-ready recipes.)

These are our picks for the best patio furniture.

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Sunblock Sunglasses Summer Bag Beach

Keep everyone comfortable

The best way to keep everyone comfortable is to be prepared for any occasion! Keep a basket filled with everything your guests might need: from bug spray and sunscreen to hand wipes, hats and extra sunglasses. For parties that go into the evening, throw a few blankets in there, too.

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Cooking ice cubes with lemon and mint on marble background.
Anna Vozzhinskaia/Shutterstock

Freeze fruit or juice into ice cubes

You don’t always want those pesky ice cubes watering down your drinks, but it’s too hot to drink a cocktail without them. Freezing juice into ice cube trays solves this problem! They’ll look stunning in your drink while adding flavor as they melt. For more ice cube ideas, check out these fun ways to hack an ice cube tray.

Psst! These are the best ice cube trays you can buy.

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condiment muffin tray
Taste of Home

Use a muffin tin for toppings

If you want to serve a gourmet meal without too much fuss, load up the topping choices! Whether it’s for hot dogs or hamburgers, muffin tins make a great multi-topping holder for things like ketchup, mustard, chopped tomatoes, pickle relish or bacon bits. Don’t miss these genius ways to repurpose a muffin tin.

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keeping drinks cool in a blow-up pool

Keep your food and drinks cool

Skip the store-bought ice and make your own. Fill up a few water balloons and stick ’em in the freezer.  When they’re good and frozen, transport them into a kiddie pool for a festive drink cooler. Best part? Once the ice has melted you’ll have everything you need for an impromptu water fight!

Learn more here.

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mini burger canape selection on slate platter
Piotr Piatrouski/Shutterstock

Reuse your platters

Keep your cleanup to a minimum by reusing your platters. You can plate grilled vegetables on the same plates they marinated, and keep meat platters sanitary by lining them with plastic wrap. After you plop the contents on the grill, toss out the plastic wrap and reuse the clean platter.

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Chocolaty S'mores Bars

One night my husband had some friends over to play poker and he requested these s'mores bars. They polished off the pan and asked for more! I shared the recipe, and now their families make them, too. —Rebecca Shipp, Beebe, Arkansas
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Mason jar mugs filled with iced tea and fresh lemon
Teri Virbickis/Shutterstock

Premix your cocktails

If you want to serve great cocktails at your party, mix them ahead of time. Make a large batch and divide them into self-serve mason jars. You’ll have more time to mingle with your guests and spend less time playing bartender! This would work perfectly with our favorite margarita recipes.

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Hands with water splash, backlit by the evening sun.

Make an outdoor hand washing station

Keep everyone’s muddy shoes out of your house by making it easy to wash your hands. Set up a cooler full of water and point the spigot outward. Then, fix a roll of paper towels to the top and place some hand soap next to it. Voila–hand washing made easy!

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