Make Sure Your Next Cookout Is A Blazing Success

Summer is all about friends and family get-togethers.

But whether this is your first time hosting a grill gathering, or you're a self-proclaimed party expert, it's always good to improve with some new ideas and how-to information.

You have to find out how many guests are coming, and decide on which foods and drinks to serve.

Should you do entertainment? Maybe music, or a garden game of giant Jenga?

You'll always want to be sure your event is a triumph.

But any party planner out there knows it's too easy to get caught in the excitement, so you don’t want to leave too much on your plate.

So I've scrambled up this guide for you on how to make your next grillfest is a blazing success.

With excellent tips and ideas for the adult-only gathering or the family-friendly cookout.

Set the Date and Time

Date And Time For Cookout

One of the significant advantages of grill parties is the flexibility.

Do you think your guests will prefer an afternoon bash? Make a late lunch with loads of salads and steak tacos, for example.

Or, if you think most of your guests enjoy a late evening under the stars with a rib and beer in their hands, set the time a bit later.

A BBQ was once the cookout designed for kings, meaning it can take place at any time, with no rules. But make sure that most of your guests can make these times. Keep in mind that you should plan accordingly.

If your guests have smaller children, arrange a place for a little shut-eye for the kids if the evening gets too long. Or just a corner for your buddy to pass out if he drinks too much.

As any good host would, it's essential to see which days are best for your fest. Weekdays, for example, might not always be the best pick, especially if you or several of your guests have demanding jobs.

If you choose to arrange your event during the weekend, keep in mind that your guests might also have other things in their schedule. To avoid clashes, communicate with friends well in advance and set a day and time which fits most, if not everyone.

Location Matters

Choosing the right location for your grillfest can be a difficult decision, unless you have a large backyard.

Should it be at the local park? At the beach? Or on your terrace?

If you have a portable grill, you can throw your cookout, technically, anywhere that you desire.

When choosing the location, consider who you're planning to invite. 

Some may prefer the park over the beach, or vice versa.

Nonetheless, a fantastic event with all the people you love spending time with can be anywhere, and you'll surely make the best of it.

Don't Forget the Invite

Summer Cookout Invite

What is a blazing event without the people you love?

Any busy person can relate to the feelings and fears of forgetting some of the most obvious and essential guests.

But the invites serve more than merely ensuring that people know about your party. They can help you plan your grocery list, how much you'll need, and answer the above questions of where and when.

How you'll invite your party is up to you. Everyone likes to do something different.

Depending on how many people you're planning to summon, you can do it the modern millennial way of sending out a good old text.

However, this may be a bit time consuming if you’ve got loads of people in mind.

Many hosts prefer to send an official e-vite if the party is more prominent.

This is a swift and easy way of inviting the whole neighborhood in a matter of seconds. With the help of social media, you can have a guest list drawn up by the end of the day.

Since most of the guests are likely to be adults, they will need to make plans in advance to work around busy schedules. Make sure you plan and send your invitations with time to spare.

Chances are if you wait till the last moment, most of your guests aren't going to be able to make it. In turn, you'll be left with hot dogs and beer to last a lifetime.

So to avoid this waste of food and drinks, remember to send the invites early.

Of course, you shouldn't send invitations a month ahead, but a considerate courtesy would be at least two weeks in advance. And a reminder a couple of days before won’t go amiss.

Decide on the Food

Now onto the fun part, the food.

A BBQ is all about sharing amazing food with fantastic friends.

But you can cook almost anything on a grill, so what should you choose?


Cookout Appetizers

Let's start at the beginning, and put our focus on appetizers (if you plan on serving any).

When ordering an appetizer at a restaurant, you'll usually get something really fancy and complicated. Fortunately, this rule doesn't apply to a party with friends and family.

A great appetizer doesn't have to be anything magnificent.

Many often opt for a simple chip and dip plate, with some raw vegetables on the side, like cucumbers or carrots.

This may also make it a lot simpler for you to plan and execute. Buy a bunch of your favorite chips and either make a homemade dip or pick one up from the store.

Arrange it in bowls as you desire, and serve. This is an ingenious, yet simple way of keeping your guests busy while you focus on the main course.

Main Course

Smoked Vegan Burgers

The main course is the centerpiece of your grillfest.

Chances are at least one of your guests came solely to get a taste of a tender rib.

Similar to the appetizer, the main course can be anything that you and your guests desire. However, for the main course, it might be obvious to say, but plan something simple and easy to make which fits most people’s tastes.

The last thing you'd want is to have prepared steaks for everyone, only to find that the majority would rather have chicken.

Unless your party is for people you barely know, you'll likely be aware of friends’ likes and dislikes. A little tip would be to keep veggie burgers ready at hand, in case some are vegetarian.

Ask them how they'd prefer cooking the veggie patties, and if you need to avoid placing them near the meat, for example.

One great winner is always skewers with vegetables and meat, or chicken.

These are simple and easy to prep in advance and the cooking process is quicker than a rack of ribs.

But if you’ve got more time on your hands, your guests would likely love some steaks and ribs. These are classic grilled foods, bound to silence any growling stomach. You could also play it safe and serve up some traditional hamburgers.

They are easy to prepare and cook. Plus, if you set up an assembly station with all the accessories needed, your guests can build their own.

When calculating how much food you'll need, a general rule is to make at least one pound of grilled food per person. Or make sure there are at least two to three items for each guest. Then they can always fill their bellies with side dishes and more chips.

If your guests are bringing children, it could be an idea to make a kids’ menu or at least some child-friendly options. Hot dogs and chicken are always favorites among children.

These are simple in taste and easy to make and accessorize with whatever topping or garnish the little ones crave.

Side Dishes/Salads

Cookout Salads

You'll likely want to impress your guests, but you'd also like to avoid having to spend all your hours in the kitchen, slaving away on side dishes.

This course is supposed to be simple and complimentary of your main course.

Side dishes and salads should be an essential part of your menu. 

There are numerous to choose from. Some of the classic serves are, of course, corn on the cob, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, and coleslaw.

You can find these on nearly any side table. They're all easy to make, and a wide range is available in almost any store if you want to save time.

You could also venture outside the norm, and serve up something a bit different. You could add some smoked bacon and crumble some blue cheese over your potato salad. Maybe put a different take on traditional slaw by adding apples and raisins.

Everyone loves a good side, such as cornbread. But if you want your BBQ to stand out, add a little spice to it. This will likely leave your guests surprised and humbled to the master chef.

When you're making the salads, make sure you have enough for everyone. Salads are easy to make, but it's no fun having to go back and make more within two minutes of serving. Make a generous amount and leave it in the fridge.

For most salads, especially those with vinaigrettes, remember to leave the dressing on the side until serving. Otherwise, it is likely to go soggy.


Desserts are, of course, not a necessity, but are something your guests will undoubtedly appreciate.

Desserts at a cookout can be very versatile, but just keep them simple. They could include savory options, particularly if your party is for adults only. You could do some melon and prosciutto, or even a cheese platter.

However, most of us can't resist something sweet after a savory meal. Easy to make and serve desserts that usually win the crowd over are brownies and cookies.

Most of the recipes available already make a dozen of each or more, so by doubling it, you should have enough for everyone. Fruit salad is also an easy, popular choice.


Chocolate Chip Cookie S'mores

If you want to make grill-inspired desserts, s’mores are the item you should look for. 

We all have childhood memories of roasting marshmallows over the campfire, and it's a tradition that will never get old—passed down through generations by the 's’mores flame' carriers.

Not only is it delicious, but also fun and interactive. Everyone can join in around the grill, waiting to toast their marshmallows. Melt some chocolate in a terracotta pot for a simple and delicious dip or make a fruity sauce for a change.

Bananas For Banana

Chocolate Marshamallow Banana

Another grill-inspired dessert is a grilled banana with chocolate and marshmallows.

You’ve already got your chocolate and marshmallows, so why not add them to a banana and throw them on the grill? This dessert is excellent for kids.

Buy a bunch of bananas, slice them lengthwise, but not all the way through. Fill them with marshmallows and chocolate chips, wrap them in foil and place on the grill.

Let them cook until the marshmallow becomes gooey and chocolate has melted. Serve straight from the peel and foil, with a spoon or fork.


Unless you're having a laid-back BBQ with a few of your buddies, entertainment is a must.

You don't have to pull out the stage and plan a musical, but get some good tunes and play them in the background.

This will also kill the silence if your guests are unfamiliar with each other. Plus, it's a great way to get people out of their chairs.

There are also tons of games you can play, even for an adult-only party. Cookouts tend to bring the kid out of almost anyone. You could try your hands at a giant game of Jenga or, with a few paint sprays on the yard, you can arrange a game of Twister.

Just get creative, your guests will surely appreciate your efforts.

Family Cookout


Here you have some inspiration and ideas on how to make your grill event a blazing success.

All from your guests, to the food, to the entertainment.

A grillfest is the best compliment to a summer’s day (or evening), designed for bringing together family and friends, colleagues, and neighbors. 

Anyone can bond around an open grill and a juicy steak.

Just remember to plan everything ahead, so you're not rushing around your guests. Keep it simple, and make sure you get to enjoy your grill event too.

About the Author William Clay

William Clay is a BBQ enthusiast dedicated to sharing his grilling (and overall cooking) expertise with FireFoodChef's readers.