10 Irresistible Ideas for What to Bring to the Next Cookout
Cookout season is a favorite for a reason—great food and good company, all from the comfort of a backyard. But if this is your first time hitting the cookout scene, you might not know what you’re expected to bring.
Read on for ideas of what you can contribute the next time you’re invited to a cookout.
The Rules of a Cookout
The words barbeque and cookout are often used interchangeably, but they’re not quite the same thing. Traditionally in the south, a barbeque is a whole-day event with meat cooking slowly, but a cookout is faster. Your host might throw burgers and dogs on the grill or serve something else entirely—but we’re not here to police your use of the word “cookout.”
If we’re being honest, there are no rules to a cookout except one: make sure you don’t come empty-handed.
Whether you bring a side dish, a dessert, or a 6-pack of your favorite beverage (perhaps a cold Junie or two), make sure you have something to offer. If you’re not sure what to bring, ask the host what they need. We all know how much work goes into hosting, so they’ll be sure to appreciate the extra help.
The Main Event
Possibly the most important part of any cookout is the food, so you should choose wisely if you’re bringing a dish.
1. Stick to the Classics
Some dishes will never go out of style at a cookout. Hot dogs, cheeseburgers, and steak skewers are never out of place, and your host will likely appreciate having extras on hand. After all, you never know when extra guests are going to appear.
2. Side Dishes
While grilled food is supposedly the star of the show at a cookout, you could fill your whole plate with delicious sides if you really want to.
For something on the lighter side, throw together a watermelon and cucumber salad, or keep it classic with cornbread muffins. Other memorable options include pasta salad, baked beans, and mac and cheese. Choose your favorite recipe and add it to the spread.
3. A Hot Dog Bar
If you want a meal that will be a crowd-pleaser for kids and adults alike, try a hot dog bar.
Those who prefer simple meals can stick with ketchup or mustard and call it a day. More adventurous eaters will feel called to craft their own chili cheese dogs or to put together Chicago-style dogs with celery salt, sport peppers, and more.
At the end of a day in the sun, the dessert spread will be calling your name. Contribute to the options with something you won’t have to worry about reheating.
4. Banana Split Bites
Banana split bites are a light option that will satiate your sweet tooth. Slide cut-up pieces of your favorite fruit onto a skewer, and dip the fruit in chocolate. Before it hardens, sprinkle on coconut or walnut pieces for an added textural element.
Strawberries, bananas, and pineapples are fantastic fruits to try here.
S’mores are a classic summer favorite, but you can get the experience of s’mores even without the bonfire. S’mores dip is a fun twist on the original, and all you need is a pan and an oven—no more searching in the woods for the perfect stick to roast your marshmallows.
Layer marshmallows and chocolate in an oven-safe dish or skillet, and then bake in the oven until the chocolate is melted and the marshmallows are golden-brown. Guests can dip graham crackers and pretzel rods in for a sweet treat.
6. Sand Pudding
If you’re going to a family event, sand pudding is the perfect dessert for kids. Smash vanilla Oreos or another kind of sandwich cookie and layer them with vanilla pudding. Finish the dessert with a drink umbrella or serve in miniature buckets for an extra-fun touch.
Traditional cookouts aren’t always the most welcoming place for vegetarians, but you can change all that with a strategically chosen dish.
7. Black Bean Burgers
If you want to stick with the cookout theme, black bean burgers are a perfect choice. They’re savory, versatile, and packed with protein. It’s as classic as a vegetarian cookout dish gets.
8. Grilled Tofu
If you’re into cooking, grilled tofu is another fantastic vegetarian option. Make sure to press the tofu before you slice it and marinate it with something flavorful—something with mirin, rice vinegar, and soy sauce will do nicely.
9. Grilled Veggies
Grill classic vegetables like peppers, onions, squash, mushrooms, and sugar snap peas with a balsamic sauce. Guests can pile them high on sandwich rolls or eat them on their own as a side dish—just make sure to get those perfect grill marks.
10. Let’s Talk Drinks
Summer cookouts are a great time to try out new cocktail recipes, but if you want to keep it simple, you can’t go wrong with a Junie.
For those of us looking for a little bit of sunshine in a cup, Blood Orange Mint is perfect. This zesty, citrus-packed flavor is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. You can also keep it light and lively with a Grapefruit Paloma, our take on a refreshing classic cocktail.
If you can’t decide which flavor you’re looking to try, a sampler pack is just what you’re looking for. Try our four favorite flavors, or choose which ones you’d like to sample, and then head over to the cookout.
You’re Ready for the Cookout
Of course, the most important part of any cookout is that you have a good time with your friends and family. Whatever it is you choose to bring, make sure there’s enough for everyone, and it’s sure to be a hit.
Sources:BBQ Party Planning Checklist | The Spruce Eats