For many of us here in central Tennessee, summer isn’t complete without a classic American cookout. The smell of marinated meat crackling on the grill, the feeling of sweet corn bursting on the first bite, and the light sweetness of icebox cake are things we look forward to year after year.

Despite the current need for social distancing, we hope that we’ll all be enjoying great times with friends and family before long. In the meantime, we can dream up the perfect party plans, which is what we hope you’ll do with Parks Realty’s list of Cookout Must-Haves!

Our handy guide will give you an organizational framework to use as a jumping-off point as you plan your next celebration of food, friends, and fun. Remember, there’s no shame in accepting friendly offers of help! If your friends want to bring a dish to share, extra beer, or some lawn chairs, it’s perfectly polite to say yes.


1.) The Guest List

To save yourself the last-minute attack of “do we have enough” anxiety, create a concrete guest list ahead of time in order to allow the rest of the party planning to extend organically from this framework. 

While there’s no need to stick rigidly to the list you create, it can be difficult to proceed with planning without an idea of the number of people you’ll invite and the types of foods they’ll prefer.


2.) Plenty of Seating

Once you have your headcount, plan to provide more seating than you believe you will need. While you don’t want your guests to be tripping over empty chairs, it can enhance a party’s flow when a few extra seats are set up in discrete zones throughout the space. 

Folding chairs, lawn chairs, benches, porch swings, and hammocks are all great choices for the casual cookout, while outdoor tables and chairs can be rented from a part supply store if your usual setup is holding you back.


3.) Supplies for Serving and Eating

Provide the hospitable standard of cups, plates, utensils, napkins, paper straws, and paper towels. A cheeseboard and toothpicks will come in handy if you’re setting up a cheese display, while a canister of backup serving spoons is always welcome. If you’d like to go the extra mile, paper to-go boxes or foil pouches can allow your guests to pack up leftovers as the party comes to a close.


4.) Grill Essentials

If you’re breaking out your grill for the first time of the season, clean it thoroughly and test it before you send out invitations. Once you’re sure your grill is good to go, you’ll need:

  • Plenty of propane or charcoal
  • Tongs
  • Heavy turner
  • Brush for sauces
  • Meat platters
  • Cutting board
  • Fire extinguisher


5.) Meats, Eats, Sides, and Desserts

The grill is the star of the cookout, but salads, fruit, beans, pasta, fresh-cut vegetables, and bright summer desserts are also essential.

There’s no one correct way to feed a crowd at a cookout, but a gracious host provides great options for meat-eaters, vegetarians, and diabetics. If you aren’t sure what to provide, reach out to your guests and ask! Your friends and family will feel appreciative that you’re keeping their needs in mind.


6.) Ice Cold Drinks

Infused water, sweet tea, fresh juice, cold brew coffee, lemonade, soda, and sparkling seltzer make great additions to the usual array of hard drinks you’ll provide. 

Ideally, you will have a nearly-empty refrigerator available to keep these drinks cold before you begin to fill your coolers and drink buckets, but if not, purchase extra ice. Store as much as possible in your freezer once you’ve filled your ice chests to help ensure you won’t have to organize ice runs during the festivities.


7.) Sun protection

Canopies, sun shades, and beach umbrellas can all give guests a way to duck out of the sun’s direct rays, but a few bottles of sunscreen set out for your everyone to use will cover the crowd without putting a damper on the day. 

Not everyone will take you up on the offer of sunscreen, so a bottle of chilled aloe in the refrigerator may be a welcome remedy if a little one or senior guest gets too pink!


8.) Kids’ Corner

If you invite children to your barbecue, consider providing a kids’ table complete with kid-friendly food options, a kid-safe chilled beverage tub, and tasty desserts for tots. Baskets of crayons and a paper tablecloth can help entertain restless little ones while they wait for their burgers and watermelon.

Give the parents a heads-up to bring suits and towels for the kids; even if you don’t have a pool, a very basic sprinkler makes a great distraction and makes easy cleanup of the kids once mealtime winds down. 


Are you planning to host a socially-distanced cookout in Tennessee this summer, or will you wait until next year and host a full-on bash? 

Leave us a comment and let us know. Additionally, we’d love to hear about how you plan to make sure your unique cooking is a success! We love receiving tips, recipes, and creative party themes from you, our valued readers. 

Stay safe, stay healthy, and thank you for visiting Parks!

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