Beyond The Grill: Making Your Next Outdoor Cookout a Success

The weather is wonderful in the northern hemisphere again, and I for one am looking for any excuse to be outside. One of the best ways to do this is by having an outdoor cookout. There’s the obvious equipment you’ll want for one – like a grill or outdoor cooktop. But there are other details you should consider before you send out the invites to your next backyard barbecue.

Keeping Your Food Cool

An outdoor refrigerator utilizes your deck for all-important fridge space and easy transfer to the grill (by Trevor Fulmer Design)

Just as important as the heating element of cooking is the cooling storage. Without proper refrigeration, even the most perfect meal will go bad before you can finish serving it. If you have a long walk to your kitchen and back, consider adding an outdoor fridge to your deck. Especially if you have frequent gatherings, having a second fridge isn’t a bad idea. It keeps your normal ingredients and meals separate from your party supplies, so you know what you’re out of before the big event without needing to dig between refrigerators.

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Keeping Yourself Cool As Well

Turnberry Hexangular Gazebo, GF-UPG2001-12-1 by Afd

With an oven or grill going on a hot day, you can get overheated pretty easily. While staying hydrated is important, you also need space safe from direct sun. You can go inside to cool down, but being away from the grill risks burning your food in the process. A simple umbrella can do if you’re on a budget, but beware strong winds. If your umbrella isn’t properly secured (and sometimes even when it is), it can not only blow away, but also take the table it’s attached to with it. An awning of some kind can make all the difference – from a simple canvas cover to an architectural overhang complete with built-in lighting and ceiling fans. Or opt for a classic: a beautiful but low-tech, free-standing structure like a gazebo or pergola.

Roll Out The Red Carpet

Outdoor Moroccan Rug in Green Rectangular, 3141939 by Unique Loom

If you do a lot of entertaining outside, you want to make your deck or patio a comfortable and inviting space to be in. Outdoor rugs are a great, fairly inexpensive shortcut for achieving this. Not only will they give your outdoor spaces a more polished look, they can also cover for all manner of shortcomings. If you have uneven brick or a wood deck you’ve been meaning to sand and refinish, an outdoor rug can make your flooring more comfortable underfoot. I usually see outdoor rugs paired with a seating or dining set. But don’t forget, they’re nice for the person standing in front of the grill, too! That said, DO make sure the rug you choose is rated for outdoor use. Indoor/outdoor is fine (and often a little nicer than purely outdoor), but indoor-only rugs are a big no-no!

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Lawn, Deck, or Patio?

A good outdoor floor can turn a basic backyard patio into a chic hotspot for outdoor gatherings (by Koch Architects Inc.)

That said, if you spend your summers hosting block parties, it’s worth splurging on better outdoor flooring. While a bigger renovation and initial cost, replacing grass or dirt with a deck or patio (or your existing deck or patio with higher-quality materials) will look nicer and last longer than any outside rug. Unlike a rug or other cover, permanent flooring will require you to have your lawn professionally leveled. This can be an expensive process, but makes it much easier to walk on afterward without interference like rocks, weeds, or small animal holes. Stone and wood will look the most natural outside, but any flooring or tile you like that is weatherproof is fine!

Furnishing Your Deck

Savannah 7pc Oval Dining Set (kit), GF-LD1031B-42-8-S7 by Afd

Technically, all you need to sit and eat outside is to plop down on your lawn with a paper plate. But even public parks have tables, so your guests will probably expect more than a picnic blanket. That said, what that looks like is entirely up to you – and there’s a huge range of options out there. From vintage-styled wrought iron dining sets to comfy synthetic wicker to weather-resistant teak takes on the classic picnic table, you have a lot of freedom to customize your outdoor dining set. The most important things to keep in mind? How many people you’ll be hosting, what kind of weather your furniture will be exposed to, and how willing you are to do maintenance on it. Cushioned chairs with fade-resistant Sunbrella fabric are more comfortable but more high-maintenance than powder coated aluminum, which is happy to live outside year round in any climate.

Getting ready for grill season involves so much more than refilling your propane tank or loading up on charcoal. Whether you want a full outdoor kitchen or just a comfy spot to spend time with friends and family, making your outdoor spaces comfortable, convenient to use, and inviting to be in will make all the difference.

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