How to Prep for a Cookout

by Crystal R. Mendoza Paulin

Memorial Day, the kickoff of cookouts, is next week. As anyone born and raised in Texas knows, cookouts are no casual affairs— they're a way of life! Planning and preparing for a cookout can seem insurmountable; it's certainly easy to get lost in the details of preparing for such a big event. But don't worry we got you covered. Here are 5 easy steps from a seasoned veteran to prepare for a cookout!

1. Create a Guest List.

Perhaps the most important part of any cookout is the people there. Determining who you want to invite to your cookout will change how you plan the event. For example, a family cookout may be better suited to a park where children have a place to run and play and takes place during the whole day whereas a company cookout may need to take place in a parking lot for one afternoon. The menu for a gathering of 10 people will probably be very different from one for 100+ guests.

2. Hammer Out Logistics.

Once you have set the who, it's time to work on the when, where, and what. Determine the ideal location for the cookout and, if possible, reserve a date with the location. What would your guests like to eat? (Think of what you would expect at a similar cookout.) Now you have a time, place, and menu!

3. Set a Budget.

Now that you have determined the who, what, when, and where, it's time to settle the how. How do you plan to feed your guests? It's important to budget your resources— your time and money— for a cookout. It's very easy for a cookout to get out of hand  and steamroll everyone. Don't let that happen to you! Figure out how much money you can spend on the cookout and how much time you can dedicate to prepping for it. Then hold fast to your budget! If you don't think you can handle it all on your own, partner with someone else to co-sponsor the cookout with you. If you plan to invite a lot of guests, consider asking them to bring sides or drinks to relieve some of the cooking burden on you.

4. Allocate your resources.

This, in my opinion, is the most important part of any cookout. Even the most carefully planned cookout quickly falls apart if key players are not informed of the plan. Communication is key to any cookout, so start assigning roles! Are you going to be the Grillmaster? If not, then who? Who's going to be your sous-chef? If you're asking guests to bring food, be clear about what you want each to bring. (And don't be shy about it otherwise Aunt Becky is going to bring her weak potato salad again even though no one asked.) And don't forget to keep several back up plans in mind in case things fall through.

5. Finalize your game plan.

At this point you should have a pretty good idea of your plan for this cookout. Walk away from your plans for at least 48 hours and then go over them again. Did you overlook anything? Will you need more help than you originally anticipated? Maybe you simply need to change the date. Whatever the case, take the time to review all of the details of your cookout. Once you're satisfied, you're ready to set your plan into action!

So what do you think? Are cookouts clearer to your now? Did I miss anything? Let me know your thoughts in the comments, and don't forget to share your cookout pictures too!