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Your Next-Level Cookout Guide

Cookouts are the best kind of parties – everyone knows that. Even when they’re bad, they’re pretty good. And when they’re good, they’re fantastic, and you go down as a legend among your friends for that marinade you used on the steaks. Is this you? Do you want this to be you? Say no more – here’s your guide to hosting a legendary cookout.

The food

20 Killer Recipes For Your Labor Day Cookout

A great cookout is all about the food. Hot dogs! Hamburgers! Yeah, super memorable stuff.

Or – here’s an idea – you can cook something that nobody will forget. Why not upgrade to steaks? Better yet, spice things up fantastic seafood (be sure to get it from a reliable seafood seller – when seafood is good, it’s really good, and when it’s bad, well, you know). Best of all, prepare a menu that has a bit of everything: hamburgers and hot dogs for the kids, steak and seafood for the adults, and grilled veggies for the vegetarians and vegans in the crowd.

The location

The 15 Best NYC Parks for Cookouts

Is your backyard cookout-ready? That’s a rhetorical question, but, you know, you really ought to know. All you really need for a good cookout is space (and a grill), but look around and make sure that the ground is even and the grass is in decent shape. And clean the pool.

Or go crazy, and install a new pool (it’s a great excuse to hold a party – but please wait until the project is finished, okay?). Install a patio or an outdoor kitchen, then throw a party to show it off! Your outdoor space is just as important to your cookout as your indoor space is to your dinner party. And cookouts are better than regular dinner parties, anyway, so invest in that backyard.

And if none of this is an option, remember that you don’t have to host your cookout at home. You can rent space in a local park (or just show up, depending on your local park’s rules), and have it there.

The guest list

Creating a party guest list: Do’s and don’ts

Nothing – and I mean nothing – matters as much to your cookout as the guest list. You could have world-class food at one of the Queen of England’s garden parties, and it would still be a drag if you were stuck talking to Charles, Prince of Wales about cricket all day (unless you like cricket, or Charles, Prince of Wales). And you could have your cookout in a partially excavated basement and serve nothing but sardines and still have a good time, provided that you invited great friends who could help pass the time by ragging on you for throwing such an absurd party.

So get the guest list right. Here are a few rules of thumb:

  • Try to keep a balance: roughly as many guys as girls, roughly as many couples as single folks, and roughly as many people older than you as younger, for instance. It’s not always possible, but a balanced guest list is a beautiful thing.
  • Everyone should know at least one other person at the party. Don’t be cruel!
  • But, if possible, nobody at the party should know everyone (except you, of course). Let your friend groups meet! Sparks might fly.
  • Suit your group to your space. And don’t do that thing where you invite more people than you can fit because you’re assuming they won’t all come. If they do, you’ll be in big trouble. Just invite people early and invite others as necessary when the first round RSVPs – it’s not hard to do this discreetly if you have polite friends.

Of course, one rule is more important than all of these: invite great people. Invite friends you know will be fun. Don’t invite your boss just because you feel like you have to. Don’t invite Charles, Prince of Wales, unless you really want to. It’s your party, after all. And it’s going to be great.

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