Everyone loves a good summer cookout. Friends, food, laughter in the outdoors- what could be better? Summer nights are long and warm and the perfect setting to talk until the moon rises, and then some. Due to the current global pandemic, it's a bit trickier than usual to have people over and still follow proper social distance guidelines. Nonetheless, here's some tips and ideas on how to throw an awesome summer cookout this summer. 

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Setting & Safety

While in the past cookouts often involve large groups of people, it's time to scale back. Try to keep party sizes to 10 or less (including yourself, your family, and/or roommates). Limiting party sizes can actually be a good thing on other reasons; it allows for more personal connections and closer conservations between a smaller group of people. It also cuts down on the amount of food you need to prepare, which can be an added bonus. 

Try to have the cookout outdoors, which allows for easier social distancing and the possibility of talking and laughing without masks on if you're spaced far enough apart. Have everyone attending bring masks and wear them during the event except when eating/drinking or far apart. It can help to pre-set 6 foot distance markers with chairs, blankets, tape, or stones so people know where they should be. If you need to, gently remind people to stay their distance as a precaution.

Talk with your family or roommates before the event if you're hosting to decide what levels of interaction everyone is comfortable with. Should masks be worn all the time? Is anyone allowed in the house to use the bathroom or is there a public one available somewhere else? Let your guests know what the decisions are before they arrive so they know what to expect.

Have hand sanitizer ready to use and use compostable plates and serving utensils if you don't want to worry about contaminating personal dishes. Serve food with tongs, gloves could be worn or just ask people to use the hand sanitizer before serving. 

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Remember, this is still a party! Have fun! Make a killer playlist for the night, set up some lights or candles, maybe have some cute decor with picnic blankets and flowers. If you have a fire pit, start a campfire and set out some extra tools for s'mores later on. 

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Food & Drinks

Food is arguably the most important part of the cookout. What do you want to serve? You could go for the classic American bbq with steaks or (veggie) burgers, (vegan) hotdogs, corn, coleslaw, and fruit salad. You could try a themed night- like a pizza party! Think grilled personal pizzas with a toppings bar, watermelon pizza with drizzled yogurt fruit and chocolate, dessert pizza with Nutella and strawberries.

Maybe you'll want to go with the potluck route. Potlucks can be less work on the host's end for food prep, but it's always wise to make enough for everyone regardless of how many people say they're going to bring something. In case of a last minute dropout, you can still have enough food to serve your guests. Don't forget about drinks and dessert! Water is a classic, along with bubbly fruit juice, lemonade, and so on. I've found a surprisingly large amount of people enjoy milk with their dinners, whether dairy-free or regular. If you're serving alcohol, decide what pairs well with the meal. Beer? Wine? Sangria? Dessert is also a must. If you have a fire, s'mores are the classic favorite for a reason. Another great option for the summertime is chocolate covered strawberries or a fruit crisp with ice cream. Strawberry rhubarb crisps are one of my favorites, but you can never go wrong with apple crisp either. 

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I hope you found some inspiration in this post and have a wonderful (and socially responsible) cookout this summer!