5 Key Ingredients for a Gorgeous Summer Cookouts

As seen in Elf (Enjoy Life to the Fullest) Magazine, produced by The Keene Sentinel.

There are few things in life sweeter than a bright summer day filled with great eats and even better company. When high temps make turning on the oven feel impossible, it’s time to fire up the grill, pour tall glasses of ice cold beverages, and relax—cookout style! 

Barbecue season brings so much joy because it means gathering, being outside together, and sharing delicious, homemade food. For me and my husband Dave, grilling is one of our favorite pastimes, but we like to give our cookouts a special flair. If BBQ time is your favorite season, too, I hope you enjoy these five key ingredients for gorgeous summer grilling.

Secure a Crackling Grill Master

Cookout Ingredients

Nothing is more essential for BBQ success than a grill master who can handle the pressure of cooking over an open flame. (Here’s looking at you, Dave!) Whoever is stationed at the grill in your family, they need a toolkit of tried-and-true flavors and recipes to please a crowd and accommodate a variety of appetites. So your head chef must be comfortable with seasoning, timing, and temperatures (not always simple when you’re working with fire). 

The best grill masters pull it off with a smile, never letting on that they’re flipping five different meats alongside the fresh veggie kabobs and steaming ears of corn. Something that makes it easier is having a sturdy table nearby with all the fixins so they’re ready at a moment’s notice. Stage platters of uncooked food in the order they need to go on, have your spices and rubs lined up, and pour any sauces or marinades into bowls, each with their own basting brush. 

Then leave the rest to the grill master because they usually have a few secrets tucked in their apron pockets, like mixing in local or homegrown flavors. Speaking of local…

Local Cookouts Really Are Tastier

We are so fortunate in the Monadnock Region to have a strong community of local growers and producers who help make our summer dishes taste like heaven. With CSAs, farm stands, and neighborhood meat producers, your next delicious cookout can have it all. You may also have your own backyard garden full of mouthwatering tomatoes to top burgers and fresh dill for the potato salad. 

Keep in mind that decreasing food miles and supporting local small businesses also means ice cream, one-of-a-kind rubs, sauces, honey, maple syrup, fresh pies, and even fruits for your signature mocktail or cocktail! Speaking of beverages…

A Signature Cocktail Says it All

Cocktail Ingredients

Hit up that u-pick strawberry, blueberry, or apple venue for your next batch of mojitos, margaritas, or sangria. I place a large glass jar in the sunshine the morning of the cookout filled with freshly picked–and washed– spearmint tea stems for a DIY mint tea base. 

Go to town on your signature cookout cocktail by adding raspberries, mango, or watermelon, and a homemade simple syrup (1:1 water and sugar) for a one-of-a-kind refreshment. I have seen people make handmade syrups flavored with lilacs, basil, hibiscus, vanilla, lemon, ginger—you name it. Whatever the mood, fill a gorgeous, glass pitcher and voilà, you’re in business!

You can also show off your beverage prowess with a DIY drink station. It’s easy and elegant to offer a mix-and-match flavor bar with a base of sparkling water (or your favorite spirit), simple syrup, and ice. Then watch what people gather around as the conversation flows. And speaking of conversation starters…

Bring on the Water


What brings on more excitement and laughter for the kids than a water feature to cool down in? Even adults will join in a slip ‘n slide, dip in the pool, sprinkler run, or a water balloon fight. Have a few folks who prefer to stay dry? No problem! Pull up a few of those colorful Adirondack chairs, serve a big platter of watermelon slices, and you’ll see lots of smiles.. Speaking of smiles… 

Swapping Summer Stories

Summer is the time for vacations so everyone brings a tale to tell. This is my favorite part of the whole cookout. The trick here is to make sure you get time to mingle, even while topping off glasses or gathering plates. 

I also like to plan multiple cookouts throughout the summer to stay in touch with everyone’s lives. A flexible schedule allows more connections to be made. But you may want to schedule an end-of-the-summer bash early so everyone saves the date. Make it an annual tradition to see your favorite faces. Here’s to a summer celebration nobody would dare miss!

And speaking of making the most of fun summer days, here’s how to savor those special summer evenings: “Landscape Designs That Are As Beautiful By Night As By Day.”

June 14, 2024

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