grilling scene with grill and table with drinks and plates

The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Fred Hardy, Food Stylist: Margaret Monroe Dickey, Prop Stylist: Shell Royster

The Great Grill-A-Palooza

Whether you have a lush backyard, a neighborhood park, or a city stoop, we’ve got menu ideas and hosting hacks for an epic summer season.

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When we sat down as an editorial team to brainstorm what our ideal summer cookout would include, it was clear we wanted to have it all: impressive yet low-lift food and bevs that surprised our guests beyond a cooler of beer and hard seltzers and a plate of hot dogs. The recipes we selected for this ultimate grill-a-palooza reflect a kind of  “Anything’s possible!” ethos that actually feels genuine now that the sun is shining (and the serotonin has begun returning to our winter brains). 

Use this guide to host your own grill gathering this summer and divide and conquer as you see fit, asking guests to potluck one of the sides or bring reinforcements from the grocery store so you can enjoy one of our semi-homemade grilled desserts. Let a Certified Sommelier expand your wine cooler beyond Rosé All Day, while keeping things affordable. Get inspo to turn your yard or that patch of park you take over for the afternoon into a little summer entertaining oasis with low-cost purchases that aren't too Pinterest-precious. 

Follow our lead at The Spruce Eats as we let the sound of burgers sizzling on a hot grill become the unofficial soundtrack to summer, and the smell of burning charcoal become the season’s must-wear fragrance.  

-Kristin Stangl, Senior Editor

The Spruce Eats / Sabrina Tan

Beer on the Rocks: 3 Flavorful Ice Cubes for Your Summer Bevs

When temperatures spike, keeping our beer chilled with ice cubes is our new favorite way to cool down. Yes, we said ice cubes. But not just any old ice will do! Light lagers get a boost from a Shandy-inspired citrus ice, a spicy michelada ice, and a lime and salt ice that mimics the taste of a Mexican chelada. Add these high-brow cubes to your fancy ice rotation and you’ll never look at a six-pack of low-brow beer the same way again.

An outdoor table with a selection of wines, glasses, and cups

The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Fred Hardy, Food Stylist: Margaret Monroe Dickey, Prop Stylist: Shell Royster

5 Wines from Trader Joe's That Belong At Your Next Cookout, According to a Somm

A professionally-trained, Certified Sommelier who is neither stuffy nor pretentious about wine? We actually found her. She helped demystify the wine aisle at Trader Joe’s in order to give you a quick cheat-sheet on five incredible wines (from whites to reds and everything in between) that make the ideal companion to the foods of summer. We have a hunch you’ll be pinning this article for use all summer long.

five dips in bowls

The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Fred Hardy, Food Stylist: Margaret Monroe Dickey, Prop Stylist: Shell Royster

3-Ingredient Condiments to Upgrade Your Summer Cookout

Even if classic burgers and corn on the cob are what you’re after from your own Grill-A-Palooza, do yourself (and your guests) a favor and whip up a few of these three-ingredient condiments. The curry ketchup is a perfect match for French fries; the chili crisp yogurt is great as a mayo replacement in potato salad; and the pesto rosso is a dream when swirled into pasta salad. And of course, all are worthy of slathering and schmearing.

Saffron chicken pieces marinating in yogurt mixture

The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

Why You Should Marinate Your Meat in Yogurt, According to Science

Yogurt's probiotic superpowers go beyond dips and make everything from chicken to lamb and beef ready for that Maillard magic on your grill. "When cooked, the lactose sugar in the yogurt caramelizes to impart a slight sweetness,” explains registered dietitian Whitney Linsenmeyer. Join us in the science lab to get a primer on why yogurt oughta be your go-to marinade for grilled meats this summer (and always).

Mexican Fajita Kebabs on a platter

The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

Move Over Burgers: The Grill Was Made for Skewers, Kebabs, and Satay

Endlessly adaptable, grilled skewers are a prep-ahead and shuffle-over-to-the-grill portable feast. They also generally cook way faster than whole cuts of protein due to their bite-sized nature—usually requiring just a few minutes on a hot grill. Ready to eat? We rounded up our reader’s favorite skewer recipes from our library, spanning everything from chicken to fish to lamb and tofu. 

grilled summer desserts

The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Fred Hardy, Food Stylist: Margaret Monroe Dickey, Prop Stylist: Shell Royster

3-Ingredient Grocery Store Desserts to Throw on the Grill

Pound cake, croissants, and peaches all get a boost from a few moments on the grill in these three-ingredient desserts that transform grocery staples into something greater. They really are as easy as they look. Leave the fancy lattice work pie for another day, these Build-a-Bear desserts are the move this summer.

Hot tip: This is the perfect thing to ask your guests to bring if you're hosting!

wine bottles in ice bucket, plates and forks on picnic table

The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Fred Hardy, Food Stylist: Margaret Monroe Dickey, Prop Stylist: Shell Royster

5 Effortless Ways to Create a Summer Entertaining Oasis

If you’re stuck in checkered paper tablecloths and Mason jar territory, we have a whole new world for you when it comes to outdoor hosting. We’ve selected our favorite low-cost, big-impact ways to add personality to any outdoor gathering.

The Spruce Eats / Sabrina Tan

Even if you can’t jet out of town on a summer friday, one sip of any of our Grill-A-Palooza drinks will make you feel like you have. The kalimotxo is a Spanish summer staple that comes together with just two ingredients. If you fancy yourself a home bartender, the swizzle is a crushed-ice classic and ours calls upon tropical pineapple and the irreplaceable complexity of green Chartreuse. And if a trip to Mexico is calling, the frozen mangonada with a hit of spicy chamoy will get you beachside.

The Spruce Eats / Sabrina Tan.

Chips and salsa, or a tray of veggies and ranch, is all well and good, but why save the grilling for just the main event? Grilling okra ensures none of the slime of this summer vegetable and a big platter of it with a creamy dipping sauce will have your guests hovering like moths to a flame. Tomato season is also approaching and one swipe of the fruit over a garlicky piece of toasted bread with loads of good olive oil is an effortless way to celebrate it. And don’t let the charbroiled oysters intimidate you, there is a step-by-step guide for shucking (or you can ask your local fishmonger to do it for you).


The Spruce Eats / Sabrina Tan

The Maillard reaction is why we are here, standing grill-side, and all three of our hero dishes really shine thanks to being flame-licked. A whole fish (again, the fishmonger is your BFF for prep) is a showstopper finished with the tangy spice of sambal. A smoky chipotle peanut salsa could be eaten by the spoonful, but with our grilled quesadillas loaded with fresh summer produce, it's even better. And for the ultimate in Maillard-magic, look no further than Korea (by way of LA) with Galbi.

The Spruce Eats / Sabrina Tan

Smoky, sweet, and even a little refreshing, our favorite side dishes for grilling season rely on nostalgic summer produce like watermelon and corn. And the humble bean gets a glow-up in a cowboy iteration that incorporates ground beef, smokey bacon, and plenty of sharp cheddar cheese.

The Spruce Eats / Sabrina Tan

Our picks to round out the grill-fest lean into memories of summers past with a marshmallow-laced homemade chocolate ice cream that’s a scoop-shop staple. If berries are more your thing, there’s a comically easy (and seriously delicious) strawberry pie. Or, keep the grill grilling with plums that, once warm and caramelized, partner perfectly with a creamy cold dollop of pistachio ice cream.

Best Charcoal Grills

The Spruce Eats / Russell Kilgore

Great Grill Ware

Whether you need a new grill, or your first grill, we have spent countless hours testing everything from portable charcoal grills to backyard gas behemoths, and everything in between. Plus, a few of our favorite grilling tools to keep the party going in full swing.

charcoal on a grill

The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Fred Hardy, Food Stylist: Margaret Monroe Dickey, Prop Stylist: Shell Royster