How to Prepare For a Large Cookout or Picnic

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We love to host large cook outs. It is so much fun to have friends and family over.  Since we do our cooking over our fire pit, its very relaxing to sit around the fire with them. No need to stress about having everyone over, here’s how to prepare for a large cookout so I can enjoy the cook out, too.


How to Prepare For a Large Cookout

How to Prepare for a Large Cookout or Picnic


1. Plan the Menu for your Large Cookout or Picnic:

The fun part! If your having a lot of people over, it’s better to stick with tried and true recipes, instead of trying lots of new recipes. To keep things simple, I’m using the same menu for both cook-outs. My family doesn’t care, and the guest list is different for the cook-outs, so the guests won’t know.  :)


We’re having:


Check out my post on How to Pick the Perfect Watermelon


A pretty simple, but crowd pleasing menu.

2. Gather Supplies

Now it’s time to check your supplies. Are you using real or paper plates, cups, silverware, etc.? Do you have enough? What about napkins, serving trays and the like? Start counting and add needed items to your grocery list.


3. Make a Grocery List

Check your menu against your pantry. This way, you won’t over buy. It will help you keep the cost of your cook-out down, if you shop your pantry first. Make sure you check your condiments, too.  You don’t want to run out of ketchup or mustard.

4. Cook as Much as Possible Ahead of Time

I am a huge plan ahead and make ahead fan. Potato salad and macaroni salad actually taste better made the day before. The flavors have plenty of time to mingle. Once you figure out what you want to make ahead, it’s time to make a detailed cooking lists.

5. Make a Detail Cooking List

Here’s mine:

  1. Thursday night – Start beans in slow cooker
  2. Friday morning
  3. Turn off slow cooker
  4. Boil eggs
  5. Boil macaroni
  6. Peel, dice & boil potatoes
  7. Grate carrots, peel and “stick” others
  8. Peel eggs, dice
  9. Assemble Macaroni Salad
  10. Assemble Potato Salad
  11. Make sauce for baked beans
  12. Assemble baked beans
  13. Slice tomatoes
  14. Prepare lettuce
  15. Slice onions
  16. Make lemonade
  17. Make tea

6. Make a Set-up List

Making this list ahead of time will help save you time. It will also save you headaches from trying to think of everything and forget nothing right before the guests arrive.  Here’s mine:


    1. Move tables, cover with tablecloths
    2. Move chairs
    3. Build the fire, don’t start it yet, just get it ready to at appropriate time
    4. Place non-food items on tables: plates, cups, napkins, utensils, BBQ forks, tongs, spatula, plates for cooked meat, knife & tray for watermelon
    5. Place non-refrigerated food items on tables: buns, chips, marshmallows, graham crackers, etc.
    6. Bring out meats and start cooking
    7. Bring out refrigerated food, do this right before you eat, so you don’t have to worry about anything going bad.
    8. Refrigerate leftovers promptly.



7. Enjoy Your Cook-out or Picnic!

If you take the time to plan ahead and make these lists, your cook-out will go smoothly.

Enjoy your guests, and the great food you prepared!



Here are a few of my favorite things to make having a cook out easier, and more comfortable for your guests.




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  1. vickie couturier says:

    good tips,,we are planning a big outdoor event as soon as the weather is warmer

  2. Linda Manns Linneman says:

    We love having friends and family over for cookouts. These are some great tips. Thank you for sharing

  3. Elizabeth Stacy says:

    This would be great have cookout

  4. Melissa Douglass says:

    Love these tips! Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. Wow, can I come over for a cook out? You’ve got it all down. I’m not that organized.

  6. Cheryl Fulton says:

    I enjoyed the tips you give:) Planning by cooking ahead really helps.

  7. Lisa Coomer Queen says:

    These are some great tips for a cook-out. I like to plan ahead too. Thanks!

  8. These are great ideas. We have about 18in our extended family. We have the big meals down. They go smoothly,

  9. Potato and macaroni salad do taste better the next day. I’m looking for a good potato salad recipe. I love it, just not the way I make it. It’s also nice if guests chip in by bringing a side dish, burger buns. Just something to help out.

  10. Linda Manns Linneman says:

    Planning the menu and fixing things ahead of time is the key thing for me. I need to not do everything at the last minute. I miss out on some of the fun

  11. terry myers says:

    Make a list get your supplies cook ahead good ideas

  12. I love cooking outdoors in the fire pit. We take an empty can and put in a potato stuffed with cheese and bacon bits. Of course it’s foil wrapped. Then we just toss it in the fire and let it cook.

  13. Linda Manns Linneman says:

    I love having large cook outs. You have some great suggestions on your menu. Thank you for sharing

  14. this list is perfect for parties and get togethers too

  15. Note to self, do not read about food when you are starving.

  16. Linda Manns Linneman says:

    Large picnics with family and friends is something we really enjoy. I love all of your great suggestions. These will really help us for future get togethers.

  17. These are all excellent suggestions. There’s so much to do before and during. Often, the host is so busy they can’t enjoy themselves. That’s the point of a get together. To relax and have fun.

  18. I’d love to have a big cookout, but with both sides of my husband’s family having lakehouses, we will probably never have the chance to host one!

  19. Wonderful tips!

  20. Linda Manns Linneman says:

    Macoroni salad and potato salad sound so good right now. Thank you so much for sharing

  21. We cook out year round, no matter what the weather is like. There’s just something about the taste of food prepared on the grill. It’s better than frying or baking.

  22. There’s a lot to do when planning a large cookout, this list is very helpful. Thank you for sharing this post.

  23. Lists are smart way to keep organized and not overwhelm yourself. It can be very satisfying crossing things off the list too :)

  24. Linda Manns Linneman says:

    I really enjoy having alot of people over for a cookout. These great tips on what you can make ahead of time really helps. Thank you for sharing

  25. Another thing to remember is to keep the food properly chilled. I recently had food poisoning. I honestly felt like I was going to die, I was so sick.

  26. Thanks for all your great tips. You sound very detailed and organized, which is wonderful. I am an event planner, so my brain works the same way. I use and love organized detailed lists. Thanks again for sharing.

  27. Hard thinking of a cook out now, it snowing out. But sounds wonderful right now.

    Diana C

  28. Linda Manns Linneman says:

    Your menu for your BBQ party sounds great. I will be making some of these things for my next party. Thank you for sharing

  29. A cook out is always fun. Once a year they close off the street and have a big block party cookout.

  30. margaret peg m says:

    hi, i have 5 grown children now, 2 sons-in-law, 1 daughter-in-law, a husband and 3 grandchildren. all of our cookouts are large, what super tips to help me out!

  31. Betty B. says:

    Great tips! Especially the Make a Detail Cooking List I usually run into issues with food not coming out at once i think making a cooking list would help me better plan!

  32. Diana C says:

    Just looking at this prep list, makes me want to get a cookout together.

    Diana C

  33. Linda Manns Linneman says:

    I love cook outs. It is so much fun to spend time sharing and eating good food. Thank you so much for sharing

  34. Great advice and very helpful especially now that the weather is getting warmer and we are able to eat outside!


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