The pandemic has taken it’s toll on all of us but COVID cases are dropping significantly and restrictions have eased up, so many folks are awaiting the warmer weather to get outside and enjoy the sun!  We know that being outdoors is the safest way today to spend time with others and we feel that one of the best ways to get together with friends is by throwing a backyard cookout!

Gatherings During Covid

According to the CDC (as of the time this was posted), it’s fine to host or attend both small gatherings but there are certain precautions that you should take. In general, if you’re having a gathering with people who don’t live in the same household as you, it’s recommended that you stay outside and at least 6 feet away from each other, although it’s no longer suggested that you wear a mask.

The area you live in might have a different level of risks than other areas nearby so that’s something to keep in mind. There are different restrictions for each community so we recommend checking the CDC’s County Check tool to see what prevention steps you should take for your area. 

Food Ideas for a Backyard Cookout

First things first, make sure you buy enough food ahead of time for everyone coming to your cookout. The Food Network says that each adult will eat about 1 pound of food and each child will eat about a half pound. The more sides you have, the more calculations you’ll need to make, but if you plan on having a buffet style cookout, you can decrease the main course sizes by 1-2 ounces.

Food for the Grill

You can’t go wrong with burgers, hotdogs, and brats but you might also consider steaks, chicken breasts, and kebabs. And don’t forget the buns!

There are so many ways to cook burgers and hotdogs that you shouldn’t let your cooking source be a roadblock to a great party: any type of grill will work (propane, charcoal, wood-fired, flat). You can even use a George Foreman-style grill if that’s what you have. You can make burgers on a pan or in the oven too. And you can even find videos on YouTube showing how to make BBQ food in an air fryer or instant pot (pro tip: ribs are super easy to make in the instant pot and taste amazing)

For ease, especially for larger gatherings, you can pick up a box of frozen patties – beef, buffalo, or vegan. But if you take your burgers seriously, learn how to make a proper burger.

Check out the following video from George Motz, a literal burger expert. He directed Hamburger America, founded the Food Film Festival, and hosted Burger Land on the Travel Channel.

And if you watched the video above, you’ll have also learned about one of our state favorites from Sheboygan, Wisconsin, the Bratwurst Burger.

If you want to spice up your hotdogs, consider the famous Chicago-style hot dog. Top an all-beef dog with mustard, white onions, sweet relish, tomato slices, a dill pickle spear, hot pickled peppers (like pepperoncini), and sprinkled with celery salt. That’s the traditional way of making them but if you’re willing to commit sacrilege, people have been known to also add or replace toppings with lettuce, fries, cheese sauce, or sriracha (or any hot sauce).

Looking for more grilling recipes? Taste of Home has 100 of them here!

Side Dishes & Appetizers

There are so many foods to pick from when it comes to sides. 

  • Pasta salad
  • Macaroni salad
  • Potato salad
  • Fruit salad
  • Veggie trays
  • Coleslaw
  • Corn
  • Watermelon
  • Fresh fruit
  • French fries
  • Cupcakes
  • Cookies
  • Ice cream
  • Chips and dip (salsa, cheese dip, guacamole)

Condiments and Toppings

This depends on the food you plan to make but the most common ingredients you’ll likely need are:

  • Ketchup
  • Mustard 
  • Mayonnaise
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Relish
  • Tomatoes
  • Lettuce
  • Onions
  • Pickles
  • Cheese

You’ll be totally fine with the toppings above but if you’re looking for more, consider bacon and jalapeños for the burgers and sauerkraut for the bratwurst. Also something to keep in mind is that horseradish mustard, spicy mustard, and beer mustard taste great on brats.

For sliced cheese, American is a standard on both hamburgers and chicken burgers because it tastes good and also melts so well but some people also like a little variety. In this case, you can add some cheddar, monterey jack, or pepper jack cheese. 

Drinks

There are many common drinks to pick from. For the non-alcohol drinkers, fill some pitchers with lemon-water, lemonade, tea, or Kool-Aid. You can stock a cooler with bottled water, sports drinks, soda, and juice boxes.

Beer is always a good option for the adults. If you’re a craft beer drinker, feel free to toss a variety of craft brews into the cooler but remember that not everyone likes craft beer. Instead, the common stuff you see in the liquor store will usually go over well, like Budweiser, Coors, Heineken, Stella Artois, Miller Light, and Dos Equis. Still not sure what to get? Check out this list of the most popular beers in every state and find yours.

Playing it Safe? Try a Virtual BBQ!

Backyard cookouts can be enjoyable even when limited to quarantine companions — or, if you live alone, a party of one. Additional participants, however, grant it a more festive feel. Hence, the value of taking on a virtual approach, in which loved ones join you from afar. This can occur via videoconferencing apps like Zoom or Google Meet. We’ve even had customers order life-size cutouts of friends and family to bring out during small gatherings.

Over the course of your virtual backyard barbecue, you can connect with fellow attendees to share grilling tips, progress pictures, or stories from the good old days of large in-person summer cookouts.

Build a playlist in advance so that, regardless of their physical location, all participants can groove out to the same songs. Here’s a great YouTube playlist of the best summer party jams that everyone can dance to.

Fun Backyard Cookout Ideas For Social Distancing

Whether experienced online or in-person, your cookout doesn’t need to feel like a lesser version of the traditional BBQ. A few creative tweaks can elevate the experience to make it just as enjoyable as your typical backyard gathering.

Pretend You’re Camping

If you desperately miss travel, you’re far from alone. Even a basic camping trip may seem like paradise compared to the confines of your home. Until you’re ready to hit the road, however, you can find unique ways to bring that sense of vacation into your typical surroundings. Feel free to pitch a tent in your backyard and enjoy all the traditions associated with your favorite campground.

Look to popular YouTuber Gideons Tactical for inspiration. He has committed to bringing the best of camping to backyards throughout the nation. In the especially informative — and entertaining — video below, he highlights all the essentials for a backyard breakfast cookout. From building a fire to whipping up scrambled eggs, this video will motivate you to make camping memories without leaving your home.

Bring the Joy of BBQ to Your Community

Acts of kindness are more important than ever in the midst of coronavirus-induced anxiety. Why not share the love in the form of a communal meal? This is the perfect solution if you’re proud of your BBQ recipes but unable to let loved ones sample your culinary creations in person. Instead, get your neighbors in on the action by cooking up your favorite dishes and distributing them throughout your community.

Take the Cookout to Your Front Yard

Patios, decks, and backyards have traditionally dominated the cookout experience, but quarantine calls for a shakeup of such long-held traditions. Why not move the fun to your front porch or yard? There, you can interact with drivers and pedestrians as they pass your home. A front yard cookout will instantly grant your BBQ a more social feel.

Better yet, encourage your neighbors to take part in their own front yard cookouts. If preferred, every household can supply their own meals. Think about organizing a socially distanced potluck, in which each participant contributes a specific entree, side, beverage, or dessert.

Add Cardboard Cutouts to the Mix

Virtual meetings and appropriately distanced neighbors can turn your COVID-era cookout into a social function, but these occasions make it difficult to stage photo ops. Thankfully, a great workaround exists: cardboard cutouts!

Before your next event, create cutouts depicting the close friends or family members you would typically invite. When the big day arrives, set up the cutouts to create the perfect picture of your gathering. When cardboard is involved, there’s no need to maintain a distance of six feet.

Cardboard cutout joins BBQ.

For a hilarious take on this concept, don’t hesitate to include cardboard attendees who would, under ordinary circumstances, never bother to stop by your BBQ. For example, you can combine celebrity musician cutouts with the aforementioned summer jam playlist to create an unforgettable backyard concert.

Experience Cookout Bliss With Cardboard Cutout Standees

Ready to level up your backyard cookout? Cardboard Cutout Standees can make it a memorable event. Contact us today to learn more about our custom BigHead and life-sized cutouts — and how they can be integrated into your backyard BBQ, virtual cookout, or a variety of occasions.