summer cookout

8 Tips to Have a Summer Cookout While Social Distancing

Social distancing is changing the way we approach our fun in the sun. While some may decide to limit their summer activities to their household only, others are missing friends enough to give things a try. Have you thought about having a summer cookout complete with social distancing? These suggestions might help make it possible.

1. Deal with the germs

At the heart of social distancing is the concern about spreading germs. If you’re hosting a socially-distanced summer cookout, they should be your primary concern, too. “Simply passing another human being is a low-risk situation, but things get tricky when you’re in a crowd,” writes Maggie Fuller from AFAR.

While you’re not asking a huge crowd of people over, having a few friends for a backyard BBQ means disinfecting first. You’ll want to clean any surface a guest may touch, including handrails, doorknobs and patio furniture. It’s also a good idea to keep a big bottle of hand sanitizer in a central backyard location for everyone to use.

sitting in chairs

2. Seating in sections

To make it obvious to guests you’re serious about social distancing, set up seating in advance. Create pods for households to sit in that keep them an appropriate distance from others.

Ask guests to hang in their seating area as much as possible to ensure everyone stays apart. You’ll have to talk a little louder, but it’s worth it to get some time connecting, in person, with each other.


Not enough chairs? No problem. Ask people to bring their own. Mark off distinct seating areas to avoid confusion when your guests arrive. They should know where they can safely set up their own seats. Don’t forget to remind everyone to take their own chairs back home with them when they’re packing up.


The hardest part of a summer cookout to work into social distancing rules is the grill. It’s a natural communal space, whether you’re sharing it with other residents in an apartment or not. It’s natural to congregate around the grill while burgers and dogs are cooking, but we now have to resist the urge.

The best way to do that is to ask cookout guests to bring their own prepared food to your gathering. Keep the grill cold this one time, but don’t lose that summer cookout feeling. Guests can bring their favorite outdoor foods to enjoy while staying apart from you, and nobody will feel tempted to hang at the grill.

beer in cooler

5. Single serve

If asking people to bring their own food makes you feel like you’re not really hosting the summer cookout, offer to supply the drinks. Packing single-serve cans and bottles into a few coolers will work, as long as people grab one and then walk away.

Either leave the cooler lids open or ask people to flip the lid with their foot to keep germs down to a minimum. You should also wipe down the cooler every so often.

6. Limited contact games

Having a summer cookout is about more than just the food. Many summer games naturally lend themselves to social distancing, if you have the room to play them. As long as people are able to sanitize the accessories they’re using, why not take part in a friendly game of:

  • Badminton
  • Disc golf
  • Bocce ball
  • Cornhole

Activities like these make it easy for people to even bring their own racket, disc, ball or beanbags. Making sure everyone has a different color or labeling their items means less contact with others’ germs, as well.

7. Take the backyard cookout to the front yard

Not everyone has access to green space in front of their home, but if you do, now is the time to use it. If you want to include neighbors in your summer cookout, consider asking everyone to head to their front yards.

If every house hosts their own family summer cookout out front, the whole neighborhood can participate. If you’re in an apartment complex, volunteer to mark off sections for people to use as their own “yard.” Staying in your own space makes social distancing easy to remember, and with a little yelling, you can still enjoy the company of others.

This is also a great strategy if you’re including kids in your cookout. It’s harder for them to naturally stay socially distant, but with specific boundaries, they’ll stay safer.

virtual cookout

8. Have a virtual cook out

When the outdoor space you have won’t work with social distancing, don’t give up on your summer cookout. Take it virtual. This even allows you to invite out-of-state friends.

Host a complete meal, with apps and drinks, grilled meats and dessert. Add an additional element by asking your guests to share a recipe for one of the items they cook. This transforms your virtual cookout into a virtual potluck as well. You can still connect with friends in a summer-centric activity even if it’s online.

We can still have fun at a summer cookout

Social distancing during the summer will challenge even the most diligent person. We all love coming together in the warm weather, and thankfully, it’s not impossible to do all the fun activities we associate with summer. You can even host a cookout, in one form or another, and pay attention to the health of others.


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