14 Upgrades for Your Favorite Summer Cookout Classics

Summer is the best season to spend time outdoors. Sure, it can get a little hot, but the best part of an afternoon by the pool is getting to enjoy a summer cookout. Barbecues have existed since before summer break, but they didn’t turn social until the early 1920s when politicians would use them for campaign events.

The backyard barbecue, as we know it today, had its start in the post-World War II era, when the patio grill came onto the scene. From then on, Americans have used their backyards to grill different foods and enjoy the company of friends, family and neighbors. Here are some ways to upgrade the summertime classics!



The hamburger is quintessential to the American BBQ experience. While you’ve probably been using the same recipe your Dad passed on to you, sometimes, you just want to try something new. Here are some ideas to take your classic hamburger to the next level.

Create a sauce

Get inventive with your hamburger sauce by finding ways to incorporate condiments and spices into a delicious sauce. You can even create your own herb mayo, mixing in soft herbs such as parsley, tarragon and basil to create a new twist on a classic.

Make sure you protect your clothes from getting splashed as you mix the condiments by wearing a fun personalized apron!

Try a new meat

Not everyone can eat beef, so consider some alternative burger options, such as veggie burgers, ground chicken burgers or even lamb burgers. It’s important to remain respectful of others’ dietary needs when hosting a backyard barbecue, so to ensure your burger alternatives hit the mark, try them out with the family at home before serving them to guests.

Build the burger right

Most people don’t think about how the burger is layered. Make sure you place the sauce on the bottom bun, then lettuce and then the meat. By having the lettuce between the bun and the meat, it prevents the bun from getting soggy.

Use different cheeses

Pick pepper jack if you want a kick, mozzarella if you want stringy or even feta if you’re doing a twist on a lamb Greek burger. Cover the sizzling burgers on the grill with a lid to make sure the cheese melts evenly and around the meat, ensuring every bite is filled with cheesy goodness!

hot dogs

Hot dogs

The hot dog has been a favorite of kids and adults for decades. Their simplicity makes them super easy to upgrade — go big or go home with these ideas! Plate any of them on a unique personalized cutting board for your guests to admire for an extra special touch.

Mac ‘n’ cheese dog

Make a bowl of mac and cheese the way you like and then top your hot dog with it! It’s a unique twist on the classic cheese dog. Plus, it combines two of everyone’s favorite barbecue foods!

Nacho dogs

Cover your hot dog with melted queso, salsa, a dollop of sour cream and chopped jalapenos. Don’t forget to crunch up some tortilla chips to add some crunch and garnish! The kids will go crazy for them.

Tropical hot dog

If you’re hosting a luau-themed BBQ, a tropical hot dog is the way to go. Grill up some pineapple, make some sweet teriyaki mayo and then, add some sliced red onions to make it a full Hawaiian experience. Bonus points if you boil some chicken, shred it and mix in some BBQ sauce with it!

deviled eggs

Other upgrades

You can also upgrade other classic barbecue foods. Here are some ideas!

  • Spicy deviled eggs: Switch up your deviled egg game by using buffalo sauce and blue cheese in your deviled egg filling. It’ll definitely kick up the heat in your backyard party!
  • Avocado deviled eggs: Make your deviled egg filling creamy and cool this summer by incorporating avocado and lemon juice. You’ll love how soft and light it feels when you bite into it–perfect for summer!
  • Greek potato salad: Even if your Aunt typically brings the potato salad, try out a different version this summer! Consider making something like a Greek potato salad, which uses lemon juice and olive oil to turn the potato salad into a whole different experience.
  • Serbian coleslaw: Keep the European vibes going by using a Serbian coleslaw instead of a dairy-based slaw. Since it doesn’t use mayo or cream, you run less of a risk of the slaw going bad in the heat.


summer cookout cocktails


Since it’s typically very warm out during barbecue season, you’ll want to make sure your drink selection is supreme. Encourage your guests to hydrate using water, but don’t be afraid to serve some cocktails or smoothies as part of your summer cookout!

Make sure you serve them in a pitcher or beverage server so you don’t have to man the drink table all night. Also, try to avoid using glasses to minimize the risk of having to clean up broken glass. Instead, use durable, clear plastic cups.

  • Sea breeze: A classic, blend together grapefruit and cranberry juices with vodka. Add a dish of sliced oranges or grapefruits for guests to use as a garnish on their cups or let steep in their drink.
  • Rum screwdriver: While traditional screwdrivers are made with vodka and orange juice, upgrade it by using rum in place of the vodka. Consider using a flavored rum, such as coconut or mango. You could even add ice and blend it all together for a different texture.
  • White sangria: Use peaches, plums and strawberries (all perfect summer fruits) to create a white sangria. Consider using a sweeter white wine, such as moscato, and blending it all together with ice to make a sweet, fun and unique frozen beverage.

Grill it up a notch for your summer cookout

Take your summer cookout to the next level by upgrading your burgers, hot dogs, side dishes and even your drinks! Your outdoor party will be the talk of the neighborhood for the rest of the summer — and it’s sure to be tough to beat for the rest of the season.

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Ashley PetersonAshley Peterson is the Director of Marketing at GiftsForYouNow. Her favorite part of the job is connecting others with sentimental and personalized gifts that foster lifelong memories. Ashley is also a mother of two and enjoys spending time with her family and exploring the outdoors.

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