The Southern Way to Bring Food to a Summer Cookout

Photo: Jennifer Davick
Don’t you dare serve that potato salad out of Tupperware.

Summer cookouts should be fun and laid-back. But as any Southerner knows, laid-back doesn’t mean lazy. Here’s the easy way to transport food to a summer cookout, picnic, barbecue, or potluck that still looks like you made an effort.

Dip

The Other Way: Place the bowl of dip on the table. Open a bag of chips. Is there more to it?
The Southern Way: No one wants to reach into a greasy communal bag of potato chips. Grab that chip and dip bowl from the back of your kitchen cabinet. Or make your own with a medium-sized bowl and large platter. Bring your favorite dip to the cookout in a separate container, transfer to it in the bowl at the party, place the bowl on the platter and surround the bowl with chips. Bonus points if you bring something for dipping in addition to chips, like crudités or baguette slices.

Potato Salad, Pasta Salad, Cole Slaw

The Other Way: Place the Tupperware container with your side dish on the table, and ask the host for a big spoon. Done!
The Southern Way: Whether you’re going homemade or store-bought, don’t serve a side dish out of the container it is traveling in. (Are you sensing a theme here?) Even plain old grocery store potato salad looks more appealing in a pretty Pyrex bowl. Bring your dish to the cookout along with a nice bowl or platter and a serving spoon. (Grab a trivet or potholder if your dish is hot.) Store garnishes like fresh herbs, chopped bacon, or extra cheese in a separate container. Plate your dish at the cookout and top with any garnishes, then put it on the table along with the serving spoon. Your host will thank you for not making her search for one.

WATCH: How to Make Strawberry Pretzel Salad

Deviled Eggs

The Other Way: Are you kidding me? Deviled eggs do not travel well.
The Southern Way: Southerners know how to take deviled eggs on the road. Prepare your favorite deviled egg recipe as usual, but don’t fill the eggs. Place the filling in a plastic ziplock bag and place the halved egg whites in separate container and store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to go to the cookout. Grab a pretty platter, cake stand, or deviled egg tray and a jar of paprika. At the cookout, plate the halved egg whites on a platter, snip off the corner of the ziplock bag, and pipe the filling into the eggs. Sprinkle with paprika, serve, and prepare for compliments.

Beverages

The Other Way: But no one asked me to bring drinks!
The Southern Way: Even if the host doesn't ask, bring a bottle of (chilled) white or rose wine, a six-pack of beer (preferably something good and local, unless your host loves Budweiser), or a big batch homemade lemonade or sweet tea in a portable container. If you’re pressed for time, pick up a two-liter bottle of soda. Extra drinks are a thoughtful move because they always come in handy. Or can be enjoyed by the host later.

Dessert

The Other Way: I'll bring a dessert that travels well, like cookies, brownies, or a sheet cake, duh.
The Southern Way: Cookies, brownies, and sheet cakes are all great choices for a cookout because they travel well and serve a crowd. Bring a pretty platter to serve them, and slice up the cake and brownies so people can serve themselves. If you can easily remove the brownies from the pan (try lining your pan with parchment), plate them on a platter too. Or, bring a summery dessert that guests can assemble themselves, like strawberry shortcakes. The biscuits, macerated berries, and whipped cream can be brought to the party in separate containers.

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