I grew up spending my summers by the sea, and every year the highlight of summer (aside from swimming and sidewalk lemonade stands) was my family’s annual beach cookout. Usually timed with a fuller-sized moon and low tide, these get-togethers would bring together friends and family for a delicious meal cooked on site. And even if the sand made its way into our salad or grilled corn, it didn’t matter — everything always seemed to taste better in the salty, moist sea air.
With proper planning and equipment, hosting a beach cookout of your own is quite easy. Here are some tips and advice to get you started:
When and Where Matters
When you’re entertaining by the water, it’s important to choose a site that will be dry and navigable once the sun goes down — and where you can start a fire (or use a grill already in place).
• Don’t choose a public beach where fires are forbidden.
• Consider the tide. My family used to host cookouts alongside a large rock that was smooth and flat (and still warm from the sun) — but only at low tide.
• Consider the wind, as well — as you don’t want your candles and fire to be extinguished before dinner is done.
• Check out the location before your event to find a protected spot to situate the fire, another place to prepare the food (Do you need a table? Will sand blow?), and an area for dining (Will you sit on chairs, rocks, or in the sand?). It will ensure that there are no last-minute surprises.
Keep the Menu Easy
There is no need to pull out all the stops when cooking on the beach. Just use the freshest ingredients you can source then let the magical setting do the rest of the work for you. In my experience, prepping the food in advance (assembling salad ingredients, marinating steaks) leaves us more time for enjoying cocktails and dinner. Traditional picnic foods like bean and rice salads are great for beach cookouts as you can make them the day before and serve them at room temperature. Nothing beats corn grilled in its husk over the fire (adding cheese and curry is optional), especially in summer. And stick with proteins that you can pack in a plastic bag (and not crush) and grill over a flame. Burger patties, no matter how careful you are, always tend to get smushed. But hot dogs and sausages, chicken breasts and steaks are great. S'mores are a must for dessert — try making them with brownies and cookies instead of grahams, too.