Worst foods to serve at a cookout - pasta salad, potato salad and more
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Foods You Should Never Serve at a Cookout

Warm mayo just isn’t it
Worst foods to serve at a cookout - pasta salad, potato salad and more
David Bishop Inc. / Photodisc / Getty

It’s easy to know the best foods to bring to a party, especially a barbecue. No summertime cookout would be complete without cheeseburgers, pie, grilled corn and other well-known classics. It can, however, be harder to pin down the dishes that you should not bring to a cookout. Certain dishes like deviled eggs and mayonnaise-based salads, as well as bottles of beer, sound like summertime staples — but they don’t mix well with sunny outdoor gatherings. So if you want to avoid the possibility of melted treats and food poisoning, try your best to avoid serving these items at your next cookout.

Canned foods

Canned foods
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There are tons of great dishes you can make from canned food that work well for summer, such as corn salsa and cherry pie. But avoid working with canned meats for your cookouts this summer. Although SPAM and canned tuna or salmon are great for fast weekday lunches, they don’t hold up so well after baking in the hot sun. 

Cheese plate

Cheese plate
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Knowing how to assemble the perfect charcuterie platter with meats and cheeses is a great skill, but save the cheese for a dinner party or picnic where it will be eaten quickly out of the cooler. Dairy and the sun are not friends. That blue cheese that was so creamy and flavorful when you bought it will be a stinky mess after an hour in the sun.

Chocolate

Chocolate
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Chocolate melts in the sun, so its time at a cookout will be limited. Don’t waste your money picking up truffles and bonbons from your favorite chocolate shop; instead, try fruit salad or a fruit pie like cherry or blueberry. Save the chocolates for the holiday season.

Dark and heavily carbonated beer

Dark and carbonated beer
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Stouts and porters are great, but these heavy, dark beers can be a little too much in the summer. Dark beer pairs well with rich desserts because of its bitter taste and chocolate notes, but it’s a combination that doesn’t lend itself well to outdoor gatherings. Dark beers aren’t the only issue; heavily carbonated beers tend to fill you up faster, leaving less room in your stomach for all your favorite grilled foods. Read up on the different types of beers, then opt for a light lager or ale.

Deviled eggs

Deviled eggs
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Deviled eggs are one of those retro appetizers that have withstood the test of time, and they’re a great hors d’oeuvre to make or bring to most parties. But the egg yolk-and-mayonnaise-based filling inside a perfectly hard-boiled egg can spoil quickly, so save all of those amazing egg recipes for an indoor occasion.

Drinks in glass bottles

Drinks in glass bottles
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If your cookout takes place in the park, at the beach or by the local pool, having beer, wine and soda in glass bottles can not only be hazardous for bare feet and pets, but it’s also probably a violation of local rules and regulations. Make sure you know what’s allowed and keep your drinks in cans or plastic cups.

Elaborate desserts

Elaborate desserts
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While an impressive and decadent dessert is the perfect thing for a holiday or birthday party, that baked Alaska doesn’t travel well. If you’re on sweets duty, opt for grilled fruit or a simple dessert that requires few ingredients.

Flavored chips only

Flavored chips only
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Sour cream and onion chips are popular, and barbecue chips pair wonderfully with burgers and sausages. But not everyone loves salt-and-vinegar chips or that funky new flavor you spotted at the grocery store. Make sure you bring a variety of chips, including a plain option so you can dip them in a mix of summer dips and salsas.

Fried food

Fried food
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Burgers and french fries are an iconic fast food duo that’s easy to recreate at home, but that doesn’t mean a fresh batch of deep-fried potatoes will work in the yard. When french fries and other fried foods sit outside on the buffet table, they can get cold and soggy fast. Instead, try serving baked beans and grilled corn as sides.

Frosted desserts

Frosted desserts
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Cakes piled with buttermilk icing and cookies with whipped cream sandwiched between them are delightful, but in the summer, those dairy-based toppings will melt in the midday sun. Consider some no-bake treats instead and keep them indoors until you’re ready to serve.

Green salad

Green salad
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Although salads are an easy-to-make, light side dish to serve during the summer, forego the green salad at your next cookout. The lettuce will wilt in the heat and the dressing may spoil before any guest can take a bite. Instead, serve some vegetarian-friendly dishes like grilled veggies or opt for a salad recipe that omits the lettuce.

Hot drinks

Hot drinks
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An ice-cold beer or a beautiful frozen mocktail on a hot summer day is refreshing and crisp. Warm beer and soda that have been sitting in the sun are less than ideal. If you’re serving drinks, be sure to keep them in a cooler and avoid hot chocolate or hot coffee.

Ice cream

Ice cream
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While no summer is complete without ice cream, it may not be the best thing to serve at your cookout. Consider the facts: summer is hot and ice cream is cold. And unless you’re keeping your sundae bar indoors, chances are your sweet treat will be a soupy mess before your first guest gets to take a bite.

Mayo-based salads

Salads
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If your macaroni or potato salad happens to be mayonnaise-based, consider serving it in the fall at your next tailgate; it will not sit well and could even collect bacteria in warm conditions. Mayonnaise is acidic enough to keep foods from spoiling, but adding low-acid potatoes or pasta into the mix cancels that out. Consider serving a vinegar-based potato salad instead.

Meat smothered in sauce

Meat smothered in sauce
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The idea of a small backyard cookout may bring on images of delicious barbecued ribs or a nice piece of grilled chicken with barbecue sauce. Still, these foods can get messy fast and no one likes to carry on a conversation with someone whose face is covered in sauce. Consider some easy grilling recipes sans sauce, like Greek-marinated steak or herb-rubbed ribs.

Soup

Soup
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Soup is hot and hard to eat when you’re standing around talking with friends and family. Save all those scrumptious soup and stew recipes for indoor weeknight dinners instead. Even a cold soup like gazpacho is tricky to eat while holding a beer or chasing the kids around.

Sushi

Sushi
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Even if you’re getting it from the best sushi restaurant in your state, sushi is one of the absolute worst foods you can bring to a barbecue because it needs to be eaten quickly, and served cold and fresh. That makes it less than optimal for summer soirees.

Unseasoned food

Unseasoned food
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Serving a dry, bland piece of meat is one of the top mistakes people make when grilling chicken or other types of protein. Be sure to use your salt, pepper and garlic powder or opt for a flavorful marinade before tossing your meat onto the grill.

Dairy-based dips

Dairy-based dips
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Spinach and artichoke dip, cheese dip and French onion dip are perfect for game days spent indoors, but when it comes to a cookout, these dairy-based creations are a non-starter. Dipping a chip into a warm, creamy dip just doesn’t hit the spot like a fresh tomato salsa or black bean dip.

Plain buns

Plain buns
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If you’re cooking burgers and hot dogs, you’ll need buns in order to serve them properly. But serving plain buns straight from a plastic bag can downgrade even the best burger recipes. Spring for a potato roll or bakery bun with sesame seeds, then throw them on the grill to toast and you’ll have bread that’s fit for some of the best sandwich creations around.

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