Graduation Party Cookout Ideas

by Barbara Dunlap

Most people graduate in May or June when the weather is quite nice, so a cookout is a great idea for a graduation party. But don't just serve hot dogs and hamburgers--think of fun, creative fare to fete the guest of honor. The menu can consist of delicious summer foods with an emphasis on barbecue, or it can reflect a party theme, whether it's Hawaiian, Italian, Western or anything in between.

Beyond Burgers

If you're really wedded to hamburgers and hot dogs, dress them up to become something special. Turn the hot dogs into chili dogs and sprinkle on grated cheese and chopped onions. Change an ordinary hamburger into a gourmet treat by going beyond lettuce, pickles and tomatoes. Offer the choice of elegant add-ons such as avocado, bacon and blue cheese.

On Point

Barbecue food on skewers--they're fun and festive, and you can serve a wide variety for all your guests. Meat eaters can have chunks of beef plus several veggies, and you can substitute pieces of chicken for those who don't eat red meat. You can offer vegetarians a treat by skewering things like eggplant, squash, tomatoes, peppers and marinated tofu. If the graduate is partial to certain types of vegetables, be sure to include them. Serve a couple of kinds of rice, and you're all set for dinner.

Theme Parties

A cookout is a perfect way to make varied foods that complement your party theme. For a Hawaiian or tropical affair, grill fish or chicken and serve it with fried or white rice. Add fresh fruits on the side, such as pineapple, mango, strawberries and coconut. To create a Mexican theme, grill flank steak for fajitas, or skirt steak for carne asada. Serve with fresh tortillas, beans and rice. If you don't have a theme in mind, you can create a unique one: Barbecue the foods the guest of honor likes best.

Away From Home

If the graduation cookout is in a park or at the beach, you can still produce a great grilled meal. Just do your prep work ahead of time (things like chopping and skewering), and carry the food in covered containers. But don't forget your cooler and cold packs--you have to keep the chicken and meat cold until you cook them.

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About the Author

Barbara Dunlap is a freelance writer in Oregon. She was a garden editor at "The San Francisco Chronicle" and she currently specializes in travel and active lifestyle topics like golf and fitness. She received a master's degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia and has been a Knight Foundation Fellow.