10 Steps To Becoming A Cookout King

All photos by Anthony Humphreys.
All photos by Anthony Humphreys.

There are more ways to totally own a backyard cookout than refusing to let anyone else man the grill unless they have an apron that says “I’m the chef” on it, which they don’t, because you’re the chef. Get equipped with this list of slightly less annoyingly alpha tips from Thrillist and Levi’s®:

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Grab A Cast Iron Pan
Vegetables and shrimp and whatnot have the annoying trait of not being giant slabs of meat, so they tend to fall between grates only to perish on beds of hot coals. Grabbing that broccolini from that inferno with bare hands? Bad idea. Oiling up a cast iron pan, placing it on the grill and cooking those veggies like a man not about to go to a burn ward? Good idea.

Bring A Light Jacket
If Spring were a professional sports league, its motto would be, “Spring. It’s Unpredictable." A denim Trucker Jacket is perfect for the moment the weather turns cool, and the moment a girl says, “I wish I’d thought to bring a jacket”. The cut also provides enough arm mobility to play QB in an impromptu football game, unless you’re too busy talking to the girl who’s wearing your jacket to bother with sports.

Batch Make Booze-y Drinks
Do up a gallon tub of a summer-y, spirit-heavy drink like a Negroni, pop it in the freezer (it won’t freeze, don’t worry), and take it out when the party starts. Ice-cold, the cocktails won’t dilute as fast, preserving the flavor and removing the need to contaminate your glory with soggy ice from the cooler.

DIY A Smoker
Did the host say “BBQ” when he meant “grill”? Just because he doesn’t know the difference between hot & fast and low & slow doesn’t mean your rack of ribs can’t get the proper treatment. Cook the coals gray, then push them to either side of the grill, and slap a hotel pan or that trusty cast iron filled with water in the valley between. Put the meat right over the pan, slap the top on, and -- bam, you glorious improvising son of a... loving mother and father -- you just built a smoker.

Bring Lobster
A grill party with red meat? Fantastic. A grill party with lobster? Transcendent. Pre-boil that crustacean, de-shell him (or her!), split the tail in half and coat all the eatable meat with a little canola oil plus salt & pepper. Slap Sebastian on the grill for just a few minutes, and watch as everyone who brought turf gets totally jealous of your surf.

Cool Everyone’s Drinks
Be a suds savior by filling a large, well-insulated container with a mix of water and ice, then dump in some salt, followed by your bottles, and stir. The salt cools the ambient temperature (if you want to know why, ask SCIENCE). And just like agitating a martini shaker makes it ice cold, the stirring rapidly chills down the beers.

Wear Dark, Casually Stylish Jeans If You’re Planning On Going Out Later
Things that could get on your jeans at a cookout: charcoal, ash, grease, all the condiments (mustard, ketchup, mayo, relish, that unpronounceable hot sauce that’s so hot right now…), grass, dirt, dog slobber, and possibly cat slobber. Things people will see on your 511s™ at the awesome bar you hang out at: none of the above! The slim fit style’s not too restricting, either -- you can kneel down to grab your expertly tossed cookout horseshoes without shaming your family, and still look, well, slim at said bar.

Blow Away Bugs
You’ve just settled down to eat, but so have the mosquitos. Don’t try candles or even a bug zapper. Just set up a fan to blow over the dining table. Mosquitos can’t push past a breeze of more than 1.5 mph, leaving the malaria-carrying scourges grounded. Plus, everyone’s hair will look majestic.

Make The King of Virgin Drinks
If your people require something refreshingly nonalcoholic, make an Arnold Palmer 2.0. Dump some black tea in a pitcher of cool water and stick it in the fridge for 5-6 hours. Add fresh lemon juice plus lemon syrup (soak the peels of 3-4 lemons in 2.5 cups of sugar of a few hours) and, congrats, you’ve just put a golf legend to shame.

Bring A Small Label Maker
A) It’s hilarious to carry around a small label maker.
B) Label Solo cups with their owners’ names, and no one has to waste time freaking out about whether they got their cup or somebody with a horrible disease they picked up in Newfoundland’s cup. Or… label every cup with your name. That would also be great.

Now that you're a grill king, get tips on surviving a music festival