5 Best Summer Side Dishes for Cookouts


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Schools, grills and the sun are all out when the summertime comes. The blazing sun and hot temperatures make a perfect time to have a pool party and fire up the grill. Hamburgers, ribs and steak are the stars of the show, but the side dishes can take your barbecue to the next level. Try some of these five best summer side dishes for cookouts.

1. Mexican Street Corn

Mexican street corn, which some people call elote, is a popular dish in Latin American culture and tastes great at a cookout. You can grill the corn next to your meats to get that great char. Try grilling the corn while still in the husk to protect the kernels from burning and keep the corn moist. 

What makes Mexican street corn taste great are the toppings. Stir together a bowl with mayo, cayenne pepper, garlic and cilantro. Dip your corn in this mixture, roll it around in cotija cheese and then top with your favorite spices. This dish will be a favorite among corn lovers. After all, it’s corn, a big lump with knobs.

2. Smoked Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is a classic comfort dish you can enjoy year-round, and it’s among the best summer side dishes for cookouts. You can make it on the stovetop, in the oven or cook it in your smoker. 

Start by making a roux from hot melted butter and flour, then slowly pour in half and half while whisking. Continue stirring and add freshly shredded cheese into the pot, making a creamy cheese sauce. Pour the sauce over boiled macaroni noodles and mix it all. Now, you’re ready for the smoker.

Set your smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit and use a hardwood like applewood, so it will not overwhelm the food. Top the macaroni with melted butter, barbecue rub and bread crumbs and put it in the smoker with the lid closed for about an hour. This dish will wow your guests and leave them wanting seconds.

3. Smoked Baked Beans

Another cookout classic you can throw in the smoker is baked beans. This sweet and savory side dish is notorious for its tangy barbecue flavor and soft texture from the beans. Once you smoke these baked beans, you’ll want to have them this way every time.

Start by cooking bacon in a cast iron skillet, and then cook onions and jalapeños in the bacon fat. Pour all of your beans with the onions and jalapeños, and then add spicy mustard, molasses, brown sugar, barbecue sauce and apple cider vinegar. All these flavors come together for a sweet and savory burst of flavor. Mix it and smoke it for about three hours at 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

4. Baked Potatoes

If you’re grilling steaks, what could go better with your ribeye than a baked potato? Cooking baked potatoes makes delicious summer side dishes for cookouts without needing a lot of effort. To get a basic baked potato, all you need to do is prick the potatoes with a fork and bake them wrapped in foil for an hour. If you want to go a step further, try twice-baked loaded potatoes for amazing flavors.

Once the potatoes are finished cooking, cut a slit in the top and scoop out the potato filling. Add butter, green onion, bacon bits, shredded cheese, salt and pepper and then mix. Scoop the filling back into the potatoes and bake for a few more minutes to melt the cheese. Loaded baked potatoes have a high count of carbohydrates, calories and protein, making them an ideal food if you’re trying to build muscle by bulking.

5. Grilled Watermelon

Grilled watermelon may seem taboo, but don’t knock it until you try it. Cooking watermelon with this method enhances the fruit’s flavors and adds a smoky taste. Grilling will caramelize the sugar, and the melon will be chewier because the heat changes the texture. 

To grill watermelon, start by cutting the fruit into wedges that are more than 1 inch thick. Adding a mixture of salt, sugar and lime to the wedges will combine for a fantastic flavor. Once your grill is hot, cook the watermelon pieces for about two to three minutes per side until you see grill marks. Squeeze lime and sprinkle with cilantro to make a sweet and savory treat for your cookout.

Steal the Show With Sides

Cookouts are an essential part of the summertime fun. The kids are having fun in the pool, others are sunbathing on a beach chair, and you have your chef hat on while operating the grill and kitchen. Pair your entrees with these five best summer side dishes for cookouts.

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