Summer is the best season for dinner parties. I’m sure plenty of you (especially those who love Thanksgiving) are eager to disagree, but hear me out: Summer parties can happen outside, or at least spill out onto the deck, yard, or fire escape if space is tight.
Summer party recipes are also so much more low-key—hanging out next to a grill, beer in hand, talking to your friends is way better than standing over a stove alone in the kitchen. Oh, and summer cocktails are definitely more fun than cocktails from any other season.
Now that we’re on the same page, let’s talk about the necessary qualifications of any summer party recipe.
First of all, it should be a big-batch recipes that feeds at least eight people, maybe more. Second, it should be something that you can prepare mostly outside—whether on the grill, in a smoker, or in an outdoor fryer. The caveat here is that a grill can also act like an oven, so you can use it to roast big cuts of meat (always a crowd-pleaser), as well to grill things like burgers and dogs. Third, it should be something that goes well with fresh summer sides like slaw, potato salad, and cornbread.
Finally—and this goes for all dinner party recipes, no matter what time of year—it should be a recipe that you’ve either cooked before, can make ahead of time, or is easy enough that you know you can pull it off even when you’re distracted by friends and drinks and everything that comes with hosting.
To help inspire your next summer shindig, these 13 party recipes are all super impressive and perfect for a summer crowd. Some of them are a little bit more involved, but most are easy enough for beginner cooks. Pick one, then invite the neighborhood over and wow ’em.