If there’s one way to guarantee you’ll see me this summer, it’s inviting me to a cookout. Cookouts are quite possibly the most perfect event I can imagine: warm summer days, the great outdoors, food and alcohol??? I’m f***ing there! Sunshine and fresh air are always great, but those last two are especially key. And since your cookout may or may not be located near a kitchen with a functioning refrigerator—I’m talking beach cookouts, park cookouts, camp cookouts—you need to learn how to stock a cooler and, more importantly, what to stock a cooler with for a cookout. I recently purchased my very own cooler (proud cooler owner!), so let me be your guide.
- Hebrew National Beef Franks
I’d rather show up in a sling bikini straight out of Borat than arrive at any cookout without hot dogs in my cooler. In Sporked’s pursuit to find the best hot dog, Hebrew National Beef Franks came out on top. They have it all: they’re salty, meaty, and just girthy enough to get the job done (contributing writer Danny Palumbo said it first, don’t blame me!). They’re grill ready and everyone will love them. They’re the best hot dogs to have in your cookout cooler. We swear!
Related: The 8 Best Hot Dogs You Can Buy
- Bar-S Cheddar Hot Links
I was a picky eater growing up, so the first time I grabbed a cheddar dog from the rollers at the gas station, I was distraught. The moment I bit into it, though, my life was changed for the better. I became a man in an instant! If hot dogs feel to ordinary for the cookout in question, grab these Bar-S Cheddar Hot Links for your cooler. They have a snap that a 7-Eleven roller dog could never achieve, a natural heat that can warm you up even if it’s raining, and a heavy serving of cheddar in each bite to mellow out that heat. I’m stocking a cooler, my fridge, and my emergency kit with these!
- Marketside Spinach & Artichoke Dip
Items that are ready to eat straight from the container are lifesavers when it comes to stocking a cooler for a cookout. They lessen the mess, add great flavor without any fuss, and cut down the prep time so you can get out and enjoy the sunshine (and beer). Marketside Spinach & Artichoke Dip is probably better than anything you’d make from scratch anyway. It’s seriously cheesy (besides cream cheese it’s made with mozzarella, parmesan, and asiago) and gets great tang from chunks of artichoke. Cooler space is precious and it can be hard to decide what to stock a cooler with for a cookout, but if you’re bringing tortilla chips, this dip is just so much more special than a jar of salsa.
- Dietz & Watson Kosher Pickle Spears
Yes, Dietz & Watson Kosher Pickle Spears were the best dill pickles we tested, but they’re also going in the cooler for the cookout because they’re crunchy, flavorful, and briny without being too salty. You’re already sweating in the sun—you don’t need any more salt to dry you out! You can add them to your hot dog (the start of a Chicago dog), wrap them in a layer of cream cheese and ham (you thought I’d leave the Midwest out of this one?!), or just eat them straight out of the tub. These are perfect for the cooler because they come in a plastic container rather than a glass jar.
- Simply Spiked Signature Lemonade
Some people can slam back beers under the intense rays of a bright summer sun. Alas, I am not one of them. I’m dedicating at least half of the space in my cookout cooler to Simply Spiked Signature Lemonade. It’s light, refreshing, and it’ll give you a buzz, too. This screams summer, and so will I when I grab a couple out of the cooler, stumble up onto a picnic table, rip my shirt off, and scream it at the top of my lungs!
- Simpler Times Lager
As I’ve said, I don’t love beer, but I suppose I can be accommodating to those with tastes that differ from mine. Trader Joe’s Simpler Times Lager comes canned rather than bottled (so I’m not wasting any precious cooler space on beer), it tastes good, and it’s cheap as hell. When Sporked editor-in-chief Justine Sterling ranked every TJ’s beer, she was shocked that this was the best of them all. In fact, she called it “a perfect day-drinking beer,” so it’s a must when we’re stocking our cooler for a cookout.