The Joy of Cooking, Dining & Entertaining Al Fresco

The scent of dinner sizzling on the grill and the joy of eating in the open air—cooking and dining outdoors are simple summer pleasures that deserve to be enjoyed more often. Here are 10 reasons to bring your crew outside for dinner (or breakfast or lunch) more often this season and beyond.

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1. Preparing dinner becomes a social event. When you’re cooking outside, preparing dinner is part of the fun instead of a chore that keeps you holed up in the kitchen alone. Family and friends can easily hang out and chat with whoever is stationed at the grill, and can pitch in by prepping sides or gathering plates.

2. You can host a party without cleaning the house. If you’d love to invite people over more often but hate the time it takes to get the house presentable, outdoor dinner parties may be the ideal solution. Put a fresh tablecloth on the outdoor table, turn on some twinkle lights and you’re good to go.

3. Cooking outside keeps your kitchen cool. On the hottest, muggiest days of summer, just the thought of turning on the oven can be horrifying. Keep your cool by cooking and serving dinner outdoors instead.

4. And you can skip the kitchen cleanup. Not only does eating outdoors mean less kitchen prep, it means less cleanup too—and who doesn’t want that? Whether you’re cooking for a big crowd or just family, having a night off from messy pots and pans can be a big relief.

5. Dining outdoors works for breakfast and lunch too. If the weather is pleasant, why not bring your breakfast or lunch outdoors, where you can enjoy it in the fresh air? If you don’t feel like turning on the stove at all, make like you’re camping and cook up some French toast in a cast iron skillet on the grill, or roast hot dogs for lunch on a lazy Saturday.

6. Grilling is a crowd-pleaser. When some folks in your group are vegetarian, some are vegan, some are gluten-free and others are mega meat eaters, it can seem impossible to please everyone. But when you’re grilling, customizing each diner’s plate is fairly simple—especially if you ask everyone to bring something they would like to eat to contribute to the grill.

7. Grill cooking tends to be quick. With slow-cooked barbecue being the (rather delicious) exception, most cooking on the grill tends to fall into the quick-cooking category. Think grilled veggies, kabobs and burgers—it’s so easy, there’s no reason you couldn’t cook dinner on the grill most weeknights, especially if you have a quick-to-heat gas grill.

8. Grilling makes even a weeknight dinner feel special. There’s something about cooking and eating outdoors that can make any old dinner feel more like vacation. And if you have kids, eating outside also means that they’re more likely to run off and play outside when they finish the meal, rather than beg for screen time, so it’s a win-win.

9. You can host a larger group than you could indoors. Even if your house is small or doesn’t have the right flow for entertaining a crowd, chances are that more can fit comfortably outdoors. And when you consider that people like to stand around the grill, you probably don’t even need as many seats as you would if you hosted the same number of folks indoors.

10. Food tastes better outside. Is it some ancestral memory of cooking on the fire? Is it the fresh air? Whatever the reason, food eaten outdoors always seems to taste better, and who’s going to argue with that?

Tell us: What do you love about cooking and eating outdoors?