A Cook’s Summer Bucket List: 10 Things to Do Before It’s All Over

updated May 4, 2022
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(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

Do you feel a nip in the air? If so, you’re probably imagining it, because it’s not even August yet. However … fall is inevitable, and when it hits, you’re going to find yourself pining for these easy summer days, and maybe even wishing you’d done a little more to enjoy yourself.

A better idea? Avoid that regret entirely and celebrate summer to the max. Here are 10 things every cook, food lover, and enthusiastic hostess should experience in the summer — and there’s still time to do them all.

(Image credit: Kristin Teig)

1. Make pizza on the grill.

Have a grill? Love pizza? Then you must marry the two. It’s not hard to make killer grilled pizza as long as you know the technique and tips. Invite your friends over and — zam! — you’ve created a memory.

(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

2. Make your own ice cream or sorbet.

Summer = ice cream, ice cream = summer. The two are basically interchangeable this time of year, so you might as well go all in and indulge yourself silly. You’ll feel a little better if it’s homemade, too, because we all know homemade treats have half as many calories as their store-bought counterparts. (All that effort you put into making it burns up a good chunk, am I right?)

But if it’s too hot to really put effort into much of anything, no worries — just make this and call it a day.

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

3. Make lemonade.

Okay, so I lied — lemonade is actually summer’s realest, truest thing. (Ice cream is a close second.) Lemonade in the summer is like a tall drink of water … except it’s not water, it’s lemonade, which is so much better than water.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

4. Grill every kind of burger you can think of.

A good burger is welcome any night of the year, but it’s particularly satisfying between the months of June and August. This is a fact. So why stop at beef burgers? Think of all the burgers you can make and eat: salmon burgers, black bean burgers, turkey burgers, chicken burgers, eggplant burgers! Go to it.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

5. Make a fruit cobbler or crumble.

As Emma so rightly said, “Cobbler [is] the best reason to turn on the stove in the summer” — if you’re not already turning it on for a crumble or crisp, that is! This is the most glorious way to enjoy ripe, juicy summer fruit. Don’t let the fruit flies win, people. Get that fruit off your countertop and into a pan, stat.

(Image credit: Aida Mollenkamp )

6. Eat a tomato sandwich.

A simple tomato sandwich is divine. Have you had one (or 20) yet this summer? The simpler, the better: tomatoes, crusty bread, mayonnaise or mozzarella, salt, and pepper. So, so good.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

7. Host a preserving party.

Into canning and preserving? Host a party! As Kate Payne, author of The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking wrote here, “Making preserves or pickles together is a fun way to spend a summer day. Share your skills and introduce people to canning in a low-stress way … at our party last summer we made four recipes together over the course of five hours; supply and fruit costs were only $10 per person and we each went home with five jars of yum.”

I’m always up for a jar of yum. You?

(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)

8. Drink pitcher cocktails and farmers market sangrias.

Summer parties are the time to skip the drink orders and go right for pitcher cocktails and sangrias. They’re easy, festive, and totally right for the season. And with ingredients you can pick up at the farmers market, how can you go wrong?

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

9. Throw an outdoor movie party.

Watching a movie under the stars definitely makes our list of great summer experiences, even more so when it’s combined with great friends and great snacks. And thanks to Anjali’s party a couple years ago, we now know exactly how to do it! Here’s a look at the whole party series:

(Image credit: Erika Tracy)

10. Eat outside as much as possible.

Have a picnic on the beach. Pack a few snacks for hiking. Go car camping. Make s’mores in the backyard. Eat every meal on your porch or patio while the weather is warm and lovely. And yes, we know you West Coasters can do this any day of the year (lucky ducks), but for many of us, summer is short and fleeting. Be swift, and you may still catch it.

Do you have anything on your summer bucket list? Meals to cook or parties to throw?