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15 Tips for the Perfect Labor Day BBQ

Are you getting excited for your big Labor Day BBQ? Great! When you're ready to start choosing recipes and getting your grill space ready, we can help. Check out our top Labor Day tips for making sure your party is a hit from beginning to end!

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Start with a Thorough Cleanuptab62/Shutterstock

Start with a Thorough Cleanup

If you don't set aside time to clean and prep your grill, it can be easy to "forget," and then your grill won't be at its best for the BBQ (and may even ruin foods with smells, grease smoke, and other problems). In addition to cleaning your grill, take a walk around your yard and clean up any toys or junk that you've been meaning to get rid of – this helps avoid stress on party day.
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Get Yourself a Grill BasketHanoi Photography/Shutterstock

Get Yourself a Grill Basket

A grill basket is the perfect tool for grilling more delicate foods, especially veggies, fruit and kebabs. If you are cooking for a large number of people, see if a couple of your guests will let you borrow grill basket so you can cook enough for everyone at the same time. Plus: The best grill accessories!
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Use Nets, Canopies and Umbrellas for Shade

Use Nets, Canopies and Umbrellas for Shade

If you don't have a table umbrella or built-in shade from canopies or a pergola, consider using light netting or simple white bed sheets for quick DIY shade. You'd be surprised how much your guests will appreciate the shade! For a more ambitious project, consider a grill gazebo instead.
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Choose a Signature DrinkElena Veselova/Shutterstock

Choose a Signature Drink

To make your party stand out, pick out a special drink (cocktails or mocktails work well) and one unique food item that you are especially proud of. Play up these specialties in your party invitations, and make sure you have enough ingredients for a steady supply. Keep food plans simple so you have time to enjoy the party along with your guests.
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Choose Portable FoodsAS Food studio/Shutterstock

Choose Portable Foods

Holding onto a plate of food at an outdoor party can be awkward. If you set it down, you may forget where it is and bugs can get at it, or someone might think you're finished with it and throw it away. As the host, focus on foods that don't need plates. Consider skewer-based recipes. Kebabs are the perfect Labor Day food and you can skewer a variety of veggies, meats, appetizers, fruit and sweets. Or, let guests make their own! Provide bowls or platters of bite-sized items along with plenty of skewers.
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Grill Everything!

Grill Everything!

With your grill out, why not use it as much as possible? Grilling can improve a wide variety of dishes. Most breads and veggies can be lightly grilled, including Romain lettuce and angel food cake. Take this opportunity before you put the grill away until next year!
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Protect Your FoodEvgenia Bolyukh/Shutterstock

Protect Your Food

While that smorgasbord of food may look great in a photo, it's not great for the food to sit out all afternoon. Flies will get into the fruit, coleslaw will quickly wilt, and kids (with grubby hands) will find it tempting to grab and go. So, it's best to keep food under some kind of cover. If you are doing a potluck, keep plastic wrap handy to wrap open bowls and platters, and for your own food, make sure it's covered with a lid or in a cooler until you're ready to serve. You can also set up the food table just inside the house instead of outside. Remember, this food needs to endure hours of summer heat and bugs – it needs all the help it can get. Plus: How to Store Food When You Don't Have a Pantry
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Multiple Food StationsCristi Lucaci/Shutterstock

Multiple Food Stations

You don't want people waiting in line for food or drinks, if possible. Set up several food tables if you have a lot of guests. Likewise, you may want to spread out ice chests and coolers filled with drinks so they aren't all in the same location. Not sure if you have enough tables? Build a couple more for your deck or patio.
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Lights and TorchesSean Pavone/Shutterstock

Lights and Torches

In addition to traditional outdoor lighting, consider installing string lights around your patio or deck for just the right touch of ambiance and visibility when the sun starts to set. Setting up a few torches is also a good idea– not necessarily for visibility, but to help drive away mosquitoes with smoke and citrus oil blends. Be sure to watch young children around the torches.
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Plenty of SeatingFamily Handyman

Plenty of Seating

Eventually, people will want to sit down. Have plenty of chairs and benches around and fill in with picnic blankets. If you are feeling ambitious, build your own patio chairs!
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Signs and Chalk David Pereiras/Shutterstock

Signs and Chalk

Make it easy for your guests to know what's in coolers and what different food items and drinks are with signs. Setting up signs or propping up a chalkboard allows you to give directions (where's the bathroom?) and identify what everything is. Speaking of identification, you may also want to include a bowl of tags or clips for drink glasses or a marker for disposable glasses and cups. Use chalk to write a welcoming greeting on the sidewalk and steps in front of your house. No sidewalk? Draw arrows on the path to your backyard to guide your guests. And leave the chalk out so kids (and adults) can doodle during the party.
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Ban Bugskukaruka/shutterstock

Ban Bugs

Bugs can ruin a perfectly good outdoor party, forcing everyone indoors. If you don't want to use a chemical spray bug repellent, try citronella candles or torches with citronella oil. If mosquitoes are the problem, these 7 tips can help.
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Clear Your DishesS_Photo/Shutterstock

Clear Your Dishes

Even if you limit plates and silverware, you'll still have dishes to take care of. To prevent chaos, set aside trays for busting used nondisposable dishes. That way you (and your helpers) can take the dishes back to the kitchen in bunches throughout the party, making final cleanup easier. Plus: How to Repair a Dishwasher
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Prep a FirepitMat Hayward/Shutterstock

Prep a Firepit

Ending your party with a cozy fire is fun, but you need to be ready! Prepare your firepit for the big day by clearing out debris, stacking in some firewood and making sure you have more wood on hand. If you don't have a firepit, there are lots of patio-friendly firepit tables and similar designs that you can choose from. Or, believe it or not, you can build your own fire table!
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Don't Forget Music and GamesJoshua Rainey Photography/Shutterstock

Don't Forget Music and Games

Create one last summer playlist and use a Bluetooth-enabled speaker to broadcast the tunes for your party. Of course, music isn't the only entertainment people will be looking for. Set up games like croquet, bocce, and cornhole on the healthiest parts of your lawn for the kids of all ages. Plus: DIY Hopscotch Game