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20 Backyard BBQ Tips for Memorial Day

Celebrate summer and look like an expert grillmaster with these brilliant BBQ tips

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grill on decktab62/Shutterstock

BBQ Tips: Start with a Thorough Cleanup

If you don’t set aside time to clean and prep your grill, it won’t be its best for the BBQ, and may even ruin foods with smells, grease smoke and other problems. Before cleaning your grill, take a walk around your yard and pick up toys or any junk you’ve been meaning to get rid of. This helps avoid stress on party day. Here’s an easy way to tell how much gas is left in your propane tank.

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Grill BasketHanoi Photography/Shutterstock

BBQ Tips: Get Yourself a Grill Basket

A grill basket is the perfect tool for grilling more delicate foods like veggies, fruit and kebabs. If you’re cooking for a large number of people, it ensures you can cook enough for everyone at the same time. If you’re planning to buy one, don’t forget to check out our favorite Weber Deluxe grilling basket.

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pergola patio cover

BBQ Tips: 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 light netting or even white bed sheets for quick DIY shade. You’d be surprised how much everyone will appreciate the shade! For a more ambitious project, consider a grill gazebo instead.

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Signature Drink alcohol mint leafElena Veselova/Shutterstock

BBQ Tips: 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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Portable Foods chicken kebabs grillAS Food studio/Shutterstock

BBQ Tips: 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 and throw it away. As the host, focus on foods that don’t need plates. Consider skewer-based recipes. Kebabs are the perfect Memorial 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 hot dogs and

BBQ Tips: 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 lettuce and angel food cake.

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Protect Your Food tupperware fresh vegetablesEvgenia Bolyukh/Shutterstock

BBQ Tips: Protect Your Food

While that smorgasbord of food may look great in a photo, it’s not great for it 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. Try one of these essential 15 products to keep bugs away if you really hate bugs.

If you are doing a potluck, keep plastic wrap handy to wrap open bowls and platters. 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 Stations plate full of barbecued foodsCristi Lucaci/Shutterstock

BBQ Tips: Multiple Food Stations

Avoid making your guests wait 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 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 Torches outdoor patio string lights deckSean Pavone/Shutterstock

BBQ Tips: 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 monitor young children around the torches.

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reader adirondack chairs

BBQ Tips: 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 hotdog barbecue party outdoor David Pereiras/Shutterstock

BBQ Tips: Signs and Chalk

Make it easy for your guests to know what’s in coolers and where different food items and drinks are. Setting up signs or propping up a chalkboard allows you to give directions (where’s the bathroom?) and identify where 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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citronella candleskukaruka/shutterstock

BBQ Tips: 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.

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glasses on patio deckS_Photo/Shutterstock

BBQ Tips: 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 busing used non-disposable 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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Firepit campfire on deck patioMat Hayward/Shutterstock

BBQ Tips: Prep a Fire Pit

Ending your party with a cozy fire is fun, but you need to be ready! Prepare your fire pit for the big day by clearing out debris, stacking firewood and keeping more wood on hand. If you don’t have a fire pit, there are lots of patio-friendly fire pit tables and similar designs that you can choose from.

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Joshua Rainey Photography/Shutterstock

BBQ Tips: 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: Here’s how to build your own cornhole boards.

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Cookie Studio/Shutterstock

BBQ Tips: Use an Online Calculator for Food

Food is always the first consideration and the thorniest problem for a big grillout. Fortunately we live in an incredible digital age with online BBQ planners that allow you to see just how much food – and what kind of food – you need. The linked planner allows you to calculate meals based on adults, children, number of vegetarians and favored meats. It’s a great way to get some basic numbers to start with.

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dfh17sep049_279308702_11 fall grilling chicken wingsJag­_cz/Shutterstock

BBQ Tips: Plan Menus Early and Make a List of Ingredients

Plan your full menu based on the information for the online planner. For every dish and cocktail, make a precise list of ingredients that you need purchase and double-check it before you shop. You don’t want to start the party and realize you forgot that one ingredient you assumed was in the kitchen. Many experienced grillers like to focus on a signature dish or drink to show off a little, but this is up to you. Also, whenever possible, try to take guests food allergies into account by providing alternatives.

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BBQ Tips: Plan for Outside Refrigeration

Not every grill setup can have an outdoor refrigerator (although it makes a great addition), but you do need some way to keep things cold. Whether it’s a mini-fridge you can plug in outside or a couple of coolers, figure this out before grilling day. Always refrigerate meats separately from other foods, and try to reserve a section or cooler for the drinks (check out these drool-worthy beer fridges). Drinks can always be stored inside until you need them. If you’re into camping, check out the best camping supplies you don’t have.

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BBQ Tips: Create a Menu for Guests

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but for larger cookouts it’s useful to have some sort of printed or written menu that shows what you will be serving, especially if you are proud of it. Paper printouts, chalkboard stands and whiteboards all work. Love the look of chalk, make chalk paint at home.

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BBQ Tips: Organize Meat By Temperature

The easiest way to do this is to create three platters — rare, medium and well done. Label them so they’re easy to tell apart. Keep an eye on which one empties the fastest, and adjust for the general tastes of the crowd. This is a great way to please guests and save a lot of time asking or answering questions about which steak is well-done.