BBQIn my neck of the woods, the backyard barbecue is a sure sign of summer. It’s a time for family members or friends to gather together for an afternoon or evening of socializing, grilled eats, laughter, and s’mores. So how to plan a bountiful backyard barbecue with ease? Consider one, some, or all of the following five tips before you heat the grill:

1. Plan for your barbecue festivities the way you would for any party. Identify your menu, theme, music, and guest list well in advance. If using a tablecloth on an outdoor table, consider clipping or taping it to the table so the wind doesn’t cause it to wave too wildly. Consider wrapping plastic silverware in napkins tied with a ribbon, and if you want to conserve how much plastic is used, ask each guest to decorate their plastic cup with their name. (Most guests will get the message that you’d like them to reuse their cup throughout the party.) If guests offer to bring something, take them up on it. Desserts, drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and side dishes tend to be easiest for most folks.

2. Think creature comforts and logistics. (It’s okay to be thrilled about this part of the planning process). If your guests will dine outside, strategically placed citronella candles should help keep the mosquitos from flocking. Offer comfortable patio chairs for seating or if folks will be sitting on the ground, provide towels and cushions for soft seating areas. If hosting an evening barbecue, backyard lights or tiki torches will light the area for your revelers.

3. Think outside the box when planning your menu. Burgers and hot dogs are institutions in the barbecue world…but that doesn’t mean you can’t think outside the box. Know thine audience. If your revelers will enjoy it and your budget can cover it, consider barbecuing steak, shrimp, ribs, chicken, or other meats. While the coals are hot, grill some vegetables for the side dishes or for vegetarian party goers. Tomatoes, eggplant, asparagus, corn-on-the-cob, and bell peppers are all great grilling candidates.

4. Tunes add to the fun. Play a party mix or ask friends to bring their favorite CDs so you can keep the tunes playing throughout your barbecue extravaganza. Just make sure the volume is low enough to not disturb the neighbors!

5. Consider some activities that the group can enjoy together. If you have a swimming pool or slip’n’slide, you can expect it will be put to good use. If it’s really hot or especially humid outside, be prepared to grill outdoors and take the party inside where guests can mix’n’mingle in air conditioned comfort and perhaps enjoy a game or two.

…and now let the grilling begin!

* Photo by Chris Eaves

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