4 tips for backyard barbecue success

When the weather warms up, the opportunities to enjoy more time outdoors increase. For many people that means firing up the grill to cook dinners in the backyard and also to host friends and family for outdoor gatherings around the patio.

Barbecuing is enjoyed around the world and is especially popular in the United States, where even presidents have touted the virtues of cooking outside. Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter and even Ronald Reagan hosted barbecues with tasty grilled or smoked food during their terms.

Barbecues are especially popular in spring and summer. Memorial Day often marks the unofficial kickoff to the summer barbecue season. After Memorial Day weekend, the smell of barbecue often can be detected on a nightly basis in suburban neighborhoods.

Follow these tips to make backyard barbecues even more successful this year.

1. Make food safety a priority. A successful barbecue is one in which everyone goes home sated and stuffed with delicious foods. However, ensuring people don’t fall ill also is vital. Keep in mind that the temperature outdoors impacts the rate of spoilage for raw and cooked foods. Always keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold (place items on ice or in coolers). The Food and Drug Administration advises moving leftovers indoors promptly and discarding any items that have been sitting outside for longer than two hours at room temperature. Items should be moved indoors or discarded even more quickly in especially hot conditions.

2. Learn how to smoke. Grilling is one skill, and smoking is another. As the popularity of food smokers has increased, prices have come down. Novices can visit barbecue competitions and talk to professionals about their tips for smoking foods, or learn more by watching tutorials online. Smoked foods take a lot of time to cook, allowing hosts an opportunity to mingle with guests.

3. Keep things simple. Serve only a handful of items to cut down on the amount of preparation required. Two main proteins and maybe three side dishes is adequate. Chips or other pre-made snacks can fit the bill. Condensing options also reduces how much you have to manage. Be sure to have options for those with food allergies or intolerances when planning the menu.

4. Set up clusters of seating. Grouping sets of chairs at tables around the yard encourages guests to mingle. Also, it helps space out people for social distancing and avoids a bottleneck around the food.

Make the most of barbecue season by embracing strategies to be successful hosts and hostesses.

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