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Backyard barbecue ideas for Memorial Day

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By Sara Elliot

Summer is prime time for outdoor activities, including outdoor grilling. By moving your cooking outdoors, you'll keep your home cooler during the summer months, which could save you a little money. You'll also contain some of the mess and most of the lingering cooking odors outdoors and far away from your carpets and drapes.

The trick to grilling great meals for Memorial Day and beyond is good planning. Let's take a look at some tools, foods and other essentials that will make meal prep on your deck or patio this Memorial Day something worthy of a mention in your next family newsletter.

Memorial Day Backyard BBQ Tools

For a successful grilling experience, you need a grill, of course, and these days there are a lot of grills to choose from. Whether you like the reliability of a gas or electric grill or prefer using a charcoal grill, knowing how to make the most of direct and indirect heat may mean the difference between succulent kabobs (or salmon steaks or shrimp) and eating dried chunks of charred remains.

Even though it looks largely recreational, grilling isn't a haphazard activity, so take an hour to familiarize yourself with your grill and the best methods for preparing the foods you have in mind. Cooking a turkey breast isn't as hard as it sounds, but it takes indirect heat and a strategy. On the other end of the spectrum, cooking fish, shellfish and vegetables can be a quick process, but means staying close to the action to monitor doneness.

Clean the grill's cooking rack every time you use it.

Have a number of long handled implements like forks, brushes and tongs on-hand to help you flip, move and otherwise manipulate both the raw and cooked food.

Brush the grill rack with oil every time to keep foods from sticking. Prefer a high-temperature stable oil like peanut oil.

Sometimes the extras really help. Having a grilling setup with an adjustable rack, onboard thermometer, large cooking area, cover and possibly even a rotisserie or smoker can help you achieve great results every time you strike a match. There are also special baskets available for cooking fish, potatoes, corn and other vegetables that would otherwise slip through the rack.

For a breakdown of the best BBQ tools and accessories, see The Best BBQ Tools & Accessories.

Backyard BBQ Ideas For Food

You probably have a long-standing family tradition about backyard barbecuing, but pay special attention to safety this year. Once foods are removed from the refrigerator they should be consumed or re-refrigerated after two hours at room temperature. If you're outdoors and the temperatures are hotter than room temperature, foods should be refrigerated more quickly.These BBQ meal preparation tips will help you prepare great grilled meals every time:

If your barbecued chicken tends to burn, be sure to add barbecue sauce or other sauces during the last five or ten minutes of cooking.

To keep meats moist, avoid piercing them. Punctures allow valuable juices to escape.

Flip meats repeatedly during the cooking process. Flipping meats keeps the juices moving, effectively basting the meat from the inside out. That's one of the reasons rotisserie prepared foods are so moist.

Add marinades or rubs to meats. Meats to which dry rubs or marinades have been added can have a very different flavor from the same old chicken or steak you're used to. This year try experimenting with a few new ways to season meat. From injecting turkey breast with honey to dredging lamb in cumin and other spices, you'll be surprised at the results you can achieve with a little creative seasoning.

Grill dessert - Since you're outdoors anyway, why not prepare dessert on the grill too. Grilling dessert make a lot of sense. You can make use of the residual heat in the grill and keep all the cooking chores outdoors. Try:

S'mores on the grill
Grilled peaches (with ice cream).
Grill heated caramel sauce (with ice cream)
Grilled cupcakes
Fondue (chocolate or caramel)
Grilled marshmallows

Backyard BBQ Beverages

While you're planning something special for your Memorial Day barbecue, make the beverages special too:

Fresh squeezed lemonade colored pink with pomegranate juice
Fruit filled sangria
Sun tea with fresh mint leaves
Tropical punch

Backyard BBQ Décor Ideas For Memorial Day

If you have great food prepared you may think the ambiance is secondary, but eating outdoors should be comfortable as well as delicious. Make sure your Memorial Day backyard BBQ includes these important elements:

Comfortable seating - If this is your first party of the season, make sure your outdoor furniture is clean and comfy.

Table space - If there isn't enough table space for everyone, it's nice to provide lap trays as well as paper plates.

A trash area - To make cleanup easier, have a trash disposal area away from the serving station where guests can pitch their paper plates and napkins. Make sure it has a tight fitting lid too.

Adequate lighting - If the party will run into the nighttime hours, string lights on your deck or provide other sources of adequate but soft lighting.

Protection from insects - Electric bug zappers, citronella candles and even plants like catnip can help repel those dreaded mosquitos.

Backyard BBQ Entertainment

Even though outdoor parties are usually lively affairs, it never hurts to hedge your bets with a little background music and a focal point or two. If you have a water feature on your property, like a pool or pond, spruce it up for the occasion with a quick cleaning and good lighting.

Fire pits are compelling entertainment, too. If your backyard is a work in progress, liven it up with colorful annuals in your flowerbeds or potted plants along your patio or deck. Give your guests something interesting to look at and comment on while they're eating.

Hosting a backyard BBQ for Memorial Day is a great way to enjoy the warming weather, celebrate a time-honored tradition with friends and family, and try your hand at working that new grill.

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