The desire to fire up the grill and invite friends over for a good meal rises like spring flowers as the weather warms up. Consider these tips to get your best backyard barbecue on.

1) Planning

  • Who? Start with the guest list. Do you want a small party of close friends? Do you want a raucous gathering? Are these old friends are new introductions? The guest list determines the planning; start there.
  • What? Are you going to do the grilling and rely on your guests for the rest, potluck-style? Do you want to produce the whole menu? Do you want to wander and graze or have a proper sit-down?
  • When? Reach out with a few possible dates to see which works best for your planned attendees.
  • Where? If your guest list includes people who don’t often visit, include clear directions about getting there with parking instructions. Include details like gate codes and contact numbers in case people get lost. Describe your house beyond the address.
  • How? Let folks know what they need to bring. Be mindful of skill and resources. Got a water burner on the list? They can bring the buns. Remind struggling friends that their presence alone is a gift. A party shouldn’t be cause for shame or stress.

If you have recovering addicts on your list, consider having a sober event and letting all attendees know in advance. The invite is also a great time to let your people know about sensitivities that can ruin the evening – allergies, dietary preferences, and similar needs. Starting with empathy and respect ensures a flawless evening.

2) Setting the Stage

  • Sweat the Small Stuff

Sometimes, we forget the details that matter most. Do you have enough TP, paper towels, mayo, and trash bags? Make an inventory of the essentials and make a run the day before, so you aren’t sending guests (or yourself) off for disrupting shopping trips.

  • Shine a Light

Poor lighting makes it hard to enjoy a meal. If you only have the porch light, lamps, candles, or string lighting can enhance your evening.

  • Cover Up

If you are relying on the mercy of the sky, your backyard shindig might wind up in your living room if the sun decides to be merciless or rainclouds crash the party. Make sure there’s protection from the sky.

  • Places to Plop

Make sure everyone has a place to sit, and every seat has a surface near to host a plate or drink.

  • Manage Food Flow

Consider having more than one serving station. One for drinks. One for sides. One for mains. Get ahead of the chow line rush.

3) Entertainment

  • Device Dump

Set a tray up near the door to deposit cell phones. We live in a highly connected world with endless diversions awaiting us in our pockets. Offer a reminder that it’s okay to unplug and unwind for the night.

  • The Playlist

Create a collaborative party playlist and invite your guests to add their tunes.

  • Party Games

Games give people something to do while waiting for the main event – eating. Setting out a few easy-to-play party games can offer guests a way to break the ice and get to laughing. That might look like a huge Jenga tower on the patio, lawn twister, or card games like Apples to Apples.

4) The Grub

  • Get Your Grilling’ Right

Grilling is an art form and a science. The right grill can ensure a great meal. One of the best, for good reasons, is a Traeger grill. With an automated pellet hopper that keeps the fire at the temperature needed, monitored by a built-in digital thermostat, with a fan to circulate smoke for even heating and delectable flavor properly, your guests will swear you are a pit master.

  • Sides Can Make the Meal

Offer options, not just red meat. It’s a bummer to show up to the party and find only one or two sides that meet dietary or preference needs. Consider a balance of red meat, poultry, seafood, and veggies to ensure everyone goes home well-fed. Sides are a great place to make this happen, especially if hosting a smaller gathering.

You can do more than simply grill and smoke with a Traeger smoker. You can bake, roast, braise, and sear. If you are handling the whole meal, consider flexing on your friends with a beautiful cherry cheesecake galette right off your grill to finish off the meal.

Memorable Drinks

You can serve a memorable drink that your guests will rave about later. Concoct a signature drink and serve it in style; better yet, offer variations on a classic favorite. Fill a drink dispenser or set up a self-serve station that allows guests to concoct their preferred variation. For example, a drink dispenser filled with freshly made lemonade with culinary lavender, fresh mint, or strawberries on offer nearby.