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It's hard to avoid the smoky scent of chicken and burgers on the grill in your neighborhood, and the sound of laughter coming from their backyard. That's all the convincing you'll need in order to get cracking on your own barbecue, so learn how to plan the ultimate barbecue that will have your friends salivating for the summer months to come.

Get a Grill
If you don't have your own barbecue yet, then this is the first place to start. While an electric barbecue grill is cleaner, easier, and more environmentally friendly, it can't produce the unmistakable flavor that charcoal or gas grills provide.

This is a good investment, so you want to get a grill that you know will last you for years to come. I recommend the Broil King.

** Tip: If you are using a gas grill, make sure that you have enough gas before the event; when the guests are ready to eat and the meat is ready to be grilled, a barbecue grill without gas is not taken lightly.

Your BBQ Checklist
º Accessories
º Paper plates and plastic cups -- easily disposable
º Plastic cutlery
º Napkins
º BBQ utensils
º Serving utensils
º Salad bowls
º Pitchers
º Ice bucket
º Tablecloth(s)

Now For the Grub
The most important part of the barbecue is the food, of course. Get an idea of how many people are coming and make sure you have enough food and drinks for everyone -- you don't want people fighting for the last dog. If you want to cut costs, then you can make it a potluck barbecue, where the guests bring the food.

If you do organize a potluck, make sure to get an idea of what everyone should bring, or take initiative and tell the guests whether they're bringing salad, side dishes, buns, dessert, or brewskies, for example. Yes, too much beer is never a problem, but it's hard to have a barbecue when the only items people bring are Coors, Bud and Heineken.

If you do decide to have a potluck, it's easier for you to handle the meat and condiments, in order to ensure they're taken care of.

Starters
º Coleslaw
º Salads - green, potato or pasta
º Salad dressing
º Chips
º Crackers
º Raw veggies and dip (veggie dip and hummus)

You can't have a barbecue without the following food...

Traditional Main Meals
º Burgers
º Hot dogs
º Chicken breast
º Salmon (if you want to get fancy)
º Corn

Cool New Main Meals
While the aforementioned main meals are staples of the barbecue, new accessories allow you to add exciting dishes to the table in the form of things like pizza and lobster. Plus, a whole host of products now exist that add hot, non-traditional flavors to your ingredients in the form wood chips and cedar planks.

Don't Forget...
1) Make sure you have enough for the vegetarian contingency of the barbecue. Try to have veggie dogs and/or burgers, just in case there's someone you're forgetting who is a vegetarian, or one of your buddies has sworn off meat and forgot to tell you.

2) You'll want to have a lot of finger foods on hand at the barbecue, so that your guests can walk around with their food rather than be obligated to sit at a table (perfect for your flirtatious friends). Check out our Finger Food feature, and stock up on items such as corn, chips and crackers.

Condiments
º Ketchup
º Mustard (regular and/or Dijon)
º Relish
º Barbecue or hot sauce
º Cheese slices
º Pickles
º Grilled red peppers
º Chopped onion

Desserts
º Pie or cake
º Ice cream (and frozen yogurt if there are women present)
º Fruit salad
º Fruit -- watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, blueberries
º Cookies

Drinks
º Pitcher of water
º Beer
º Soft drinks
º Wine

Don't forget
1) Whatever you do, make sure to have enough drinks on hand -- including non-alcoholic ones -- in order to keep everyone happy.

2) Make sure to always have enough ice available. You can either buy bags of ice at your local convenience store, or make your own ice by continuously refilling and stocking up cubes a few days before the event.

How do you set up and decorate?

You want to set up your patio or backyard so that it's most efficient in terms of capacity, and conducive for socializing. This said, you can do several things, depending on your accommodations:

1) Round table -- Set up chairs around the table if your party is smaller, so that it encourages a social atmosphere.

2) Buffet -- Set up all the food, condiments and drinks on one table outside, in an organized buffet manner (if it doesn't all fit properly, then you can put the drinks on a separate, smaller table). Then set up chairs in your backyard accordingly. If you don't have enough tables, not to worry, just use whatever tables you have, while the other guests can just use their laps or eat standing up.

3) Inside -- Set up all the food on a table inside (if your dining room or kitchen is accessible to your patio or backyard), and arrange chairs outside. This is a great option if your patio or backyard is smaller, and it'll also keep the bugs away as much as possible. This is also the best option if there's a possibility of rain, so that you won't have to bring all the food inside when the downpour starts. On the topic of rain, make sure to have a backup plan in case it does start to rain on your parade.

Decorating the Place
1) Coils and citronella candles -- insect repellant products to keep the bugs away

2) Music -- Background music is essential for barbecues, but try not to have loud rock music playing; you want to encourage chitchat amongst your guests and you don't want the neighbors to complain. Go for either Top 40 hits, electronic/dance, R&B, jazz, classic tunes, or bossa nova.

3) Lanterns -- for extra lighting and ambiance.

Summer's all about warm weather, fun times, and enjoying the outdoors with your friends, so make the most of the short summer season and throw the barbecues that'll make you king of your neighborhood -- don't worry, you don't have to wear a chef's hat.

- source -
Posted 3:42 PM  View Comments

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