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Hosting the Perfect Backyard Cookout

Every serious griller looks forward to his or her annual backyard cookout. It's a time-honored tradition that strikes when the weather is right and the days are long. It's also a time to gather your friends and family, and most importantly, a time to show off your grilling abilities. Pick a sunny day or warm evening, fire up the coals and take advantage of the bounty of produce that arrives with the summer season.

Chill the Drinks

Few things are better than a frosty beer or ice-cold tea, so keep all drinks on ice and in a shady area.

Get Great Ingredients

Select foods that are in season, such as sweet corn or fresh peaches, and buy locally for the best flavor. When buying meat, choose hormone free and organic whenever possible. Seek out a reputable local butcher.

Keep Foods Fresh

If leaving food out for a long period of time, cover it up with mesh screens to avoid pesky critters and keep out of the sunlight to avoid spoilage. If there is a problem with bugs, set all the food up indoors buffet-style and let guests serve themselves.

Make Things Comfortable

Be sure to have plenty of seats scattered around the yard so everyone has a place to sit.

Set Up Drink Stations

Set up satellite drink stations throughout the backyard. Have one that's alcohol free for the little ones, and another with prepared mixed drinks, or a cooler filled with beer, water and ice. This makes it easy for guests to serve themselves and stay hydrated.

Set a Casual Table

A backyard cookout doesn't require your best wares, but have enough plates and utensils for everyone. Place serving spoons and forks alongside your serving bowls and platters.