Summer unofficially starts with the arrival of Memorial Day at the end of May. Although it is a holiday designed to honor American military personnel who have died in various wars, it also serves double-duty as a chance to gather with friends and loved ones and enjoy the return of the warm-weather entertaining season.
Barbecues are the centerpieces of Memorial Day celebrations. It may have been awhile since the grill was fired up, so anyone can use a little refresher course in barbecue etiquette. Here are some tips for making the most of Memorial Day parties.
Ready the grill
If your grill has lain dormant for several months, it’s wise to inspect and thoroughly clean it in advance of Memorial Day. Insects like spiders may have built homes inside, and grease and grime may be lingering from last year. Ensure the grill is in top form before cooking for guests.
Keep food safety in mind
A study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found more than half of study participants don’t try to wash their hands when preparing food. Wash hands thoroughly to ensure guests do not get sick at the barbecue. Keep food refrigerated until it is ready to be cooked or served. Use a food thermometer to cook to the required internal temperature to make sure bacteria is destroyed. Do not use the same utensils that touched raw meat to remove cooked food from the grill.
Arrange for shade
It can get quite warm outdoors even in May for many areas of the country. Therefore, prepare a spot where guests can escape the sun. If you don’t have enough table umbrellas, consider light netting or canopies for shade. Shift them as needed as the sun moves across the sky.
Develop a signature rub
Set your food apart with unique flavors. Create a summer food rub using the herbs and spices you prefer. Make a big batch to use throughout the grilling season.
Don’t leave food sitting
The USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service advises that food should not be left out for more than two hours, or one hour if the temperature is above 90 F. Keep buffet-style food covered so that insects do not land on the items and run the risk of contamination. Promptly move leftovers indoors if you plan on keeping them.
Offer a variety of beverages
It’s important to stay hydrated when the weather is warm. Stock the cooler with plenty of water, juices, iced teas, and the like. If you plan to serve alcoholic beverages, keep them separate from the non-alcoholic items so that children do not have access.
Make it a pot luck
If you will be hosting, reduce some of the work by having the main foods available and ask guests to bring the sides and beverages. This will defray the costs and relieve some of the pressure.
Memorial Day barbecues can be successful with some planning and simple safety measures.