I love summer: It means I get to roll out my grill and use it pretty much every night of the week. But, as much as I enjoy grilling up a few juicy ribeyes for my family, it’s even more fun to invite friends over for a backyard barbecue. Here are 11 of my tried and true backyard barbecue party tips to impress your guests without stress.

1. Prep food before your guests arrive.

As you’ll discover, most of these backyard BBQ party tips come from mistakes that I’ve made in the past when hosting friends and family. This first tip – prep before your guests arrive – is one that I still fail to do frequently. But, when I do prepare as much as possible beforehand, it makes a world of difference in the enjoyment of the cookout for both my family and our guests.

2. Make sure you have enough propane or charcoal.

Can I raise my hand as guilty again? Triple check to make sure you have enough gas in the propane tank or enough charcoal to cook dinner! I’ve made more runs than I’d like to admit to the petrol station as my half-cooked burgers sat waiting on a cold grill for me to return with propane.

3. Put up decorative outside lights.

It will get dark outside. Be ready with candles, tealights or decorative backyard lights. We love our outdoor solar powered string lights! They have an automatic timer so they kick on when the sun drops. That way, we aren’t scrambling to turn on lights. They look so good, that we keep them up all summer long and plan family barbecues with just the three of us.

4. Serve snacks away from the cooking.

As a frequent dinner party and bbq party host, nothing annoys me more than people congregating in the kitchen or around the grill – even if most of the work is prepped beforehand. (The chef needs his space!) Thus, we set up a snack table AWAY from the kitchen and grill. We bought a compact folding table to set up that is easy to store in our garage when we don’t need it.

5. Encourage guests to help themselves to both kid-friendly and adult drinks.

As part of the pre-party prep, be sure to stock a cooler with ice, bottled waters, juice boxes and other kid-friendly drinks. Set up another tub filled with beer, wine, and other adult beverages. To spruce up the drink station, use these steel tubs instead of the weathered Igloo cooler. If you want to offer fun summer cocktails, go for it! I suggest pre-mixing them, though, so you’re not constantly measuring, pouring, and stirring.

Offer guests their first beverage, and then encourage them to help themselves after that. That way, you can greet new guests as they arrive and finish any last-minute cooking obligations.

6. Set up some garden games to keep the kids occupied.

It’s summer and the kids are restless to get outside and play. Arrange any outdoor games like cornholehorseshoes, or Twister before the party starts. This way, the kids can go straight to playing and the adults can begin their drinking…ahem…socializing.

7. Skip the dessert and make s’mores.

Nothing says summertime more than s’mores made over an open fire. The best part is you don’t have to cook them. All you need are some marshmallows, chocolate bars, graham crackers, and marshmallow sticks. You don’t need to build an elaborate fire pit to have a backyard fire either. There are plenty of steel fire pits available for any size or budget.

8. Put safety first.

Lastly, always remember to put safety first. Burgers, sausages, and even bone-in chicken can have a lot of fat that can cause flare-ups. Flame-broiled doesn’t mean opening your grill to find everything in flames. Make sure you have a spray bottle at the ready for small flare-ups and a fire extinguisher just in case. Chefs are well-trained to deal with a fire mishap but little precaution never hurt anybody.

9. Hire a grill chef

Hiring a grill chef to cook for the party is a great idea – that way you don’t have to bother about the shopping, prep and grilling on the day. All dishes will be prepped and cooked as needed and out on display at the right time and you get to hang out with the guests. Trust me, you don’t want guests to arrive while you’re still forming burger patties and chopping lettuce and tomatoes…

Have fun & be safe!