Host a Memorable Memorial Day BBQ

by Catie Parrish, Associate Editor of

In backyards and at block parties across the country, family and friends will come together on Memorial Day. Always observed on the last Monday in May, this holiday is a time to remember fallen servicemen and women, gather with neighbors, and celebrate the unofficial start of summer! Kick the season off right with a crowd-pleasing cookout. Here are some tips to make the day smooth and stress-free.

Fire Up the Grill

  • Make sure the grill is clean. One of the secrets to food that doesn’t stick is starting with a nice, clean surface every time. A good grill cleaning brush is essential.
  • Feeding an army? Use BBQ baskets to easily flip multiple items at once.

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  • Switch it up with smoke! Infuse your food with wood-grilled flavors, such as hickory or mesquite with BBQ smoking chips.
  • Cook as much as you can on the grill. Keep your kitchen cool by cooking your barbecue sauce or glaze right on your grill in a cast-iron pot or skillet.
  • Avoid lighter fluid. Lighting charcoal is easy with a chimney starter. Instead, just stuff crumpled newspaper in the bottom of your chimney starter, top with charcoal, and light.

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  • Beat the heat with a cold one. Keep a cooler or beverage tub outdoors so you won’t have to leave the grill unattended and guests can easily help themselves.
  • Stock up on serving platters. Whether you’re pulling burgers or a pile of hot dogs off the grill, have an oversized platter ready to transport them to the table.

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Set the Scene

  • Set up food and drinks off to the side of your deck or patio to avoid overcrowding.

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  • Be sure to serve a variety of chilled foods, such as fruit salad, to keep guests cool.
  • Keep decorations simple. Jars and vases filled with American flags, tea candles, or summery blooms (such as sunflowers) are inexpensive, yet festive.

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  • Anchor patio furniture with an outdoor rug that’s durable and stylish.
  • Be sure to provide shade for your guests with an outdoor umbrella or seating set up beneath backyard trees.
  • Play a little music, but keep it low. A diverse playlist (with a few patriotic tunes thrown into the mix) will set the right vibe.
  • Be sure to stock up on ice, beverage dispensers, and straws so folks can help themselves to drinks.
  • Don’t worry about sorting silverware. A big bucket or basket with everything thrown in together is delightfully casual.
  • Keep bugs at bay with citronella candles.
  • Set out twice the trash cans and recycling bins you think you’ll need. No excuses for garbage or cans in the yard!

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Finalize Your Menu

  • Timing can be tricky so supplement the grill with your slow cooker. Something like barbecue pulled pork can be made ahead of time and served whenever.
  • Serve what’s in season. For side dishes with best flavor (and the best price!), look for recipes featuring spring and summer favorites, such as asparagus, fava beans, radishes, spinach, and strawberries.
  • Mix up a signature cocktail or mocktail. Spiked lemonade or iced tea will please the grownups, but be sure to keep a fun, alcohol-free drink on hand, as well. Some good options are red-white-and-blue punch or watermelon slushes.

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  • Offer salads—a healthy option on a day when your plate will be loaded with burgers and mayo-rich side dishes.
  • End the evening with s’mores and sparklers! No room for a bonfire? A fire pit lets you control the flame on your patio.

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As Associate Editor of, Catie Parrish relishes the opportunity to inspire visitors to create thoughtful, stylish spaces in their homes. She comes to Wayfair after four years with, the popular website for Better Homes and Gardens, where she served as the Digital Assistant Food Editor. Her work has also appeared and An ardent enthusiast of all things tasty, curious, or pretty, when Catie isn’t writing, you can likely find her whipping up a batch of guacamole, captivated by a good book, or on the hunt for the sofa of her dreams.



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