Memorial Day can be many different things. First and foremost, it’s a time to honor the men and women of the U.S. armed forces who have given their lives for our country. However, most people also consider it the beginning of summer, so it’s a time for joy and celebration too! And if you’re somebody who loves to grill, it’s also the perfect opportunity to officially bring your outdoor cooking skills out of hibernation or test out that spiffy new outdoor kitchen kit. Planning a Memorial Day cookout? These tips will help you make sure your get-together is a great start to summer fun. Ahead, we’ll give you the pointers you need to cover all of the bases and throw a backyard bash that your friends and family will love.
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- Honor the sacrifice of fallen service members.
Any Memorial Day event should include an appropriate remembrance of what the holiday is all about. At minimum, schedule an observance of the National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. — a simple minute of silence to remember those who sacrificed their lives for their country. Patriotic decorations can be another great idea; a little bit of red, white and blue in your color scheme will help everyone keep the meaning of the day in mind.
Many people also use Memorial Day events as an opportunity to give back to the veterans and military families who have given so much. Consider collecting donations for a military families charity or creating care packages for deployed service members. These are great opportunities for kids to help out and learn about what our armed services do for our country.
- Get your grill ready to go.
Whether it’s a gas grill, pellet grill, charcoal grill or another type, the grill is the center of the action at most Memorial Day parties. Thus, making sure your grill is ready to go will be one of your most important tasks. Here’s a basic checklist of grill tasks to ensure that you’re ready to fire it up:
- Test out your grill and give it a once-over to ensure it’s working well.
- Make sure you’ve got plenty of fuel on hand, whether that’s charcoal, propane tanks or wood pellets.
- Assemble your key grilling tools like spatula, tongs and grill brush.
- If you have a WiFi pellet grill or another grill with smart features, test its WiFi connection.
- Clean out any ash and grease that might be in your grill.
- Keep the menu simple and delicious.
There’s no need to overthink the menu for a Memorial Day cookout. Classic grilled crowd-pleasers like hot dogs, burgers and kebabs are great because they’re easy to cook quickly and in batches. Basic sauces like ketchup and mustard are a necessity, but whipping up some house-made sauces can really take the meal to the next level as well. A large fruit or green salad, store-bought hummus, crusty bread and olive oil to dip in and bowls of nuts and olives will please any vegetarian or vegan guests.
Of course, if you do want to use the opportunity to flex your culinary skills, we doubt your guests will mind. If you’ve been dying to smoke a pork butt or make your signature chorizo tacos, make it happen! Just be sure to plan ahead accordingly if you’re making something more complex, which might mean starting your prep the day before or designating a kitchen assistant to help.
- Get a wide selection of refreshing drinks together.
Enjoying a beer or a cocktail is a key part of many people’s Memorial Day vibe. Variety is usually the way to go here — some mixture of craft beer, domestic beer, wine and cocktails, depending on what your guests will like best.
A signature cocktail is a good way to wow your guests if you’re feeling ambitious. Frozen layered drinks with a patriotic theme are popular choices for Memorial Day, but you can always also fall back on summer cocktail classics like mojitos and margaritas.Remember to keep plenty of non-alcoholic options on hand, both for hydration’s sake and for those who aren’t imbibing. Water is a must and soda and seltzer are staples, but a homemade treat like fresh lemonade or sweet tea can really make somebody’s day!
- Make sure your outdoor space is ready to go.
Getting outside and enjoying the spring is a big part of what’s great about Memorial Day, so make sure you’ve set up your outdoor space for success. If you’re hosting in your yard, this is the perfect opportunity to do any spring yard work you’ve been putting off, including:
- Mow the lawn and trim any ornamental plants.
- Clear out any yard debris that’s still hanging out from winter or spring.
- Pull out any weeds in your garden and/or patio.
- Make a plan to deal with bugs, such as using a bug zapper or citronella candles.
If you think your shindig will be going late into the night, make sure to consider lighting as well. Whether it’s string lights, tiki torches or another form of lighting, plan on how you’ll keep the party lit after dark.
- Make plans for what you’ll do in case of inclement weather.
We all hope for a sunny Memorial Day, but sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate. Keep checking the forecast ahead of the big day, and develop a plan B if it looks like showers might be in the mix. What that might look like is up to you! Some folks might choose to hold a cookout anyway if open-air shelter is available like a gazebo or pop-up canopy. Others might feel more comfortable with an alternate plan, like a group trip to the movies or going out to eat. Whatever you do, keep in touch with everyone on your guest list to make sure everybody’s included in the new plan.
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Ultimately, you can save the rocket science for the Fourth of July — a simple Memorial Day party is often the best kind. If you’ve got food, friends and family, we’d say you have just about everything you need!