When summer is in full swing, you think of balmy breezes, clear blue water and cooking out by the pool. Throwing a fun summer gathering is a cinch when you can stay home and invite friends and family over to unwind. Since May is National Barbecue Month, there’s no better time to head outside and fire up the grill poolside. We’ve put together some tips to keep in mind to ensure your summer barbecues are smoking hot and enjoyable.

Tip #1: Take Care of Your Grill

By cleaning your grill, you reduce the chance of flare-ups and buildup of grease from previous barbecues. One easy way to tend to your grill is to heat it up while covered and brush the grates right before you cook. You’ll also want to check for gas leaks to ensure safe cooking. Following these simple tips will help prevent a dirty grill from bumming you out and bringing your barbecue to a halt.

Tip #2: Prep Your Grilling Station

This doesn’t mean just having plates and napkins at the table. Getting all of your cookware and tools together before you fire up the grill saves you time and energy. A spatula or brush for seasonings of your choice, tongs to grip the food, skewers, a trash bag and assorted rubs for meats are all choice items for your barbecuing arsenal. For safety, a spray bottle with water can be useful in putting out small flares and a close by fire extinguisher can put out tougher flames.

National Barbecue Month

Tip #3: Grill Technique

Of course a memorable barbecue means you need to put food to flame, but you need to do so using the proper technique. Leaving your meat out to thaw to room temperature before being thrown onto a rack ensures an even heat will be applied throughout. For best results, your meat shouldn’t be turned frequently; in fact, just one flip for both sides will do. A thermometer will help ensure grilling perfection on those hot, summer days. But remember: barbecuing doesn’t just stop at meat. Vegetables like zucchini, onions and bok choy do well grilled, as well as fruit like pineapple, peaches and watermelon.

The combinations of dinner options for your backyard barbecue are endless. How you tailor your cookout is entirely up to you. However, be sure that you practice safe grilling techniques and station your grill well away from your house. But most of all, don’t forget to show off your barbecuing skills and make your friends, family and food gathering a unique experience of your own for a successful National Barbecue Month.