Nothing is probably as American as the summer cookout. Beginning at Memorial Day, and continuing through every weekend in the summer, millions of Americans are seen huddling around barbecue pits and grills to create those smoky meats that the world loves. Whatever may be the style of your barbecue, whether a picnic, or a get-together, or even a wedding reception cookout, some handy tips will help you achieve a satisfying, successful cookout. To begin with, plan ahead. Especially if your barbecue is for a large gathering, make sure you have something for everyone. Take the kids into account. They will probably not like to wait too long for their food, so have something for them that’s easily assembled and quickly prepared. Count the vegetarians and the vegans in your guest list. Arrange for food that will cater to them. A lot of vegetarians would probably appreciate it if their food was cooked separately from the meats, so consider that when you plan your meal. Arrange for the side dishes and beverages beforehand. Plan to prepare at least part of the side dishes ahead of time so that you can concentrate on cooking the main dish at the grill. Chill beverages a day before. Check for supplies of plates, glasses, silverware, and napkins. Arrange for music and games to make your cookout lively. Set the cookout area aside. Every year, hundreds of people are hurt in fires that are caused by incorrect or inappropriate grilling methods. Follow your manual to ensure that you place the grill at a suitable distance away from other combustible objects. Keep pets and children away at all times. If you are using a gas grill, check the fuel path for obstructions. Clean and check the grill thoroughly, especially if you are using the grill for the first time in the season. If you sense trouble, cut off fuel supply immediately. If your grill is fired by charcoal, be careful when you are using lighter fluid to start the fire. Watch out for food safety. Keep all meats, cold salads, and condiments at temperatures lower than 40 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. Invest in a large cooler, and keep replenishing the ice or ice packs so that safe temperatures are maintained. Also, return cold food to the cooler if it’s not being eaten or cooked right away. Use a meat thermometer to ensure that the meats are cooked till an internal temperature of 145 degrees F. If you have picked your steaks, hamburgers, or poultry with a cooking utensil, cook it to at least 160 degrees F. Also remember that grilling meats at high temperatures leads to the production of carcinogenic compounds. Prevent charring of the meats at all costs by watching and turning it carefully. Just keep some common sense tips in mind, and you can have a great hassle-free cookout for your friends and family. So what are you waiting for? Fire the grill and get started!