By Alaina Brandenburger

Aside from kicking back and enjoying a long weekend, Labor Day is also a popular weekend for gathering friends and family over for a cookout. As the unofficial end of the season, it’s usually time for one last summer family outing before everyone has to return to school. To make your Labor Day barbecue the best party on the block, follow these grilling tips. You’ll end up with delicious food and happy guests.

Skewer Correctly

If you’re grilling veggies, seafood or other small pieces of meat, pieces can fall off into the grill. A popular solution is to skewer meat and veggies to make kebobs. But if not executed correctly, these delights can fall flat. In order to prepare them correctly, it’s crucial to choose the right cuts of meat, which usually means choosing cuts that can withstand high heat without drying out. It’s also important to balance the seasoning, since these cuts tend to be smaller. Opting for metal skewers rather than wooden skewers may be easier, since you don’t have to remember to soak them, and you can wash them and use them again.

Vary Your Heat

If your grill uses coal, stack the coals to one side to create two heat zones, a low heat and a high heat zone. This way, you have one spot that can be used to sear and another that can be used for slow cooking all the way through. Doing this allows you to create crusts and cook a piece of meat to perfection. You can accomplish two-zone cooking with a gas grill as well. According to a blog post on Epicurious titled, How to Set Up a Two Zone Fire on A Grill, “Set one burner to high heat and the other to low heat. Sure, you could turn down the burner when you want to lower the heat, but that won’t cool down the grates directly over the flame. Grills like to hang on to their heat. Two-zone is the way to go.”

Keep Your Foods Separate

If you’re cooking a variety of foods, including poultry or seafood, it’s important to separate your food on the grill to avoid cross contamination. Meats need to be cooked to a certain temperature to avoid food borne illnesses. Keep a meat thermometer handy, and don’t grill anything else until you’re sure your food is cooked thoroughly. Keep utensils separate as well. offers the following advice in a blog post titled, The rules of Separation At The Grill: “After using tongs or spatulas to put raw meats, seafood or poultry on the grill, clean them thoroughly with hot soapy water before using them again to remove cooked foods. If it is too much to clean utensils while working the grill, use two sets of utensils: one for raw meats and the other set for cooked foods.”

Have Your Friends Help

One way to keep party prep from being overwhelming is to enlist everyone’s help. Have people bring side dishes, drinks and desserts so you’re not forking over money for all of the food. If you’re preparing everything, keep one person dedicated to the grill and have everyone else help prep side dishes. This way, all of the food can come out at the same time, and everyone can eat rather than having one person at the grill for most of the party.

Make A Meal Of It

If you’re the adventurous type, try making meals in foil packets instead of the traditional barbecue fare. The idea is similar to a clam bake, and all of your ingredients are added to a foil packet and grilled. There are endless recipes available for foil packets of all flavors. Cooking times will vary based on the ingredients, but this is another excellent way to make sure that all of the food comes out at the same time. If you’re feeling generous, offer a couple of recipe options to your guests ahead of time.