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The First Things Guests Notice When You Have a BBQ, Experts Say

Do this one thing to get a smoky scent that sets the atmosphere.

BBQs are one of the best things about summer. But even though they're decidedly casual, when you're hosting an outdoor cookout, it's all about the details. You'll want to ensure your yard is well-manicured and that the music and snacks (and maybe even the swimming pool!) are on point. Hey, you might even be fretting over your secret spice mix or homemade barbeque sauce. But at the end of the day, you don't want to get so bogged down with the small stuff that you forget about the bigger things. Here, party and grilling experts tell us the first things guests notice when you're hosting a BBQ. Keep reading to ensure you make a strong first impression.

READ THIS NEXT: The 6 Best Things to Ask Guests to Bring—If They Offer.

The smell

Friends Hanging Out by the Grill at a Barbecue BBQ Etiquette Mistakes

The first thing guests notice about your BBQ probably occurs before they've even stepped foot on your property.

"I want my guests to come into my backyard and think to themselves: Yum, something smells good," says Mike Futia, founder of Grill Frenzy. (After all, does anything smell better than burgers on the grill or a brisket on the smoker.)

To get a drool-worthy scent, Futia prefers to cook his BBQ food low and slow on a smoker.

"The smell of the meats, vegetables, and wood/pellets all combine to create a mouth-watering experience," he says. "Not only that but since smoking typically involves cooking for several hours, the smell will go on for much longer than if you were grilling, which is usually a much faster process."

The layout

friends having fun outdoors at a party on patio
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

The design of your backyard will also catch guests' eyes. However, that doesn't mean you need a million-dollar space—just a great layout.

"As a designer, we spent a lot of time designing a space that can handle parties and social gatherings," says Laura Osteen, a landscape designer in San Francisco. Key things to include are cozy couches, firepits or fireplaces, and places where people feel they can kick their feet up and relax while still being part of the group.

One major issue Osteen notices is that peoples' grills are often far away from the gathering. "We want to ensure that the person BBQing is not off on a corner on their own," she explains. "We want the BBQ to be in a central location and have seating nearby so the griller can have company while they grill."

Having a well-organized space will give your party an upbeat energy that guests are certain to notice immediately.

READ THIS NEXT: 6 Items You Should Always Have in Your Kitchen When Guests Come Over.

The meat

ribs on a grill or barbecue
Shutterstock/MN Nice Photography

What's a BBQ without a few incredible meats? Peter Rohm, the founder of The Steak Coach, says a massive ribeye steak with the rib bone attached is guaranteed to catch guests' attention as soon as they walk in.

"When cooked properly on the grill, a tomahawk ribeye should have a nice even sear and be cooked to a perfect medium-rare," he says. You can then slice it for everyone to enjoy.

If you want something smaller or, let's face it, more affordable, try a smash burger, which is "cooked by rolling your ground beef into a roughly 1/4 pound ball, then smashing it against a griddle or pan to form a thin, flat patty," explains Rohm.

"Smashed burgers are so tasty because they force contact between meat and the pan or griddle, making for an amazing sear on the patty," he notes. Top them with cheese or a special sauce to make a serious impact.

The games


BBQs are meant to be lively, so your guests will certainly notice if there are some fun games in the mix.

"Space for guests to mingle and play lawn games is essential—bonus points for a set of cornhole or even a nice little badminton court," says Rohn.

Osteen adds that you'll want to consider the location of your game station, too.

"If a game is set up, we want to be able to see it and still be involved in the party," she says. "People come to a party to be with other people and be involved in everything."

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The food safety

man making a plate at a backyard barbecue party

Perhaps most importantly, people will notice if the food they're expected to eat looks safe.

"Cold food should be kept 40 degrees or colder, and hot food should stay at 140 degrees for safety, taste, and to look delicious," says Wes Wright, founder and CEO of CookOut News.

"That means if you're serving food buffet style, keep it warm with a crock pot, chafing dish or through other methods," he suggests. "For items that need refrigeration, use ice, or put them away until the main serving is done."

Juliana LaBianca
Juliana is an experienced features editor and writer. Read more
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