Call it a cook-out, call it a barbecue — whatever you call it, it’s grilling season! A festive time of year with countless excuses to eat and drink outside. So while you’re getting your home summer-ready this month, you may already be making a list of summer grill recipes to impress your friends and family with this season. But before you fire up the grill, remember that there are a number of things to consider when grilling for a large crowd. To help make your summer cookout a success, we reached out to Rochelle Myers at Rochelle Myers Catering in Leesburg, Virginia for expert advice. Here are some of Rochelle’s tips for safe and savory summer grilling:

Safety First

When cooking for a crowd, you’ll likely be working with more ingredients than you’re used to and with meat, it’s important that you handle it safely to avoid contamination. Rochelle recommends handling only small amounts of meat at a time. If you’re cooking chicken, for example, cook it in small batches and leave the rest in the fridge until you’re ready to throw it on the grill. Rochelle also recommends securing separate surfaces: one for raw meat, one for cooked. Never place cooked food on a surface that has touched raw meat unless it has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

Keep Your Grill Clean

Make sure to clean your grill not just before, but while you grill. Wipe your grill grates periodically with a damp paper towel to remove any black char and add a little bit of oil to prevent food from sticking. Just make sure not to use an oil spray, as those can cause a grill flare-up. Similarly, make sure to trim the fat off your meat before you grill it, because fat will melt onto the flames and cause a flare-up too. For more information on how to avoid grilling flare-ups, visit Serious Eats.

Remove Meat from Grill Before Buttering

For best results (and to help avoid the grill flare-ups mentioned above), remove meat from the grill before buttering. For example, if you’re grilling a steak and want to dress it up with an herbed garlic butter, cook the steak first on both sides, remove from the grill, then apply the butter to the meat.

Prepare for Special Diets in Advance

To avoid being caught off-guard by special requests the day of your event, ask your guests ahead of time if they have any dietary restrictions and prepare your game plan. For vegetarian guests, keep one side of the grill empty and reserve it for veggie burgers to avoid getting beef grease on them. If any of your guests have a gluten allergy, toast gluten free buns or bread separately to avoid cross-contamination.

Reserve a Cool Side of the Grill

When searing your meat, don’t turn all of your burners on high heat; make sure to have one or two burners on a cooler temperature. If cooking with a gas grill with 3 or 4 burners, for example, turn on only 2 or 3 of them. When your meat is seared, you can move it over to a cooler burner and close the lid to keep it cooking without burning. If you’re cooking with charcoal (Rochelle’s preferred method), keep your coals to one side and reserve an area without coals. When meat is seared, move it from the hot side to the cooler side and close lid to keep grilling until it’s cooked all the way through. And when determining whether your meat is thoroughly cooked, instant-read thermometers are your friend! Check the USDA’s Safe Minimum Internal Temperature Chart to see what temperature your chicken, pork and beef should be before serving. Many thanks to Rochelle for her great tips! Try them out this season and let us know how they work out for you! ------ Looking for more ideas for festive outdoor gatherings? Check out our recent tips for hosting a garden party this season.