Fransisco Barrera / Daily Nexus

Fransisco Barrera / Daily Nexus

The cool breeze washes over us, and the smell of hickory lingers in the air. The end of another summer barbecue begins with the girls putting on their pullover hoodies over their bikinis and the grill’s flames licking at the crisp air. This is how I remember my childhood: ketchup-drenched hot dogs and drowsy sunsets that seemed to go on forever. A summer barbecue is a magical event that seems to erase the day’s troubles like the paradise of the smoke from the charcoal pit.

Nothing really seems to surmount to the classic idea of barbecue. The kids play with squirt guns and the men languidly linger by the Weber grill as it chars the burgers to perfection. It’s a staple of summer and one of America’s most iconic pastimes. Be it with friends, family or housemates, this tradition is one that needs to be respected and done right. Now, this isn’t a cookie-cutter list that requires exact following of instructions, but if you loosely follow this plan, then your summer barbecue will be an Americana sanctuary.

Cool, Cold and Plenty: Always have drinks in abundance. Be it soda, spirits or spritzer, make sure you and your guests are hydrated. Buy a nice big tub or an Igloo cooler and dump lots and lots of ice in there, keeping the drinks packed tight. Be sure, in your selection of drinks, to remember bottled water, and try to give variety yet simplicity to your guests.

Toss Your Salad: Skip the boring and overdone side dishes at every event. Instead, pick a few classics and spice them up. Make a standard potato salad, but then spice it up with chipotle, cilantro and orange zest! Or, try your luck with a traditional pasta salad, but substitute the standard Italian dressing for a sesame dressing and add in peeled tangerine slices for Asian flare. You can even go green by adding raw spinach to give it a crisp crunch.

Be Aware and Prepared: It’s a very common staple at barbecues to do hamburgers and hot dogs, but if you are serving a large group of people, this can lead you into some murky waters. If you can, ask your guests about dietary restrictions. That way, you can know if you’ll need to buy Kosher dogs or pick up a Boca burger for any of your guests; everyone will be happy and their bellies will be satisfied.

Diced and Sliced: Most people at barbeques pick an arrangement of foods, so it’s a good idea to prepare some appetizers for your guests. Slice up a juicy watermelon or cut some bell peppers and broccoli to mix up an instant ranch dressing. Cut your favorite kind of cheese and buy a nice box of artisan crackers to pair. There’s no reason to go all out and buy the fancy party platters; just give your guests a little bit to nibble on until the main course is ready.

Just Desserts: Dessert can be messy and tricky. Chances are, you won’t have a mini fridge on site to keep anything cool without drenching it in an ice bath, so picking a dessert can be a hassle. Keep it simple by just buying a box of brownie or cupcake mix. Make something light and single-serving so people can grab it and run back out to catch the last play of flag football. You can also create a bigger statement with your foods by adding your own flare to the perfectly concocted Betty Crocker boxes. For your brownies, throw in a cup of broken pretzels or potato chips to give your guests a salty surprise. Or, fill the insides of cupcakes with jam or fudge for a sweet and sticky fix.

The most important thing to remember when hosting a barbecue is to just relax and enjoy the time. This is just as much a treat for you as it is for your guests, so kick your feet up, lay out on the sand and let the wafting smell of summer charcoal ease your mind.