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You've spent enough months cooped up inside, preparing food on the stovetop or in the oven. We give you tips on how to throw a backyard barbecue for a dozen hungry people.

Leave it be

Gary Wiviott, the Chicago-based author of Low & Slow: Master the Art of Barbecue in 5 Easy Lessons and self-proclaimed barbecue life coach, says the most common error newbies make when they grill is "futzing with their food."

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"The tendency is to poke at it, flip it, touch it, and that's the 100 per cent wrong thing to do," he says.

While food will initially stick to the cooking surface, after time the proteins will contract and loosen from the grill so they can be easily removed. If you try to flip that salmon fillet too soon, you risk ripping it. A premature sirloin flip means you'll miss out on those gorgeous grill marks.

Dave Harper, general manager of D&S Southern Comfort BBQ in Carlsbad Springs, Ont., suggests prepping a fruit salad or pre-cutting desserts (while still keeping an eye on the grill) to distract yourself from checking up on your food.

Don't crowd the grill

If you have burgers, hot dogs, chicken and ribs on the menu, it can be tempting to cook as much as possible at once so your guests aren't left salivating at the table – but that could actually slow you down.

"When you crowd [the grill], there's no air circulating and the meat can steam, and that's not the result you want," Mr. Wiviott says.

It's also dangerous: More meat on the grill means more fat is dripping down, and that could cause a flare-up, he says.

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Don't overcook

If you're grilling steaks and one's a little thinner than others and finishes earlier, move it to the upper rack of your grill, suggests Mr. Harper. "It'll stop cooking and it'll be warm. People religiously use [the upper rack] for buns, but it can do a lot more."

It's easy to char your chicken breast or turn your burgers into blocks of carbon if you walk away from the grill, so don't, says Febian Frempong, general manager of Sobie's Barbecues in Willowdale, Ont.

If your guests need drinks or a spill has to be cleaned up, make sure you have someone who knows what they're doing to oversee the grill in your absence.

"If it's indirect [heat], yes, you can leave it. But for direct grilling, don't leave the barbecue and go for 15 minutes," Mr. Frempong says.

A few minutes could mean the difference between delicious and inedible.

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Have extra buns on hand

If you're buying a 12-pack of hot dogs, pick up two dozen buns to go with them, Mr. Harper suggests.

There's some kind of scientific law that before a kid can assemble a hot dog and dress it with condiments, the bun will fall off his plate and onto the grass. If you buy too many, you can always put them in the fridge and use them next time. Who wants to eat a naked wiener?

And don't do this: Buy too little. If you don't have leftovers, it means at least one of your guests left hungry.

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About the Author

Dakshana Bascaramurty is a national news reporter who writes about race and ethnicity. She won a 2013 National Newspaper Award in beat reporting for her coverage of changing demographics in the 905 region. Previously, she was a feature writer for Globe Life. More

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