Be sure to brush up on barbecue basics before the big Labor Day party and make sure you have all the essential barbecue supplies on-hand.

Labor Day is the perfect holiday for a big end-of-summer get-together, and barbecues are generally the party of choice. A successful barbecue combines great food, close friends, and good times. Whether hosting the bash in your backyard, gathering the neighbors for a block party, or taking part in a community potluck, the following tips will help you make the most of your Labor Day celebration.

1. Invest in a Meat Thermometer

Whether serving chicken, pork, steak, or hamburgers, the food is a major focus of any barbecue. Outdoor grilling takes a bit of skill, as wind, outdoor temperature, and other environmental conditions can cause wide variance in cooking times. A good, instant-read meat thermometer takes the guesswork out of grilling. The top-of-the-line Thermapen, by Thermoworks, is pricy, but worth the expense. It’s accurate, easy to use, and gives a reading in under three seconds.

2. Test New Recipes in Advance

Many hosts want to wow their guests with something special, but don’t take a chance on a new recipe the day of the party. Try out any new marinades, sauces, rubs, or side dishes in advance. This is especially important when grilling with a new sauce or marinade, as it could affect the cooking process. For example, if you switch to a barbecue sauce that has a higher sugar concentrate, you may want to brush it on when the meat is already partially cooked to get a nice caramelized effect without too much burning.

3. Brush up on Barbecue Basics

If it’s been awhile since you’ve grilled, or you’re trying out a new cut of meat, look up some barbecuing tips and try them out before the big day. There are many books, TV shows, and websites dedicated to the art of barbecue. Even if you consider yourself a barbecue whiz, brushing up on barbecue tips from the FDA will make sure your food is safe as well as tasty.

4. Go for Variety

Meat often takes center stage at a barbecue, but there are plenty of other foods that taste amazing on the grill. Use a vegetable grill pan to roast chopped sweet peppers (add jalapeno for a little kick!), marinate some fresh veggie kabobs, or barbecue thick eggplant slices directly on the grill (oiled first). You can even grill fresh fruit, like pineapple, melon, kiwi, or starfruit.

5. Prepare Side Dishes in Advance

Cold or room temperature side dishes are a great complement to food that is hot off the grill. They are easy to prepare before your guests arrive, and they tend to travel well when going to a pot luck. Put together a colorful summer salad, a cold pasta dish, or your favorite mixed-bean salad. Fresh fruit and vegetable trays are easy and go well either with the meal or to munch on while the main course is grilling.

6. Don’t Forget Your Camera

A party is a great chance to catch up with friends and family and form new memories. Be sure to have a camera on hand to capture the fun. When the party is over, you can upload your favorite shots and share them with your guests and with those who weren’t able to make the party.