Add a little flair to your backyard barbecue with these simple ideas.
Get outside and fire up the grill! Start with our summary of cooking techniques, then build a menu full of flame-grilled favorites.
Grilling Tools & Techniques
Before you fire up the grill, gather together all your tools. Then, know the best method for cooking each component of your menu:
Cooking foods directly over the heat source, be it charcoal or gas. Works best for quick-cooking foods like thin cuts of meat—think steak, chicken breasts and pork chops—fish filets, sausage, burgers, fruit slices and vegetables. (Bring proteins to room temperature before grilling.)
Grilling opposite the coals on a charcoal grill or burners on a gas grill. Ideal for slow-cooking fatty cuts of meat such as whole chickens, spareribs, pork shoulders and racks of lamb. To cook indirectly on a charcoal grill, push the coals to the sides of the grill, separate them with an aluminum pan and cook on the grate, so the drippings fall into the pan. For gas grills, keep at least one burner turned off and cook over it.
When you indirectly grill with wood chips, the food retains a rich, smoky flavor, and different hard, dry woods — hickory, mesquite, cherry — impart different tastes. Add chips directly to hot coals, or encase them in an aluminum foil packet, poke holes in the top, and place under gas grill grates for the duration of cooking. Always soak wood chips in water first — it slows the burning, meaning more flavorful meat. To speed up the process, place moistened chips in a re-sealable plastic bag, freeze and use as needed.
From savory starters to lip-smacking good sauces, make a full menu with these easy ideas:
- Starters: Try some grilled shrimp or a simple quesadilla. Layer fresh tortillas with slices of cheese and diced veggies, then grill 2 to 3 minutes per side, until the cheese melts and the tortilla browns.
- Sides: Dish up grilled versions of Caesar salad, corn on the cob, asparagus and artichokes. Or give the grill a break with cold make-ahead dishes, like some macaroni or potato salad.
Let your entrée influence your side. Pair heavier courses with green vegetables or light salads and lighter ones with potato and bean dishes.
Go beyond burgers and hot dogs with these out-of-the-ordinary entrees! Try grilling chicken, baby back ribs or even skewer yourself up some kebabs.
If you want to make it an all-hands-on-deck kind of affair, let family and friends build burgers they’ll truly love! Set up a buffet-style spread of patties, toppings and more.
Sauces and Spreads
Finish steaks with a dollop of compound butter, spoon citrus sauce over grilled fish and brush chicken with teriyaki sauce or some homemade barbecue sauce.
Keep the grill going with some interesting desserts — grilled cake comes to mind — or cool things off with some ice cream. You can also give classic s’mores grown-up appeal by sandwiching grill-toasted marshmallows and dark chocolate squares between shortbread cookies.
Grilling out is truly an event. While the smells of food start to fill the yard, kids play and adults talk. It’s a social event, but, with these tips, the center of attention will be the delicious foods that make their way onto the table.