What to CookBackyard BBQ

A 100% Grilled Menu for the World's Easiest Cookout

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If you can't stand the heat of the kitchen, go outside and get grilling! We’ve partnered with New Belgium Brewing to share recipes, tips, and videos for outdoor entertaining.

In South Florida, where I grew up, beachfront barbecues were the norm nearly every summer weekend. And while the food wasn't necessarily something to behold in terms of freshness or complexity—mayo-drenched potato salad and way-past medium burgers smushed between doughy buns—we'd still find ourselves coming back for seconds and thirds in between plunges in the ocean.

Now that I don't have a cool sea breeze to make regular old cookout fare taste that much more appealing, I aim for a similarly unfussy menu but boost the freshness factor. For me, that means using whatever’s in season at the farmer’s market and making the absolute most of the grill. It does not, however, have to mean boring.

Take the flavor up a notch by adding a few grill marks.
Take the flavor up a notch by adding a few grill marks. Photo by James Ransom

This menu hits every stall at the market, incorporating fresh seasonal goodies from okra to corn on the cob, and then boosts them with easy, herby or spicy condiments like basil butter and Sriracha salt. A classic grilled skirt steak with chimichurri keeps the farm-fresh vibes going, as do fruit-focused desserts. But the best part? Every single dish is made on the grill—even your apps, like grilled avocado guac and grilled oysters. That means all you need to do on the day of your cookout is recruit a few guests to help you man the coals, throwing on each course as you nibble...ocean dips in between optional.

The Menu

Grilled Avocado "Guacamole" with Parmesan and Basil

Grilled Avocado "Guacamole" with Parmesan and Basil by Merrill Stubbs

Grilled (or Broiled) Oysters with a Sriracha Lime Butter

Grilled (or Broiled) Oysters with a Sriracha Lime Butter by melissav

Fully Grilled Caesar Salad

Fully Grilled Caesar Salad by Loves Food Loves to Eat

Grilled Okra with Sriracha Lime Salt

Grilled Okra with Sriracha Lime Salt by Beth Kirby | {local milk}

Grilled Corn with Basil Butter

Grilled Corn with Basil Butter by lisina

Skirt Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

Skirt Steak with Chimichurri Sauce by Adam Rapoport

Strawberry Basil Lemonade

Strawberry Basil Lemonade by Merrill Stubbs

Grilled Strawberries Romanoff

Grilled Strawberries Romanoff by Mark Bittman

Pulling it all together

Pick a sauce (or two) and run with it. While I'm all for variety, if you want to simplify your menu and cut down on prep, you can pick one or two condiments and use them in every dish, instead of making multiple sauces. For example, everything here (the okra, corn, and even salad) would be great doused in chimichurri instead of their prescribed sauces; similarly, the steak would be great topped with basil butter from the corn recipe; the corn on the cob—or any other vegetables you want to throw on the grill!—would get a welcome kick from the Sriracha salt used in the okra recipe; the oysters would work with all of the above.

Speaking of sauces...all of them can be made up to three days in advance. Just store them in the fridge and pull them out a few hours before your cookout so they come to room temp.

Keep things fresh and seasonal. Depending on where you live, you may want to swap in or add other fruit and veggie options that are more seasonal to your area. But that's super easy to do! You can grill just about any veggie using the method—and addictive Sriracha salt—from Beth Kirby's grilled okra recipe. Same goes for dessert; you can grill just about any fruit (ok, skip the blueberries and raspberries) using the method outlined in the strawberries Romanoff recipe. See our handy guide for more grillable suggestions below.

Don't forget about refreshments. As with any dinner party menu, don't forget about refreshments...for your guests and the chef. You can make any lemonade recipe feel special by infusing it with summery flavors like herbs or other fruits. Here, I've picked out a strawberry basil version because it echoes the flavors in the food; for the same reason, I'd recommend a zippy beer like New Belgium Brewing's Tartastic Strawberry Lemon. (Just note, if kids will be at your barbecue, you might want to omit the herbs from the lemonade.)

No backyard? No problem. Not everyone has a sprawling backyard (or a grill, for that matter) to use as the backdrop for a summer barbecue. But that shouldn’t stop you from grilling and hosting to your heart’s content. A large cast iron grill pan fits right over the stovetop and will give your food a similar char and sear, while this seersucker tablecloth and bright melamine serveware will bring those outdoor vibes inside.

OK, so maybe you don't want to grill everything. If you want to round out your menu with a few non-grilled dishes, go for things that will hold up if you make them a full day ahead of time, like roasted potato salad, a brightly colored slaw, or a recent favorite—this summery succotash. Check out the video below to see the recipe in action.

Watch It

For a hassle-free beverage that serves a crowd, keep a few six-packs of Tartastic Strawberry Lemon, a refreshing ale from our partner New Belgium Brewing, chilled and ready to drink.

Tags: Summer, Grill/Barbecue