Memorial Day

Crowd-Friendly Memorial Day Recipes, Ranked

The best options for your next cookout.

May 20, 2024
Photo by Julia Gartland

This list answers a simple question: If served on a platter during a Memorial Day barbecue, which Food52 recipe would be inhaled the quickest?

Now, the phrasing of this question may seem crude, but I assure you: Making food that people really want to eat is a good thing. It means you didn’t waste your money. It says you sincerely thought about what other people (who are probably less food-obsessed than you) wanted to eat. And, above all else, it proves you made something delicious.

At this point, you should have two questions: Why platters? And why the hell are we ranking recipes? (Bonus Question: How are we ranking recipes?)

If a recipe can be served on a platter, it’s crowd friendly. Whether it’s a sliced steak splayed across a carving board or a sheet tray lined with chocolate chip cookies, any recipe that can be grazed from a flat surface works at a barbecue.

I've ranked these dishes to save you time (and because it's fun). Of the hundreds and hundreds of recipes I reviewed, these are the 15 best. While all of these recipes will be devoured within mere minutes of being served, my experience suggests some would be eaten quicker than others. This is reflected in the rankings—which are informed by my experience—as they are ordered from quick (#15) to quickest (#1).

15. Garlic Grilled Shrimp

Last Memorial Day, I placed a cutting board piled with these charred, garlic shrimp before my friends and then walked inside to grab a beer. Upon my return—maybe 10 minutes later—the board was cluttered with nothing but discarded tails.

14. Grilled Artichokes With Tarragon-Lemon Aioli

Like whittling a chicken wing down to barren bone, there’s something fulfilling about extracting every thread of flavor from the interior of an artichoke petal. Especially when that petal can be dipped into bright, herby aioli.

13. Lamb Sliders with Feta, Red Onion, Cumin Mayo

On a regular sized burger, feta can be too much to get through. But, on a slider—paired with onion and mayo—feta stays within the realm of brininess that makes your next sip of beer both necessary and magical.

12. Super Fudgy Brownies

Are they the most technically impressive dessert? Hell no. But, tell me when someone presented you a tray of fresh, homemade brownies and you weren’t excited. You can’t, and you won’t—especially if you make this fudge-forward variety.

11. Spicy Grilled Calamari

Calamari is your friend that knows when to order drinks for the table: You don’t need them around all the time, but on a holiday, they set the tone you want. And that’s just for regular, run of the mill, deep-fried calamari—so imagine how uplifting this spicy, grilled version will be.

10. Ignacio Mattos’ Grilled Favas

These grilled beans are what blistered shishitos want to be. Also, they perform the following magic trick: Place a pile of these alongside a cooler of beer, and both will evaporate within minutes.

9. Tacos Norteńos With Chunky Guacamole

Sorry burgers, cheesesteaks, and everything else out there: These steak tacos from Rick Martinez are the supreme form of handheld, melted cheese-enveloped beef. Especially since they’re topped with serrano studded guac.

8. The Salsa Collection

Brimming with heat and acidity and sweetness, homemade salsa is a relentless prompter of chips, cold beer, and any drink with lime.

7. Za’atar Grilled Chicken Wings With Fava Bean Feta Dip

This recipe further proves that grilled wings are best when they possess the self awareness to not cosplay as buffalo and instead, lean into their natural smoke via dry rubs and herbs. It doesn’t hurt that they come with a fava bean feta dip that you’ll want to slather on every wing, vegetable, and chip in sight.

6. Grilled Oysters With Sriracha Lime Butter

Two things. One, oysters, of any variety, will go quickly. But grilling them can make oysters more approachable to the bivalve-fearing population. Two, regardless of where you live, you can get fresh oysters delivered to your front door.

5. Grilled & Chilled Shrimp Rolls

There’s one way to improve the garlic shrimp mentioned earlier, and that’s to coat the charred crustaceans in mayo, lemon, and herbs and then stuff them into New England hot dog buns. Serve with your favorite kettle-cooked potato chip.

4. Gochujang Baby Back Ribs

Ribs unfold in three acts. Act I: Gleeful chatter centered around the question, “Dude, did you hear there’s going to be ribs today?” Act II: Sticky fingers, bone piles, eating-induced silence. Act III: “We should really make ribs more often.”

3. Sicilian-Style Grilled Steak

Garlic, lemon, red pepper flakes, and fresh herbs: This hanger steak is a murderer’s row of foundational flavors. Plus, it’s steak—and people love steak.

2. Grilled Salmon Collars, Branzino, or Plan Phao Kleua

Grilled, whole fish always gets picked clean. Mainly, because it’s delicious. But also because the effort and difficulty in grilling whole fish is so immediately obvious, that you feel especially compelled to savor every available bite.

1. Magic Cookie Bars

There’s no safer bet. Not only will these magic bars be hounded, but many will stuff extras in their pockets so they can relive their deliciousness after the tray is wiped clean. Put plainly: This is the best crowd-friendly recipe on our site.

What’s your go-to Memorial Day recipe? Let us know in the comments below!
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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • AntoniaJames
  • Paul Hagopian
    Paul Hagopian
Paul Hagopian

Written by: Paul Hagopian

Content @ Food52


AntoniaJames May 20, 2024
These vegan chocolate chip cookies should be on every table where platters are arrayed for crowd consumption, regardless of season or event. It's my go-to inclusive dessert offering for the many potluck-style events we attend. Believe me: The world adores, and appreciates, chocolate chip cookies!

I've substituted King Arthur Baking's Measure for Measure, which works great to make them gluten-free, though I must say that I like the texture of these cookies better with regular flour (so I also bake gluten free brownies to take the events where I take these cookies)..

My other go-to spring / summer potluck offering is a big platter of deviled eggs - not loved quite as universally as chocolate chip cookies, but appreciated by so many. Someone invariably tells me how much they like deviled eggs and wish more people would bring them to summer events. ;o)
Paul H. May 20, 2024
Those cookies were tough to leave off the list!