You know us. We’re all about essentials. In ALL situations. Even though (for a lot of people) school is starting in the next couple of weeks, we are still in PRIME outdoor cooking season. Whether you are team propane (taste the meat), team charcoal (not the heat), or team campfire nothing is more summer than cooking outdoors. We rounded up our favorite grill-staples to stoke the coals of your fire for cookin’ outdoors.
Let me tell you- I love a cookout! The beautiful thing about a cookout is that there are no rules when it comes to cookouts. The most essential part of a cookout is good company. It does not matter what is on the menu or the activities planned as long as you have good company to enjoy the cookout with you.
Now, there are some things that if you have on hand to make your cookout game better. The first, is bug spray. It is bug city this time of year and nobody likes to get eaten alive by pesky insects. My favorite bug spray is Avon’s Bug Guard. First of all, it works and second of all it doesn’t smell like bug spray and third it makes me feel safer to use an Avon product than some other DEET filled bug spray. So, it’s a win-win-win.
Friends- check. Bug spray- check. Now, you can start thinking about the menu. I just love anything cooked on the grill. Everything from hot dogs and hamburgers to slightly burnt BBQ chicken to a big thick steak- anything and everything in between can go on the menu. I decide on the protein first and then build the menu with sides. And then I also decide on the dessert.
Okay, this is a typical cookout menu you might encounter at my house. Connecah sausage– it’s amazing. It’s made in Connecah county Alabama. I have grown up on Connecah sausage and take for granted that everybody knows what it is. All I can say is that no other sausage compares- I would rather not have sausage if it’s not Connecah. Period. End of the story. And Jezebel sauce just goes with it. There are lots of takes on Jezebel but my family has always made it like this: 1 jar of apple jelly, 1 jar of pineapple preserves and a heaping, heaping scoop of horseradish- you can add a good squirt of yellow mustard and black pepper to taste, but those are just optional. And then Kabobs- how can it be wrong? And then yellow rice… and Black Beans Bub Style- here it is, a can of black beans rinsed and added to a pot on the stove- next, add a can of Rotel tomatoes drained, a good squirt of BBQ sauce, a good squirt of hot sauce, and as much cilantro as you like (we love it, so there is usually a lot in ours) and half a chopped onion. Stir it up and let them simmer. And brownies… Here’s my best brownie advice. Use 2 boxes of brownie mix in a 3 quart Pyrex and don’t quiet cook them all the way. Topped with Blue Bell ice cream of course. I mean, baddabing- baddaboom!
I am not overly picky about the grill- charcoal or gas, either is fine with me. I am 100% positive that Bub would have major opinions. We have a new gas grill that is pretty awesome in that it gets hot REAL fast- which is nice. It means that you don’t have to wait forever for the grill to get hot. And you do need a decent grill brush and come cooking spray- both will make your grilling experience way more easy. Bub would also likely say that you need a tasty beer to complete the grill master accessory kit.
Cooking over a flame is so primal. It taps into a certain place in your brain. Light a fire and watch people circle it. Like Coralie, I also pick my protein and then plan my menu from there. But, there are certain rules that apply to summer outdoor cooking. Such as: you need some cooler items to balance the fired ones. Certain things just taste better with a char on them. And all meat tastes better when given a little TLC and prepped properly. Marinating and brining are essential and make such a difference– provided you remember to do it in advance. Though if you have a really beautiful piece of meat (like a steak), sometimes salt and pepper are all you need. Steak tip: steak should be room temperature before hitting the grill so that it will cook evenly. Pull out the steak one hour before grilling.
Like Coralie, I am also a fan of grilled incased meats. But, did you know that your sausages could be even more delish? Before throwing them on the grill, precook them in salted water or beer. Throw it on the grill for some char and you look like a pro! If fish is your thing, store it on ice and pull it out 15 minutes before grilling. Nobody likes dry fish.
Now that you’ve got some of the basics, here are some of my favorite alternative cookout ideas to take your game to the next level:
I’ve mentioned the world’s greatest cookout salad before, but just in case you haven’t gotten the memo, you’re gonna want to make my favorite Most Delicious Crunchy Coleslaw Salad with Tangy-Sweet Dressing. It isn’t mayo-based, so it holds up to hot outdoor conditions and makes an amazing garnish on burgers and sausages. It’s light, acidic, and makes a nice pairing with any outdoor feast.
Although grilled corn on the cob on it’s own is delicious (especially when it is a rare varietal like Silver Queen) with butter and salt and pepper in a tinfoil grill pouch, have you thought about kicking it up a notch? Take the same tinfoil pouch but instead of butter and S&P add teriyaki marinade. It is transcendent. One note, this recipe uses teriyaki marinade (which is thicker and more viscous) not teriyaki sauce. Seriously, y’all… it’s amazing. Recipe: here.
Homemade burgers are the best and infinitely customizable. Veggie burgers? Easy. Filling the patty core with blue cheese? Done. There is something for everybody. But I would like to make one game-changing suggestion: use ciabatta rolls for buns. The bread makes the perfect bun with chewiness to satisfy, but enough strength to really hold it all together! It’s delicious. But, here is a burger tip: keep your prepped burgers cold until they are ready to go and then put them on a very hot grill. It guarantees an nice crust without overcooking.
You can make all kinds of desserts on the grill/campfire. Stone fruits (peaches and plums) are amazing when grilled. Like Coralie, I am also a big fan of anything ala mode and grilled peaches with vanilla ice cream is a winner. Pineapple (especially) is amazing when grilled. The heat caramelizes the sugar and makes it out of this world. And don’t forget about S’mores. But, toss it up. Try different ingredients. Instead of chocolate, try peanut butter and bananas with that marshmallow and graham cracker. Or get a fancier chocolate with nuts in it. Like t-shirt mod-ing, you are only limited by your imagination.
What do YOU think? Do you have a go-to grill staple? Do you need some awesome summer cocktails to go with your shindig? As always, let us know!