Even Better Barbecues

Knife and fork over steak on grill

Knife and fork over steak on grill

The best kind of party is an outdoor party, and that means a BBQ. Time to fire up the grill and get out the lawn chairs! And with these handy tips, you and your guests can enjoy summer favorites that are delicious and healthy. A mix-and-match beverage buffet? Check. DIY ketchup that tastes fresher than anything you can buy? Easier than you think. Dig in!

  • When it’s hot, people love icy, fizzy drinks. Let your guests make their own sodas by putting out plain sparkling water, citrus wedges, and extracts. Include a cheat sheet to spark creativity: “Orange soda = orange wedge + vanilla extract + sparkling water.” “Chocolate soda = vanilla extract + chocolate extract + sparkling water.” Or add coconut milk or dairy milk (keep the latter chilled in an ice bucket) for cream sodas: “Orange wedge + vanilla extract + sparkling water + half-and-half = orange cream soda.” Citrus wedges like limes, lemons, oranges, and grapefruits always make refreshing sodas! Or go with simple pitchers of iced water with sprigs of fresh herbs lightly smashed and stirred in.
  • Making your own BBQ sauce or ketchup is as easy as sautéing onions and garlic until fragrant and soft, then adding diced tomatoes (fresh or canned) or tomato sauce and letting the sauce/ketchup simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes. For BBQ sauce, stir in chili powder, a pinch of dry mustard , and a splash of apple cider vinegar, then salt and pepper to taste. (Add hot sauce if you like.) For ketchup, instead of chili powder and mustard, add a pinch of ginger and a generous spoonful of sweet paprika. You can serve the sauce/ketchup chunky-style as is, or you can let it cool and then run it through a food processor or blender to create a smooth version. Either way, it’ll be delicious as a marinade or condiment!
  • When you make coleslaw or potato salad, go with a simple oil-and-vinegar dressing: just before serving the slaw/salad, toss it with extra-virgin olive oil and a dash of red wine or apple cider vinegar. (You might like to add a sprinkling of dill, too.) So simple and so much fresher than store-bought mayo!
  • If you’d like to serve some veggies along with your meat, make sure to choose veggies large enough not to fall through the grates…or use a grill pan or foil packets to keep the veggies safe. If the veggies are large enough—say, quartered portabella mushrooms or coarsely chopped bell pepper or zucchini—you can thread them onto skewers.
  • Speaking of skewers, try making meat skewers, too! Not only are skewers easy to serve, they’re easy to turn over periodically to make sure the meat (or veggies) are cooking evenly. It’s best to soak the skewers for at least 30 minutes in a shallow pan of water so that they don’t burn. Shrimp is also skewer-friendly fare.
  • When you’re shopping for meat for your BBQ, look for grass-fed or pastured meats. Hamburger patties, brats, sausages, and steaks are all available from farmers who allow their animals to graze freely. (It’s typically easier to find such meats at farmer’s markets and small-scale local grocers rather than mainstream chain markets.) Grass-fed meats are leaner than conventional meats, so notch down your grill temperature and check the grilling progress more often than you normally would. Marinating your meats will make them more tender and less likely to dry out with the heat of the grill.
  • For an easy dessert, you can make freshly whipped cream to serve with berries. If you opt for non-UHT cream (i.e., cream pasteurized with ultra-high-temperature processes), your whipped cream will stay light and fluffy for 2 hours, especially if you scoop the whipped cream into a fine-meshed colander suspended over a mixing bowl so that water can drip out of the cream rather than make it fall. Refrigerated that way, the cream will be able to hold its shape longer, whether you serve it with berries or atop a pie. (UHT pasteurization makes it more difficult to whip the cream and keep it fluffy, so look for cream not labeled “UHT.”)

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