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Fresh Ideas & Timeworn Classics For One Last Pre-Autumn Backyard BBQ


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The end of summer is upon us. Sunday football has arrived and the weather is starting to ebb towards winter. We know, we know. It always ends way too soon. Next thing you know it’ll be Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then… the chances that this society makes it to another summer seem roughly 50/50.

For now, this weekend might be the last chance to throw one last backyard BBQ bash before fall fully lands. If you’re hosting a backyard party, you don’t want to spend the day running around — filling drinks and standing over a hot fire. You need to chill, spin some records, fill your belly, and get lit with your friends. So we’re suggesting easy-to-execute recipes and drinks. They aren’t “5-minute dishes” like you’d get in Good Housekeeping, just surefire winners that’ll wow an audience without an overwhelming amount of effort.

Master a few of these and friends will be dreaming of your party through all those cold winter days to come.

COOK A WHOLE SALMON

Cooking a whole anything sounds super intimidating. Don’t let it be. The best play to wow your crew is cooking a whole freakin’ salmon. It’s an opening act that’ll set the pace for the whole rest of the day.

This is one of the easier fish to cook out there. The heavy flakes, high fat, and solid texture of the salmon give you a lot of leeway when it comes to getting it right. Basically, all you need in a firey grill (gas or coal, it’s all good), a sheet of foil, a lot of acids like lemons or limes, plenty of coarse salt, and a bushel of aromatics.

Get your grill heated up to a medium temp (think 325F). Place the salmon on a foil sort of tray — so that the bottom is protected but the top is exposed. Generously salt the interior and outside — and, we mean, g-e-n-e-r-o-u-s-l-y. Stuff the cavity with whatever aromatics you have around. Cedar branches, rosemary, basil, mint, huckleberries, cilantro, green onion, wild garlic, sage … it’s all good. Spread some acidic citrus around. Lastly, dash with some olive oil to help crisp up the skin. If you really want to be a baller, stuff cubes of butter in there to really turn up the “wow” factor. Throw it on the grill and cook it until it starts to flake (ideally, you want to take it off the grill with an internal temp of 130F and let it rest to reach 140F).

You put that on the grill and you’ll have guests lining up to dig in. Maybe get some really nice Hawaiian buns to serve with a tartar sauce or just dish it out solo.

SIDES, SIDES, SIDES

This is a tough one. Do you go easy and simply open a few bags of Ruffles and Doritos and hope for the best? Maybe. We recommend you go a little deeper. There are two really easy sides you can execute here without too much fuss: Baked beans and corn on the cob.

Baked beans can be as fancy or easy as you want. Either grab a big ol’ can from the supermarket, crack that sucker open, and heat it up. Or, you can score some dried beans, soak them, and then simmer them off with some bone broth, brown sugar, and spices. Maybe add some thick cut chunks of bacon or spicy sausage or both. That’s about it really. You’ll end up with a savory, sweet, and spicy side that shines.

Another super easy side is corn on the cob. It should be fairly easy to find fresh corn right now, as it’s in season. You can really speed up the cook here by pre-boiling the corn and then finishing it off on the grill. Melt some butter with plenty of salt (and maybe a little garlic) and brush it on the corn as it browns over the fire. For one last easy flourish, liberally sprinkle the cobs with grated parmesan when they come off the grill to really make them pop. Done and delicious!

BEER

Beer is your friend when you need to serve guests alcohol on the cheap. There’s really only two beers you need to get for any backyard shindig: A local craft masterpiece and a cheap (crowd-pleasing) macro lager.

Always remember, you’re not hosting a beer tasting. You’re getting people drunk. Heavy IPAs or Imperial Stouts have their place but are only good for about two rounds. Everyone drinks cheap beer like Miller High Life or Bud Light. So get a case or two of the good stuff and twice as much of the cheap cans. Everyone will be happy.

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🥂cheers… 🍔 #millerhighlife

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NON-ALCOHOLIC DRINKS

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Arnold Palmer #arnoldpalmer #golf

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Not everyone is going to want to get blitzed. A great option that gives you three options in one is the legendary Arnold Palmer.

This one’s easy. Make a pitcher of iced tea and a pitcher of lemonade and let folks mix their own. You’ll also give people the option of just drinking iced tea or lemonade meaning you’ll have three legit non-alcoholic options. That’s an easy win.

NOVELTY BOOZE

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vodka that is one in a melon #NationalWatermelonDay

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You’ve got the beer and non-alcoholic drinks in the bag. Now you need a little wow and fun factor. Our recommendation: use watermelon with a neutral grain alcohol.

A boozy watermelon is always good times (and it’s a nice reminder of July’s scorching days). There’s a couple of routes you can take here. Either you can go super easy and just fill a watermelon with a bottle of vodka. Or you can cut that sucker in half, scoop out the melon, blend it all with vodka or even rum, lime, and simple syrup to make a huge watermelon sized frozen daiquiri that you then serve in the hollowed out melon with a ton of (paper) straws and umbrellas. Dealer’s choice.

Either way, watermelon with alcohol is your friend. If you set up a blender and simply leave out ice, cups, melon, knives, booze, limes, and simple, people can blend their own frozen drinks and you don’t have to worry about that taking up precious partying time for you. The drinks station will be a mess before long, but everyone will be talking about it.

TOO MANY (EASY) DESSERTS

Desserts are probably the biggest pain-in-the-ass when it comes to hosting any barbecue. Baking is a whole other skill and takes a lot of time.

Luckily, the end of summer and early fall always means apples are in season. So, apple pie is an easy dish to execute. Or, give yourself a break here and hit up Costco for one of their $5.99 huge pies — trust us, people will love it either way. If you are going to Costco, you may as well pick up some brownies while you’re there. Pie and brownies will always be a crowd-pleaser … just don’t forget the ice cream.

A PIÈCE de RÉSISTANCE: BRISKET, BABY

Look, everyone is going to love your salmon. But every great backyard bacchanal needs that wow factor from the fire. That’s where brisket comes in. The smoke and long cook times build anticipation. That anticipation makes for great convo. Desire is a strong emotion. Making people wait for something amazing is a power play that all backyard chefs need to master.

A brisket feels like something only well-tattooed and black-gloved chefs in Texas know how to do. But it’s really not that difficult to master. You’ll need a five-pound cut to feed a dozen or so people. Generously rub that bad boy with a spice blend of salt, pepper, some sort of paprika, and garlic powder. Then you want to smoke/grill it at around 225F-250F for eight to ten hours. If you’re using wood or coal as an accelerant, consider investing in some wood chips to throw in there to add a nice smokey factor.

Maybe open up the BBQ every now and then to spritz the meat with a water and apple juice blend and then watch as everyone runs over to see what’s cookin’. You’ll know it’s done when you can easily peel off an end with your fingers. Then wrap that bad boy up in greaseproof paper and let it rest for at least an hour (two if you can).

As everyone is getting tipsy and the salmon-bliss is wearing off, unwrap that brisket like it’s Christmas morning and watch the flock arrive to dig in.

WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, THERE’S ALWAYS HOT DOGS

Is there anything better than a hot dog? No. No, there isn’t. It’s okay to keep things simple. Get some nice buns a few packs of your favorite dogs, a bottle of ketchup and mustard, and some nice relish. Maybe you can go all out and dice some white onion and pickles or even heat up some sauerkraut. No matter how deep you want to go on the toppings, hot dogs will always be a win for any backyard soirée. Especially round about midnight when the hangovers are pending and people need a little grease to regain their wits.

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