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For the Fourth of July: Cook an Entire Meal on the Grill

The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. I love the parades (Edgartown puts on a doozy), the fireworks, the patriotism, and of course, the food. I’m certainly not alone: July 4 is the most popular barbecue holiday of the year. According to the Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association, 73 percent of Americans plan on eating food cooked outdoors.

The celebrations of my youth were rudimentary, to say the least. Today we grill everything—really, from cocktails to vegetables, from breakfast to dessert. Which brings me to the ultimate challenge: cooking an entire meal on the grill and minimizing the time you spend indoors.

Though there is a bit of choreography and planning involved, it’s actually a lot easier than it sounds. In fact, it’s standard operating procedure chez Raichlen. Follow this simple strategy, and you, too, will be cooking the whole meal on the grill—while getting to enjoy the party, too.

Cocktails: Sure, you could serve beer or wine; that’s what everyone expects. And there’s plenty of time to get to that during the meal. But why not wow with a cocktail most people have not only never experienced before, but never even conceived of? I speak, of course, about a grilled cocktail, like the citrusy sangria I introduced Barbecue University attendees to this past session. Either white or red sparkling wine can be used in this refreshing, citrusy beverage. The fruit can be grilled a few hours ahead; assemble the sangria when your first guests arrive to preserve its effervescence.Use Lambrusco (an Italian sparking red wine) to make a red sangria, or prosecco or cava to make a white sangria. Learn how to make it here:

Grilled Sangria Recipe Video

Follow this video recipe from PROJECT FIRE for Grilled Sangria. You've never tasted anything like it!More about the book: https://barbecuebible.com/book/project-fire/

Posted by Steven Raichlen on Monday, June 4, 2018


Appetizers: When people arrive at your home for a barbecue, they always make a beeline for the grill. So you want starters that cook quickly and that can be served hot off the fire or at room temperature. A perennial favorite is Buffa-Que Shrimp with Maytag Blue Cheese Sauce. (Fits into the red, white, and blue theme, too.)

Salad: Take a breather and choose a salad you can grill ahead and chill or serve at room temperature. From my latest book, Project Fire, I nominate Watermelon Salad with Arugula and Queso Fresco (I’ll be adding fresh blueberries to the mix for another pop of patriotic color).

Main course: For the main course of a grilled appetizer to dessert cook-out, I usually favor a large hunk of meat or whole fish since everyone has gathered around the primeval fire to share a communal meal. But for Independence Day, ribs are hard to beat. Try my Cherry Glazed Baby Backs with Cherry Barbecue Sauce. (Use a space-saving rib rack, which holds four racks upright). Or go for all-American moist and meaty Beer Can Chicken.

Side dishes: A gorgeous platter of grilled vegetables not only delights the eye, but serves as a healthy counterpoint to the meat. My favorite here are the Grilled Vegetables in the Style of Santa Margherita, which can be assembled the morning of the party, or even the day before. For obvious reasons, Red, White, and Blue Potato Salad is always on the menu when my family gathers on Chappaquiddick for our annual Fourth of July Celebration. For the heat seekers, there will also be Firecracker Corn with Tabasco Butter. (Offer plain butter, too, to accommodate children or people who are heat-averse. But do grill the corn, husked, directly over the fire.)

Dessert: Time for the grill master to perform again! That means a grilled dessert—particularly one you’ll prepare while everyone is watching. Grilled Pound Cake with Mixed Berry Salsa and Smoked Whipped Cream is a glorious finale to a summer meal. (Tip: Over the years, I’ve discovered sturdy Sara Lee-brand pound cake, available everywhere in the frozen food section, works better in this recipe than homemade.) Or smoke your favorite brand of vanilla ice cream, refreeze, and offer a variety of toppings—like warmed caramel sauce with bits of candied bacon and a sprinkling of sea salt.

Take any good photos of your 4th of July spread? We’d love to see! Share or tag Steven in your photos on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.