Impress your friends with your barbecue skills
Whether you're hosting a Fourth of July party at your house or manning a grill in a city park, we've got you covered. Here's everything you need to know to throw a festive holiday party.
Almost everyone loves a burger. (Don't forget cheese for those who want a little ooze on their patty.) But in order for your party to be a real stunner, why not offer a few different options? We like Italian sausages, skirt steak (which cooks great on a charcoal grill) and, of course, Nathan's all-beef franks.
Not everyone eats meat, and even those who do generally want a veggie on the side. An easy and fast way to serve veggies at a barbecue is to shish kebab them. Chop up whatever veggies you like -- onions, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant -- into chunks, put on skewers and marinate before adding to the grill. Asparagus (especially now when it's in season) is a definite crowd-pleaser. Rule of thumb for veggies: Marinating is key.
Dressed-up condiments are an easy way to take your barbecue spread to the next level. Jalapeno and cumin mayo (just mix them together!) is a great topping for burgers or a dipping sauce for veggies. Or you could go for fancy basics, such as Sir Kensington's ketchup (sirkensingtons.com for locations), made with whole tomatoes, honey, raw sugar, apple cider vinegar, lime juice and spices.
No outdoor party is complete without a punch bowl. Our go-to favorite is spiked lemonade with vodka or gin. Mix two parts liquor with three parts seltzer. Add frozen strawberries and blueberries (or any berry), half a cup to 1 cup of simple syrup and the juice of five lemons. (Or just use premade lemonade.)
Set the mood with a playlist of all your favorite songs. Start the party off with the more mellow jams and move into more dancy tracks as day turns into night.
Booze, sun, barbecue and maybe dancing can be a potent combo. Cold water will ensure your guests stay happy, hydrated and ready to party.
The barbecue is the main attraction, but side dishes -- from macaroni or potato salad to leafy greens -- round out the food offerings.
We also love to serve appetizers before the grill gets lit. Try deviled eggs or the classic combo of chips, dip and crudités.
Plates, silverware and napkins
A lot of barbecue can be eaten with your hands, and if you want to craft your menu that way, all the more power to you! But if you're serving salads or barbecue chicken, you'll need plates.
This is 2013, and mosquitoes are out to get you. Show your guests you care and have bug spray on hand.
We know it's controversial to list dessert as just important. But experience has shown us that after noshing and drinking all day, not many people opt for cake and cookies. A good option is watermelon slices, which are both sweet and refreshing.
For the Fourth of July, we recommend patriotic-themed charades, American history trivia or, if you have the space, a classic outdoor party game such as badminton or croquet.