The sun is out and the grills are hot! It is time to grab the tongs, knot your apron, and stoke the fire: cookout season is here. If you are ready to start cooking, try some of these recipes to build a great meal for family, friends, or even yourself. Check out the recipes for quick, easy backyard fare as well as more complicated, elaborate foodstuffs.
Simple side dish: grilled asparagus
This dish is easy to prepare and simple to execute. Only four ingredients and a relatively quick cooking time make this dish a good addition to any cookout. Ingredients:
- 1 bunch asparagus
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
1. Heat the grill. You can also bake these asparagus in the oven if the grill is being used for something else. See the alternative cooking note at the bottom of this recipe.
2. Thoroughly wash the asparagus. Snap off the bottom ends of the stalks and place them in a bowl with the olive oil. Season with the salt and pepper after you have added the olive oil.
3. Place the asparagus on the hot grill over indirect heat and cook until the outside of the asparagus has a nice char.
4. To serve, season with a little more salt and pepper to taste.
Alternative cooking methods:
One of the things that makes this recipe especially simple is its dynamic versatility. If you can’t grill your asparagus, you can cook it in your oven or your broiler. Place the asparagus on an oven-safe baking sheet or baking dish and roast for 30 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Adjust the timing up or down depending on how crisp or chewy you like your asparagus.
If you want to broil, slide a broiler-safe pan with the asparagus on it under the broiler for 2-4 minutes. Check every 30 seconds or so to make sure the asparagus isn’t burning too much.
Advanced side dish: elote (AKA Mexican grilled spiced street corn)
Grilled corn is a great side! Spice it up by using this recipe to bump up the flavor profile of your everyday ho-hum cob.
- 6 ears of corn on the cob, husked
- Cooking spray (canola oil, olive oil, or something similar)
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- The zest and juice of 1 lime
- 1 additional lime, cut into wedges for serving
- 1 garlic clove minced
- A pinch of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon cayenne powder
- ½ cup cotija cheese
- 3 tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro
1. Heat the grill. While the grill heats up, use a medium bowl to mix together the sour cream, mayonnaise, lime zest, lime juice, garlic, salt, chili powder, and cayenne powder. Set aside.
2. Spray the corn on all sides with the cooking spray. Skip this step if you do not want to crisp up your corn on the grill. Crisping will create a little more bite but skipping the spray may provide a more silken corn texture.
3. Place the corn on the grill and watch it—leave undisturbed until there is a light char. Once it has charred a bit, turn and repeat this process. On average, this should take about three minutes per side.
4. Take a spoon or a brush and coat each side of the corn with the sour cream mixture. Repeat for each ear of corn.
5. Sprinkle the ears with the cotija cheese and cilantro.
6. Serve with lime wedges so your guests can add a little extra tang if they want!
Simple main dish: Smashed cheeseburgers
Cheeseburgers are a cookout classic! And making them smashburger-style will help give you a fast cook and a juicy patty every time.
- 1 lb. ground beef (80% lean/20% fat)
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
- 1 block of sharp cheddar cheese, cut into slices
- One package of burger buns
- Toppings (red onion, pickles, ketchup, etc.)
1. Heat the grill. Place a large, heavy-duty grilling sheet or a non-stick grill mat on the grill.
2. Form the burgers into balls about the size of a 1/3 cup measure. Be careful not to over-handle the meat or it will produce a dense, tough burger. Place the balls on a plate and season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Once the grill sheet is hot, drop the balls on the sheet. Press down on the burgers with the grill-safe spatula, flattening them into patties. Cook until the bottom is browned and then use the spatula to flip them. These will cook quickly!
4. Place slices of cheese on top of the patties. They will melt as the burger continues to cook. Cook the beef patties to the desired level of doneness. This will depend on your grill heat and other factors.
5. Once the burgers are cooked to your desired level of doneness, place them on the buns and serve with your favorite burger toppings, like bacon, pickles, crispy onion straws, or whatever!
Advanced main dish: pork chops with a toasted black pepper marinade
These pork chops aren’t actually that hard to cook—the challenge comes in working on the marinade! Some of the ingredients may be available in the international section of your grocery store.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 inch of ginger, peeled and minced or peeled and shaved on a microplane
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
- 1/4 fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1 jalapeno, chopped into slices
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/8 cup freshly ground black pepper
- 4 thick, bone-in pork chops
- Salt and pepper to taste
1. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper. Let the pork chops rest on a plate or cutting board while you make the marinade.
2. Except for the butter and the black pepper, mix all the ingredients for the marinade together and then pour into a bowl or a gallon plastic zippered bag.
3. Melt the butter in the bottom of a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the butter is melted add the ground black pepper. After about 2 minutes or when the pepper smells toasted, add the pepper into the marinade.
4. Add the pork chops to the marinade. Ensure that each side of the pork chops are coated in the marinade. Allow the pork chops to rest in the marinade for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours. If you are allowing the chops to marinate for an extended period of time, make sure you refrigerate the chops.
5. After the chops are done marinating, heat the grill. If you have time, try to allow the chops to return to room temperature if they have been refrigerated. Remove the chops from the marinade and discard the marinade.
6. Place the pork chops on the grill. Cook on one side for 4 minutes then turn and cook on the other side for an additional 4 minutes.
7. After you cook the pork chops, let them rest for 3-5 minutes before serving.
Make sure to spend some time enjoying the cookout weather while it’s here. After this past year, it’s the perfect time to take advantage of some great communal fun and outdoor feasting. Remember to have a safe, happy, and stuffed cookout season!