In the closing days of summer, it’s important to rack up as much time behind the grill as possible before the long winter descends to rob us of all joy. Don’t get us wrong, we know dads would keep the grill lit during a blizzard, but you might have trouble convincing your family to join you out on the deck.
Now, maybe you’ve got a tried-and-true burger blend recipe, or perhaps you like to rely on “grill instinct.” Either way, the latter half of summer is the best time to get inspired with new ideas to bring it home when you fire up the coals. (Or crank up the propane. We don’t judge). Here are some of our favorite ways to turn any ole’ BBQ into the neighborhood event of the year.
Switch Up Your Steak
Nothing beats a perfectly grilled steak, but once you find a cut and method that works, it can be hard to branch out and try new things. Steaks are sacred, but their simplicity should encourage a spirit of adventure. Some of the thinner cuts like flanks, skirts, and hangers don’t get the love they deserve considering their fantastic flavor and perfect charring. As for seasoning, a little salt and pepper are all you need, but a pinch of Herbes de Provence can add an elevated dimension to your flavor profile.
If you are more of a traditionalist, you can still add new life to the classic cuts by tweaking your cooking method. Wood planks have been a staple of seafood grilling, but it’s a great way to add a deep, smoky flavor to a T-Bone or other hefty steak as well. It’s excellent for keeping burgers juicy, too.
Better Apps = Better BBQ
Sure burgers and dogs get all the cookout credit, but to keep people happy, you need a killer spread placed from the get-go.
Pineapple may be a controversial usurper of pizza, but it’s a perfect way to add bright and refreshing flavor to a grilled meal. Wrap some perfectly cut chunks in bacon, then brush with a simple glaze made by whisking together brown sugar, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and soy sauce. See the step-by-step here.
Of course, let’s not overlook the greatest party app known to humanity, the Pig in a Blanket. Skip the canned meat, and go for a big ole’ Private Selection smoked sausage, cut up and wrapped in puff pastry for a gourmet take on this favorite. You can find a more detailed recipe here.
Help Your Hot Dogs
Now let’s get to the main event. Why are so many hot dogs served with all the flair of one of those eating competitions where buns are dunked in water to be more esophagus efficient? Be better than that. Hot dogs deserve it.
Toasting buns is a given, but stand out with bread that does more work than hold the dog. An inspired example: . You can also wow the crowd with a toppings bar. Our favorite options are chopped roasted red peppers, olives and feta cheese for a Mediterranean dog, or cubed ham and leftover pineapple from those bacon bites we talked about, to turn the BBQ into a luau.
Show Off With Sides
If your idea of baked beans is…just a can of baked beans, then we could venture a guess as to why people aren’t writing home about yours. Simmer them with a couple of tablespoons of Memphis inspired BBQ sauce and dijon mustard to add waves of flavor; if you still have some bacon left, here’s where it goes.
Grilling corn on the cob makes for deliciously charred kernels, but there’s so much more you can do to make your husky bois stand out. Set aside the basic table salt and try experimenting with more exotic flavors. Chimichurri makes for a bold Argentinian flavor, while a little Garam Masala spices add an Indian touch. If you’re more an Italian fan, a brush of garlic butter with basil and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese is *chef’s kiss.*
We talked about chimichurri for corn, but don’t forget that it’s a perfect complement to some of those thin cuts of steak we were playing around with, too. The fresh herbs, lime, and garlic make for an easy but memorable finishing touch to any meat, but it’s also a unique dipping sauce for fries or -better yet- drizzled over a savory potato and veggie packet.
Also, who says you can’t break out the grilling tongs for date night? Skip the tie and jacket, and bring the steakhouse to your backyard with more gourmet finishing sauces like bearnaise and porcini truffle. She might not even notice that you snuck in a late-season grill session.
Get Some Saucy Sauce
The sauce is boss when it comes to BBQ, and the more playful you get with yours, the more exciting your cookout will be. Alcohol-infused sauces are maturing as a niche gem for foodies and grillmasters alike, and Kroger’s Private Selection has introduced more nuanced varieties than the sticky-sweet bourbon sauce you may be used to.
Shred up a slow-roasted pork shoulder and mix in Pale Ale & Mustard Sauce for a BBQ classic without having to dig up a whole pit. Barrel-Aged Kentucky Bourbon BBQ Sauce maintains the sweet profile with some oakiness for a fuller flavor that’s excellent for spatchcock chicken.
Okay. Not every day can be a weekend. Sad but true. Still, the grill is just sitting there; why not use it for more casual weeknight dinners on top of your cookout extravaganzas?
Frozen pizzas are lifesavers for exhausted parents everywhere, and can go from freezer to plate after 15 minutes on the grill. Now, we’re #PepperoniGang4Life, but an Italian Buffalo Mozzarella and Arugula is a perfect pie for the last days of summer.
Then there is the ultimate Tuesday meal: tacos. You may not think of Taco Tuesday as a grilling occasion, but before you head to work one day, toss a strip steak into a baggie with a healthy dollop of carne asada marinade. By the time you get home, you’ll have the main ingredient ready to hit the grill, and it’s taco-time by 7. Check out the full recipe here.
Just because Summer is winding down doesn’t mean you have to put your grill skills to rest. This article is sponsored by Kroger’s Private Selection, which is designed to elevate everything on your plate. From gourmet ingredients to inspired shortcuts, each Private Selection product is designed to make your summer menu delicious and simple. Shop online, or at your local Kroger store year-round, because grilling seasons may come and go, but dads know how important it is to keep their game up, even in the offseason.