The best way to celebrate Labor Day is to have a cookout with family, friends and fun activities. Foodies can wow guests with grill-friendly takes on the freshest fruits and vegetables in season now such as summer squash, tomatoes, corn, melons and peaches — or keep things traditional with hot dogs and hamburgers. Whatever you choose, most people want to get one last hurrah in before the (observed) end of summer, and have and extra day to do so before they return to work.
Try a few foodie “hacks” if you want to look like a grill master. For instance, did you know that you can use Doritos as kindling for your fire? “It’s a wonder they’re used for anything else,” says WonderHowTo. To keep burgers moist, mix a tablespoon of butter into the mix, or form each patty around an ice chip or butter pat to help keep them from overcooking. Grilling atop wood planks, salt blocks and lemon slices imparts flavor to meat, vegetables and fish easily; and if you really want to look like the cookout king, grill something unexpected such as pineapple, watermelon or pizza.
Want to keep your cookout stress-free? Prep everything before guests arrive, says the Travel Mamas blog. Marinate your meats and get sides ready to plate well ahead of time — or ask your guests to bring a covered dish to pass. Make sure you have sufficient propane or charcoal for your meal plan, and keep noshes separate from the cooking area to preserve the grill master’s creative space. Invite guests to help themselves to drinks, and consider offering entertainments such as bags or horseshoes. Finally, “Have fun,” the blog says. “When the host is relaxed and having fun, so will your guests.”
Nothing beats a charcoal grill for real cookout flavor, but neophytes may be unsure how to achieve pro-quality results. First, says Spruce Eats, measure the fuel — more briquettes mean higher temperatures, so adjust the amount based upon the foodstuffs you’ll be grilling. A chimney starter is the best option for getting coals lit; once they’re glowing, you can arrange them into a uniform bed or “zones” to allow a dual-temperature cooktop. Oil and preheat the grill’s grate, then put those steaks, brats and vegetables on, further controlling cooking heat by adjusting the vents.
It’s prime grilling season, and whether you prefer gas or charcoal, some grilling tips are universal. First, plan your cookout, says The Grilling Life: Is it a fast weeknight meal or a big summer party? Check the equipment, get out the proper tools, and if you’re a meat-eater, get to know your butcher. Light the grill and allow it to get to the proper temperatures for the items on your meal plan — high for steaks, medium for chicken and vegetables, and slow and low for large cuts or ribs. Stay focused so that you don’t accidentally overcook everything. And when in doubt, “YouTube it,” the blog says.