The classics of a summer BBQ cookout—steak, ribs, brisket, and chicken—are all here and at their very best in this collection of our best summer grilling ideas.
Before we dive in, let’s take a look at some tips for taking the intimidation and guesswork out of cooking outdoors, from choosing the best meat to getting the right heat.
How to Plan a Summer BBQ
The better the plan, the better the cook. Before slinging seasoning or firing up the grill, have the right tools at the ready. The essentials include a good instant-read thermometer, a pair of heat-proof gloves or oven mitts, and a chimney starter if your heat-source choice is charcoal. Choose a food turner or hook that handles easily—there’s no need for the oversized grill-kit versions. It’s nice to have aluminum foil, a cooler (the perfect place to rest a brisket or pork shoulder), a large serrated knife, a smaller paring-style knife, seasoning, marinade, and sauce or glaze on hand, too.
How to Choose Meat for your BBQ Cookout
Choose briskets and ribs with good color and marbling. Remember, great ingredients equal better barbecue. If any anxiety sets in over springing for large cuts of meat, just remember that the best BBQ and grilling recipes are simple: meat + heat, with seasoning and sometimes a glaze or sauce to finish. Don’t under-season; experts say that most backyard cooks do. With chicken, keep the seasoning light; for beef and pork, layer on a good-quality seasoning, allowing the meat to rest between layers. This helps create a bark that’s delicious. For kebabs, soak wooden skewers in water to avoid burning. When it’s time to pull meat off the grill, let it rest before slicing or pulling. This gives juices a chance to settle back into the meat after cooking.
Tips for Using Your Barbecue or Grill
Imagine two kinds of heat: hot and fast (300 or more degrees), or low and slow (300 or fewer degrees). Go hot and fast for burgers, steaks, and kebabs, then low and slow for ribs, brisket, and pork butt. When cooking with charcoal, set up a two-zone fire by stacking coals on one side of the grill for hot, direct heat (great for searing), leaving the other side of the grill for smoke bathing and low-and-slow cooking. Skip the lighter fluid and try using a chimney starter instead. Don’t overload the grill; airflow is key. Always cook to temp, not to time, limiting temperature checks to every half hour to limit heat loss from the grill. Move food away from flare-ups to maintain good color and even cooking. Wood-burning grills and smokers are a favorite amongst serious BBQers, but soaked wood chips in charcoal grills offer delicious wood-smoke flavor, too.
Here’s How to Clean Up After a BBQ
A clean grill is a happy grill, and happy grills work hard for many summers’ worth of burgers and brisket. Once the grill is completely cool, dispose of ash and wipe down the inside of the grill, the grill grates, and the outside of the grill with some dish soap and warm water, using a non-scratch sponge. For stubborn food burnt on to the grates, a piece of crumpled aluminum foil works wonders. Pro-tip: On charcoal grills, line the coal grate with aluminum foil for super-easy clean-up.
Best BBQ Recipe: Smoked Queso Blanco
If this smoked queso looks familiar, that’s because top BBQers have been obsessing about it all summer. This grand slam of a recipe, by our very own Head Country Ambassador and World Champion BBQer Doug Scheiding, has been taking Facebook and Instagram by storm—in fact, we like to call it The Queso That Broke the Internet. This cheesy dip mingles with fire and smoke on the grill, and what results is creamy, spicy, and packed with flavor. This recipe makes enough to top burgers and nachos, or omelets if it’s breakfast time—and we aren’t afraid to admit that it’s an indulgent supper, paired with a stack of fresh, salty tortilla chips. Smoked Queso Dip recipe by Doug Scheiding.
Best BBQ Recipe: The Best-Ever Buffalo Wings
A big platter stacked with crispy, saucy chicken wings is one of the easiest, most sure-fire ways to bring people together. If you’re hosting a backyard BBQ—or any kind of gathering, if you ask us—you’ll maximize your fun if you have plenty of chicken wings on hand. Our how-to guide walks through the exact process you need to follow for the best wings of your life, from how to prep ‘em to how (and whether) to sauce ‘em. How to make the best-ever BBQ buffalo hot wings.
Best BBQ Recipe: Texas-Style World Champion Brisket
Think BBQ brisket is just for the pros? Doug Scheiding breaks it down in the recipe and how-to he put together for us. Doug shows how this brisket is skillfully trimmed, marinated and then seasoned, and finally bathed in smoke while the moon watches. Then comes the slow-but-sure process of coaxing this classic cut to competition perfection, including a nice, long rest in its own juices—liquid gold, as Doug calls it. Doug includes his best-kept secrets for backyard BBQ cooks, too. Texas-Style World Champion Brisket recipe by Doug Scheiding.
Best BBQ Recipe: Sausage-Stuffed BBQ Grilled Quail
When it’s party time at Champion BBQer and Head Country Ambassador Jay Tinney’s house, the request is always for his Sausage-Stuffed BBQ quail. The recipe comes together quickly, and each bite is packed with smoky, sweet, spicy flavor. A custom sausage blend and a pepper-jelly glaze add flair without fanciness. Sausage-stuffed BBQ Grilled Quail recipe by Jay Tinney.
Best BBQ Recipe: Fall-off-the-bone Pork Spare Ribs From Start to Finish
Pork spare ribs are a BBQ classic. A sure way to impress your friends and family at this summer’s cookouts is to serve up a platter stacked high with racks of ribs, each packed with tender, smoky flavor. This recipe and how-to for how to cook classic BBQ ribs step by step, from start to finish, is one of our most popular recipes, ever. The tutorial begins with how to choose your best slab of ribs at the grocery store or butcher. Then it’s on to the tips and tricks from a pro BBQer, from how to season a rack of ribs to perfection to what time and cook temperatures you need to succeed. When you make these ribs for friends and family, trust us—you won’t waste your time with plates. (We have a sugar-free version of these ribs, too.) Classic BBQ Pork Spare Ribs recipe by Doug Scheiding. Here’s our sugar-free version of classic BBQ pork ribs.
Best BBQ Recipe: Dry-Rub Wings
This recipe for BBQ Dry Rub Chicken Wings is one of the easiest—and tastiest—ways to make wings. The recipe, from Head Country Ambassador Cake ‘n Knife, stars crispy skin, flavorful meat, and a rich blue-cheese sauce that will do absolutely nothing to slow down how fast the wings disappear. Why wait until Wing Wednesday? This recipe makes wings simply too easy to wait. Pairs beautifully with an ice-cold, locally brewed beer. Dry-Rub Wings recipe by Meghan Yager.
Best BBQ Recipe: Classic Grilled Tri-Tip
Sometimes labeled “Santa Maria steak,” the triangular cut of beef known as the Tri Tip roast is popular in the Central Valley regions and the Central Coast of California. It’s best when it’s simple, rubbed with olive oil and seasoning, smoked and then seared. Carve tri tip carefully, since the direction of the grain can change directions as many as three times in this cut. Take note of the direction of the grain before you season and cook, being sure to cut against the grain when slicing, and you will be handsomely rewarded with tender meat and succulent crust. Classic Grilled Tri-Tip recipe by Pursuit of Smoke.
Best BBQ Recipe: Picanha Skewers
Picanha, one of this year’s trend cuts and a favorite at Brazilian steak houses, is also known as top sirloin with the fat cap still attached. It can sometimes be known as the Coulotte steak, without the fat cap—very lean, but flavorful. The name comes from Picana, which is the pole used to herd cattle in Spain and Portugal. This cut looks gorgeous on a steel skewer, served up family style on the wooden cutting board where it was rested. Picanha Skewers recipe by Doug Scheiding.
Best BBQ Recipe: Sweet & Spicy Grilled Pork Chops
Want to make your ‘chops sing? Take ’em sweet and spicy. Our recipe for Sweet & Spicy Pork Chops is a quick and easy way to get it done, with the added fanfare of a sweet sauce made from butter, our Sweet & Spicy Seasoning, peach juice, brown sugar, and honey. This recipe doubles well to feed a small group, or expand it even more to feed a crowd. Sweet & Spicy Grilled Pork Chop recipe by Pursuit of Smoke.
Best BBQ Recipe: Reverse-Seared Steak
A good steak is deeply satisfying any time of the year, but during summer a perfectly cooked steak borders on a religious experience. No matter your preference for cut—we love boneless ribeye, chuck eye, porterhouse, or T-bone—choose steaks that are 1 3/8” to 1 1/2” thick. Cooking time will vary depending on thickness, but these reliable tips will yield deep, rich flavor and the crust you’ve been dreaming of, every time. Reverse-seared Steak recipe by Doug Scheiding.
Best BBQ Recipe: Campfire Beer-Braised BBQ Mussels
Summer is worth celebrating. A strong campfire is a worthy welcome, and when it’s topped with cast iron, a pile of fresh mussels, a can of beer (with an ice-cold sip for the chef), and our Apple Habanero sauce, all the ingredients for a delicious, sophisticated party are at the ready. This recipe is an introduction to live-fire cooking, or cooking directly over a campfire, and it’s also an invitation to dine alfresco, ice-cold beer in hand. Campfire Beer-Braised BBQ Mussels recipe by Live Fire Republic.