Chef AJ Early from Boise, Idaho, shares tips on throwing a perfect 4th of July BBQ. Welcome, AJ!
The Fourth of July is just around the corner, and there is no other holiday that is more perfect for a backyard BBQ. Whether you invite friends, family, or both, you’ll want to make sure that everything goes smoothly, and that everyone has a great time. Follow these steps to make sure your patriotic shindig is perfect.
The first thing you want to do is make sure there will be a place for everyone to sit and enjoy themselves. If you don’t have enough outdoor furniture to accommodate all of your guests, you have a few options. First, you could rent chairs from a local party rental store, or even buy some inexpensive ones to have on hand.
You could also bring some of your indoor chairs outdoors, or utilize things like coolers, crates, or bails of hay as seating. The last option is to ask guests to bring portable chairs along with them.
Get Rid Of Pests
This time of year, mosquitoes are out with a fury. They are pesky little critters, but they can also carry dangerous diseases, and even a few swarming around will surely dampen your guest’s spirits.
There are a lot of ways you can protect your backyard from mosquitoes: place traps or use a bug misting system, and make sure to get rid of any standing water before the event.
Utilizing a canopy or porch with mesh curtains is always a safe bet if you have those items, otherwise, you’ll want to take extra measures for your backyard BBQ. You can spray pesticides beforehand, but if chemicals aren’t your thing, burn citronella candles or torches, or place fans blowing outward from the party area. Mosquitoes have a hard time flying in wind.
Prepare Your Grill
The next step to ensure BBQ perfection is to make sure your grill is ready to go before the big day. According to Tony Roma’s pitmaster, there are five steps to preparing your grill for a gathering. First, give it a good scrub down and make sure it’s clean and free of debris. Second, make sure you have enough fuel to get you through, and if you’re in doubt, grab some backup. Third, make sure you have all the tools and utensils that you’ll need. Next, grab an instant read thermometer. This will not only help ensure your meat is cooked properly, it will also help keep you from overcooking it. Last, make sure you have a grill light or a flashlight. If you end up grilling after it gets dark, it will be very hard to tell when your food needs to be flipped or rotated without some direct light.
Now that you’ve got the grill and the backyard prepared, it’s time to get crafty. You don’t have to go all-out for an outdoor event, but taking a little time to make everything look festive will delight your guests, especially the little ones. You can go super simple by using red, white and blue bandanas as placemats, grabbing some red, white, and blue flowers, and printing up some little flags to wrap around water bottles. You can also get extra
crafty with the kids by gathering together to make these homemade“fireworks”
or this cute DIY marbled red, white, and blue garland.
Of course, the most important aspect of any backyard BBQ is the food. There is nothing more All-American than burgers and dogs, so that’s always a great option to go with, especially since you can have guests bring sides and desserts. But, if you want to escape tradition a little, this is my idea of the perfect 4th of July BBQ:
1 cup store-bought refrigerated fresh salsa
1/2 bell pepper (any color), grilled and diced
1/2 medium red onion, grilled and diced
Heat grill or grill pan to medium-high. In a large bowl, toss the pepper, onion, and oil.
Grill, turning occasionally, until tender and charred, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board. Cut the pepper and onion into 1/4-inch pieces and transfer to a bowl. Add the salsa and stir to combine.
Next, give everyone something a little different, yet still thoroughly America, with these root beer ribs:
2 racks baby back ribs
1 bottle (2 liters) root beer
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 small white onion, finely chopped
1 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Place ribs in large baking dish. Pour all but 1 cup root beer over ribs. Sprinkle 2
tablespoons salt over ribs; cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to overnight, turning once if possible. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove ribs from root beer and pat dry with paper towel. Discard root beer in pan; wipe pan dry. Place ribs back into pan. Add 1 cup water; cover tightly with foil. Cook 2 hours or until meat is nearly falling off the bone. Meanwhile, make root beer barbecue sauce: In small saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onion; cook 3 to 4 minutes or until onion is soft, stirring frequently. Add
remaining ingredients (including reserved 1 cup root beer and 1/2 teaspoon salt); heat to boiling. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally. Just before ribs hit the 2 hour mark in the oven, preheat grill for indirect grilling over medium-high heat. Put bones on cooler side of grill, bone side down. Brush with some Root Beer Barbecue Sauce and cook 10 to 15 minutes, then flip. Brush with sauce again and cook until ribs are lightly charred and meat is falling off bone. Serve with any remaining sauce.
Can’t forget the veggies! This succotash salad is super easy and a perfect addition to 4th of July:
1 pound fresh okra, trimmed
1 pt. cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Place mixture on cooking grate, and grill, covered with grill lid, over medium-high heat (350° to 400°). Grill tomatoes 3 minutes or just until they begin to pop. Turn okra, and grill, covered with grill lid, 2 to 3 more minutes or until tender. Transfer okra and tomatoes to a serving dish, and sprinkle with basil. Serve immediately.
Last, impress your guests by ditching the classic flag cake and going with this fruit-tart flag instead:
Fill premade miniature tart shells or phyllo cups with sweet mascarpone cream (recipe below), then arrange on a tray and top with blueberries and halved strawberry slices to create stars and stripes.
Beat an 8-ounce container of mascarpone cheese and 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar with a mixer until smooth. Gently fold in 1/2 cup freshly whipped cream.
The last step to a perfect Fourth of July gathering is of course, the fireworks. If your town or a nearby one has a great fireworks show, start the grilling early in the afternoon so you can all head down to save a spot early. Otherwise, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got plenty of fun to go around. When you get the show
going, start with the smallest fireworks first, and work your way up to the bigger ones. Building anticipation is a great way to keep your guests entertained the whole evening, especially the little ones. Just remember to
practice firework safety, and clean up everything once it is cool enough to touch.
AJ Earley is a personal chef, freelance writer, and root beer float enthusiast from Boise, Idaho.