Used to be, cookouts meant burgers and dogs. Ketchup and mustard. It was a tradition about as summery and American as fresh-cut green lawns and baseball. 

Today, with the rise of the foodie, the millennial and the median household income, grilling is decidedly something more. 

“It’s a legitimate hobby,” says Elizabeth Karmel, owner of Carolina Cue To-Go and former executive chef at Hill Country Barbecue Market in Washington, D.C., and New York. “It’s probably the most talked-about indigenous American way of cooking.”

Household chefs are experimenting with the types of food they grill — watermelon, eggplant, even oysters and mussels. They’re developing spice rubs and buying more than one type of grill. Die-hards are even designing outdoor kitchens, including outdoor TVs, bar seating and fire pits, as alfresco entertaining becomes the activity of summer.

Maybe you don’t know how to get started, though. First decide whether you’re a gas or charcoal griller. For taste and convenience, Karmel says, “gas cannot be beat.” But “charcoal is a lot of fun when you have more time to be hands-on.”

Then, what to eat? Heed Karmel’s mantra: If you can eat it, then you can grill it. Put the food on, and as entertaining expert Susan Spungen says, “When the party starts, be in it.”

The only real mistake you can make is calling hot dogs “barbecue,” because, as Southerners are quick to tell you, it’s only barbecue if it’s cooked low and slow. Anything else is simply “grilling out” — not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Lindsey M. Roberts is a Washington Post contributing writer.


This recipe is from Faith Durand, executive editor of TheKitchn.com, a blog for people who love food and home cooking.

For the vanilla pudding (makes 7 to 8 cups):

1⁄2 cup cornstarch

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

2 cups light or heavy cream

4 large egg yolks

4 cups 2 percent milk

1⁄2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the trifle:

18 ounces angel food cake, cut into 1 1⁄2-inch cubes (about 8 cups)

2 pounds strawberries, divided

10 ounces (2 cups) cherries, pitted and halved

6 ounces (2 cups) raspberries

3 pounds (4 pints) blueberries, divided

6 ounces (2 cups) blackberries, sliced in half lengthwise

16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

2 cups heavy cream

1⁄4 cup powdered sugar

Zest of 1 lemon

To make the vanilla pudding: Whisk the cornstarch and salt together in a 1-quart mixing bowl. Slowly whisk in the cream, making sure there are no lumps. Whisk in the egg yolks. It is important that this mix be very smooth.

Warm the milk with the sugar over medium heat in a 3-quart saucepan until bubbles form around the edge of the milk and the entire surface of the milk begins to vibrate. Turn off the heat.

Pour 1 cup of the hot milk mixture into the bowl with the cornstarch and egg yolks. Whisk vigorously to combine. They should come together smoothly, with no lumps. If you see any lumps, add a little more liquid and whisk them out.

Pour the combined mixture back into the pot slowly, whisking constantly. Turn the heat back on to medium and bring to a simmer while still whisking. The custard will come to a boil with large bubbles that slowly pop up to the surface. Boil, whisking continuously, for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Begin assembling the trifle: Pack half of the angel food cake into the bottom of a large glass bowl. The bowl should hold 20 to 24 cups.

Immediately pour half of the warm pudding over the cake. Press plastic wrap or buttered wax paper onto the surface and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until chilled.

Pour the remaining pudding into a shallow dish and press plastic wrap or buttered wax paper onto its surface. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until firm enough to be spooned out of the dish.

While the first layer of trifle and the pudding are chilling, prepare the fruit.

For the red fruit: Hull and quarter 1 pound of the strawberries and mix with the cherries and raspberries. Refrigerate. Reserve remaining strawberries for topping the trifle.

For the blue fruit: Lightly mash 2 cups of the blueberries just until they release their juices. Stir in 2 more cups of blueberries and the blackberries. Refrigerate. Reserve the remaining blueberries for topping the trifle.

Whip the cream cheese with beaters or in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add the cream, whipping until smooth, and continue whipping until it forms soft peaks. Whip in the powdered sugar and lemon zest.

To finish assembling the trifle, drain off any juices that have collected in the bottom of the fruit bowls. Remove the plastic wrap from the trifle and spread the red fruit over the base layer of cake and pudding. Top gently with the whipped cream, then with the remaining cake cubes.

Whip the remaining vanilla pudding until creamy, and spread over the cake cubes. Top with the blue fruit mixture, then with a final layer of the whipped cream.

To finish the trifle, hull and slice the remaining 16 ounces of strawberries. Arrange the remaining strawberries and blueberries on top of the trifle. Refrigerate uncovered for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours before serving.

Makes 12 servings.


For the red layer:

2 cups halved, hulled strawberries

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon

For the white layer:

1 cup Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons heavy cream

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 tablespoons lime juice

For the blue layer:

2 cups blueberries

1  /  2  cup blackberries

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 tablespoons lime juice

For the red layer: Place all ingredients in a blender. Puree until smooth. Fill 6 ice pop molds 1  /  3  of the way. Freeze until firm, for about 30 minutes.

For the white layer:  Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until combined. Remove the molds from the freezer and fill each another 1  /  3  of the way. Freeze until firm, for another 30 minutes.

For the blue layer: Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until combined. Remove the molds from the freezer and fill each another 1  /  3  of the way. Leave about 1  /  4  inch of space at the top of the mold. Freeze until solid, for about 5 hours  .

(You may have extra fruit puree, depending on the size of your berries.)

Makes 6 (3-ounce) ice pops.


This recipe is from David Latt, who blogs on Men Who Like to Cook and oneforthetable.com.

1 rack of pork ribs

1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne

1 pound brown sugar

1⁄4 cup kosher salt

1 small yellow onion, peeled, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped

Olive oil


6 ounces Italian tomato paste

Trim excess fat, the membrane and flap from the ribs. You can reserve the flap, trimmed of its membrane, to grill for tacos.

Spread a piece of plastic wrap on the counter, 5 inches longer than the rack. Dust the meat side of the ribs with the cayenne. Mix the brown sugar and kosher salt. Spread half the dry mix on the plastic wrap. Lay the ribs on top, then cover with the rest of the dry mix. Cover with a second piece of plastic wrap, seal, fold in half and place into a zip-seal plastic bag. Refrigerate in a pan overnight.

In the morning, remove the ribs. The dry mix will have transformed into a slurry, a semiliquid mixture. In a sauce pan, saute the onions and garlic with olive oil until lightly browned, season with pepper. Remove the ribs from the plastic bag. Use a rubber spatula to remove most of the liquid from the ribs and plastic bag and transfer to the sauce pan. Add the tomato paste and simmer the sauce on a low flame for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the flavor if necessary.

Line a large baking tray with aluminum foil. Place a wire rack on top of the baking tray, then lay the ribs on the rack. The ribs can either be cooked in a 350-degree oven or on the “cold” side of a covered grill with the heat on high. Cook the ribs for 30 minutes on each side, then baste the ribs with the sauce for another 30 minutes on each side or until done. Remove from the oven, cut apart the individual ribs, and serve.

Makes 4 servings.


This recipe is from Cathy Pollak, who writes for oneforthetable.com.

1 pound ground beef, 85 to 90 percent lean

1 bottle chili sauce (12 ounces)

1 can kidney beans (8 ounces)

1 packet chili seasoning

1⁄2 cup water

2 tablespoons Buffalo wing sauce

2 tablespoons yellow mustard

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon onion powder

8 beef hot dogs

8 hot dog buns

Extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

White onion, chopped

In a large skillet using medium heat, brown the ground beef. Add chili sauce, kidney beans, chili seasoning, water, Buffalo wing sauce, yellow mustard, Worcestershire sauce, fresh lemon juice and onion powder. Bring to a boil. Simmer on low heat for 15 minutes.

Cook hot dogs according to their package directions.

Place each hot dog in its bun and smother with chili, onion and cheese.

Makes 8 servings.


Oiling a grill rack before you grill foods helps ensure that the food won’t stick. Oil a folded paper towel, hold it with tongs and rub it over the rack. Do not use cooking spray on a hot grill.

This recipe is from eatingwell.com.

1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced

1 medium green bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, divided

1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

10 ounces 93-percent-lean ground turkey

2 links sweet or hot turkey sausage, casings removed

1⁄4 cup fine, dry bread crumbs

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder

4 slices provolone cheese

4 small whole-wheat hamburger buns, toasted

Place a grill basket on one side of grill. Heat to medium-high.

Toss the onion, bell pepper, oil, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning and pepper in a large bowl. Transfer to the heated grill basket. Cook, stirring a few times, until the vegetables are soft, for 12 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the ground turkey, sausage, bread crumbs, fennel seeds, garlic powder and the remaining 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning in a medium bowl. Shape into four 4-inch patties. Oil the grill rack (see headnote), place the burgers on it and cook for 4 minutes. Turn them over, top with the grilled vegetables and cheese; continue grilling until the burgers are cooked through and the cheese is melted, for 4 to 6 minutes more. Serve on buns.

Makes 4 servings.