Some Fresh Twists for Your Fourth of July Cookout

If you're tired of burgers, dogs and potato salad, here are some alternatives that won't take a lot of extra work.

With a long weekend upon us, it’s almost a sure bet that there's a cookout in your future. Here are a few suggestions if you want to bypass the standard burgers, dogs and potato salad.


Chunky guacamole

This is a great dip that goes well with your favorite summer beverage


4 or 5 ripe avocados (not too firm)

1/4 cup chopped red onion

3 garlic cloves minced

Chopped jalapeno (ribs, seeds removed) to taste

Juice of two limes

Handful of fresh cilantro, finely chopped

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

Scoop out the meat of the avocados and discard the pits. Mash them up, but don’t make it smooth – chunky is good! Mix in the rest of the ingredients, adding salt, pepper and olive oil to taste. Refrigerate for an hour before serving, pressing plastic wrap against the surface in whatever container you use, otherwise, you risk the top turning a bit brown. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips.

Side dishes:

Quick-pickle cucumbers

A great alternative to the mayonnaise-based salads that tend to dominate summer cookouts


6 or 8 mini-cucumbers or 2 longer Asian cucumbers

3/4 cup rice wine vinegar

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbs sugar

Freshly ground black pepper

Whisk together rice vinegar, sugar and salt. Once everything is dissolved, add pepper, pepper flakes and cucumbers, mixing well to combine. Cover and let sit for at least an hour.

Mango salsa

Another light addition to the menu and a great excuse to enjoy mangoes.


Four ripe mangoes (should be soft), peeled and diced

1/4 red onion, finely chopped

Small handful of fresh cilantro, finely chopped

1 Tbs scallions, finely chopped

Juice of one lime

2 Tbs orange juice

1 tsp honey

Salt and pepper

How’s this for simple – combine ingredients (salt and pepper to taste, start lightly), then let sit for 30 to 45 minutes. Serve at room temperature.

Main dishes:

Beer Can Chicken


One whole chicken, about five pounds (with neck and gizzards removed. Make sure the bird is not too big that it won’t fit under the grill hood.) 

One 12 oz. can of beer. (Try to use a full-bodied beer, as opposed to a lite beer. They have more flavor.) Remove about half of the beer any way you wish.

Dry rub (use whichever you like)

Salt and pepper

1 Tbs garlic powder

1 Tbs cumin

1 Tbs paprika

Preheat grill to medium-high heat. If you're using a gas grill, turn one half of the burners on. I turn the two outside burners on and leave the two middle burners off. For charcoal, arrange your coal so that it sits on one side of the grill. You don’t want to place the bird directly on the heat. 

As the grill heats up, rub the spice blend on the inside and outside of the chicken. Drop a few pinches of the spice rub in the beer. The powder and the liquid will react and cause the beer to bubble up a bit.

Now comes the fun part. Place the can on the grill, then sit the butt of the chicken on the can and push down until the can is halfway up. Make a tripod with the can and the beer so it stays balanced. Shut the grill and cook for 90 minutes-two hours, leaving the grill shut.

Chicken is ready when juices run clear or a thermometer reads 175 degrees Fahrenheit. Let it sit for about 10 minutes, then carve. The beer will have kept the meat nice and juicy. Enjoy!

Grilled pork tenderloin

Simple to cook and a tasty alternative to burgers and dogs


3/4 cup bourbon

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup brown sugar

3 Tbs olive oil

5 cloves garlic, minced

Mix it up, making sure the brown sugar is dissolved, and pour it into a big resealable bag. Add your pork tenderloin and make sure it is well-coated, then seal the bag and put in the fridge for about an hour. Take it out and season with salt and pepper.

Some folks will tell you to grill it over low heat, which is fine. But you can also put it on a very hot grill, turning it quickly, to get a nice sear on the outside, and then lower the heat to finish cooking. When you take it off the grill (they really don’t take that long), make sure to cover it in foil and let it stand for about 10 minutes to finish cooking. Don’t slice it too thin, maybe a quarter-inch thick or so.

A fancy summer drink: Watermelon margaritas

These take a little effort, but are a fun, sweet summer drink.

You can do a lot of the prep work well in advance so you can enjoy the drinks with your guests.

5 cups of cubed watermelon

2 Tbs sugar

Juice of two limes


Triple sec

Puree watermelon and sugar until super-smooth and then pour through a fine mesh strainer. Mix in the lime juice to finish the base before adding tequila and triple sec to taste. You can make this as a batch and put in a pitcher (8 ounces of tequila and 4 ounces of triple sec) or do the drinks individually (the 2:1 tequila to triple sec ratio works well).  Serve over the rocks (if you try to do them frozen, they get too frothy). Salt the rim of the glasses if you’re into that sort of thing. You can make several batches of the base in advance and just keep it in the fridge until needed.

Now, let the cookouts begin!


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