8 recipes that will raise your barbecue game

From meatless burgers to mango tacos, try something different over the holiday weekend.

There have been Independence Day celebrations as long as there has been Independence Day. There might not be as many public readings of the Declaration of Independence, but we do mark the occasion with flags, fireworks, fanfare and, of course, food.

Barbecues have become an integral part of the summer celebration. While it's not usually considered a top-tier food holiday, a cook still likes to make an impression. That's why we've combed through the latest cookbooks looking to raise our summer barbecue game.

Have the grill going? Try a top-notch meatless burger or give hot dogs a Greek twist. (Opa!) If steak is on the menu, make extra to top salads for those who like things on the lighter side. If you're tapped to bring a dish to pass, we have out-of-the-box salad recipes, a spicy take on sloppy Joes and desserts. (Mango tacos or a blueberry-peach cobbler, anyone?)

But the main ingredient on your menu should be relaxation — you've earned it. These recipes will be here all summer long.


Chipotle Sloppy Joe

Serves 4.

Note: Sometimes cooks need a make-ahead dish, and this twist on sloppy Joes adds a little heat and variety to the standard version. "I'm always amazed at how the addition of the chipotle chile and beer makes this so ... different —  ​and way better," writes Sam Zien in his new cookbook "Sam the Cooking Guy: Between the Buns" (Countryman Press, 2022).

• 1 tbsp. oil

• 1/2 onion, diced small

• 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced small

• 1 lb. ground beef

• 1 large clove garlic, minced

• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

• 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

• 6 oz. tomato paste

• 1 c. good beer (bitter is even a little better)

• 3 to 4 chipotle chiles, minced well

• 4 hamburger-​style rolls


Heat the oil in a large skillet, add the onion and bell pepper, cook for about 3 minutes, then add the ground beef.

Continue to cook until the beef is just cooked through, then add the garlic and cook for another minute, or until the garlic is fragrant.

Season with salt and black pepper and add the Worcestershire, tomato paste, beer and chipotles. Mix everything well and then simmer about 10 minutes over medium-​low heat until thickened.

Serve on the rolls.

Where's the Meat Burger

Serves 5.

The meat-centric Pig Beach BBQ restaurants in New York also accommodate guests who choose not to eat animal protein. "After much trial and error, we came up with this mix, which has great flavor and takes to the regular Pig Beach fixin's just like our meat-based burgers do," Matt Abdoo and Shane McBride write in "Pig Beach BBQ Cookbook" (Harvest, 2022). The recipe calls for smoking the pecans for deeper flavor, but we adapted by toasting them instead. Just place them in a dry skillet over medium heat and toast, occasionally shaking pan, until nuts are fragrant and begin to darken slightly, 3 to 5 minutes. You'll need to prepare this recipe in advance.

• 1 tbsp. plus 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided

• 1/3 c. uncooked quinoa

• 1 tbsp. vegetable oil

• 2 cloves garlic, minced

• 1 large red onion, finely diced

• 1 tbsp. tomato paste

• 2 tsp. Dijon mustard

• 1 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

• 3/4 tsp. finely minced fresh thyme

• 1/2 c. pecan pieces, toasted and finely chopped (see Note)

• 1 c. finely chopped cooked or canned chickpeas

• 1 1/2 tsp. barbecue seasoning (see next recipe)

• 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper


Place 2 quarts water and 1 tablespoon of the salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the quinoa and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or just until tender. Remove from heat. Strain quinoa and set aside to drain well and cool slightly. You need to remove as much water as possible.

Spread the cooked quinoa in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and set aside to cool completely, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat the oil in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes or until light golden brown and very aromatic. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until well caramelized. Add the tomato paste, mustard, Worcestershire and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes.

Line a small rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Scrape the onion mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and set aside to cool, then transfer to a large bowl.

Remove the quinoa from the refrigerator and add it to the onion mixture along with the pecans. Add the chickpeas, barbecue seasoning, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Using your hands, blend the mixture well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to blend and to ensure the mixture will hold together when formed into patties.

Form the chilled chickpea mixture into five 4-ounce patties. (At this point, you can place them on a parchment-lined plate, cover and refrigerate until ready to use, or place in the freezer until frozen, then transfer to a resealable freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost patties before cooking.)

Clean and oil the grill grate and preheat the grill to high.

Grill the patties for 3 minutes, then flip and grill on the second side for 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

Pig Beach All-Purpose Barbecue Seasoning

Makes about 1 cup.

Note: This is the basic seasoning from Pig Beach BBQ, which can be used on almost anything. It is terrific on proteins but equally delicious on grilled or roasted vegetables — keep it on hand for a summer worth of grilling. Hatch chile powder is an earthy, slightly spicy seasoning made from chiles grown in New Mexico's Hatch Valley. It comes in both red and green varieties — Pig Beach just uses the red — and is available at specialty food stores or online. From "Pig Beach BBQ Cookbook," by Matt Abdoo and Shane McBride (Harvest 2022).

• 1/4 c. granulated sugar

• 1/4 c. sweet paprika

• 3 tbsp. dark brown sugar

• 2 1/2 tbsp. coarse salt

• 1 tbsp. ground black pepper

• 1 tbsp. granulated garlic

• 1 tbsp. granulated onion

• 2 tsp. Hatch red chile powder (see Note)

• 1/2 tsp. dried oregano

• 1/2 tsp. ground cumin

• 1/4 tsp. dried thyme

• 1/8 tsp. ground fennel seed


Combine the granulated sugar, paprika, brown sugar, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, chile powder, oregano, cumin, thyme and fennel in a medium bowl and stir to combine completely.

Transfer to a spice grinder or food processor and process to a coarse blend. Transfer to a glass container, cover, and store in a cool, dark spot for up to 6 weeks.

Greek Dog

Serves 4.

Note: Tzatziki is one of those things that makes everything better — ​and this dog is no exception. It's cool, it's garlicky and lemony, and it's a tremendous change. From "Sam the Cooking Guy: Between the Buns" (Countryman Press, 2022).

• 1/2 c. plain Greek yogurt

• 1 c. grated cucumber (about 1/2 medium cucumber), squeezed in a towel to get rid of as much moisture as possible

• 1 clove garlic, minced

• 1 tbsp. chopped fresh dill

• 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

• Kosher salt, to taste

• 1 tbsp. olive oil

• 1/4 c. diced tomato

• 1/4 c. Kalamata olives, pitted and diced small

• 1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley

• 1 tsp. red wine vinegar

• 4 hot dogs

• 4 buns

• 2 tbsp. crumbled feta for garnish


To prepare the tzatziki, in a small bowl, combine the yogurt, cucumber, garlic, dill, lemon juice, salt and olive oil and mix well.

Combine the tomato, olives, parsley and vinegar in a separate small bowl. Season with salt and mix well, then set aside.

Make small diagonal slits on all sides of the dogs and cook in a nonstick pan over medium heat until browned and crispy. (Or, if you're barbecuing, pop them on the grill.)

To assemble, slice buns and spread with tzatziki. Place hot dog in bun and top with tomato mixture. Garnish with feta and serve.


Spinach, Apple and Fennel Salad with Warm Bacon & Shallot Dressing

Serves 4 as a main dish.

Note: "This is one of my favorite salads, hearty and green with unexpected opposing flavors of bitter and sweet," writes Jessica Formicola in "Beef it Up" (Storey, 2022). "If I am making it for visitors or a special occasion, I pull out my mandoline slicer for paper-thin cuts of fragrant fennel and tart apple. But for a casual weeknight meal, I just chop everything coarsely." While technically a steak salad, it is just as tasty without the meat. The recipe calls for cooking the steaks on the stovetop, but if the grill is fired up, all the better.

For the dressing:

• 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

• 1/4 c. chopped shallots

• 1/4 c. apple cider vinegar

• 2 tbsp. maple syrup

• 1 tsp. Dijon mustard

• 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• 1/2 c. cooked, chopped bacon

For the salad:

• 2 (8-oz.) New York strip steaks

• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

• 1 to 2 tsp. vegetable oil, optional

• 8 c. fresh baby spinach

• 4 oz. soft goat cheese

• 4 tbsp. coarsely chopped walnuts

• 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced

• 1 tart apple, cored and thinly sliced


To prepare the dressing: Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots, sautéing until slightly soft. Whisk in the vinegar, maple syrup, mustard, salt and pepper until combined. Heat for 4 to 5 minutes, or until small bubbles form. Add the bacon, heating for 3 to 4 minutes longer, until the bacon is warmed. Keep warm. (Dressing may be prepared up to four days in advance and refrigerated; reheat before using.)

To prepare the steak: Season both sides of the steaks liberally with salt and pepper. Heat a well seasoned cast-iron or other nonstick pan over high heat. If using a regular pan, add the oil. When the pan is hot, add the steaks. Sear the steaks on each side for 4 to 5 minutes, pressing down to make sure all the meat makes contact with the hot pan. The meat should be cooked to medium, or 145 degrees. Transfer the steaks to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.

Assemble the salad: Evenly divide the spinach, cheese, walnuts, fennel and apple among four large salad bowls or plates.

Once the steak has rested, cut it into thin slices, discarding any large pieces of fat and evenly dividing the meat among the plates. Spoon some of the warm dressing over each salad and serve.

Supertastic Melon Mozzarella Salad

Serves 4 to 6.

Note: From "A Perfect 10," by Tim Mulligan (Highpoint Life, 2022).

For the salad:

• 3 oz. prosciutto, cut into strips

• 1/2 watermelon

• 1 cantaloupe

• 1 honeydew melon

• 2 c. cherry tomatoes, halved

• 1 c. torn basil leaves

• 8 oz. fresh mozzarella balls (or 8 oz. burrata cheese)

• 1/4 c. toasted pine nuts

• 2 tbsp. chopped fresh mint leaves

For the dressing:

• 1/4 c. olive oil

• 3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

• 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

• 2 tbsp. honey

• 2 tsp. fig jam

• Kosher salt

• Ground black pepper

• Red pepper flakes


Prepare the prosciutto: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and lay the prosciutto evenly on the foil. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until crispy.

Prepare the salad: Using a melon-baller, carve out as many balls as possible from the watermelon, honeydew and cantaloupe. In a salad bowl, combine the melon balls, tomatoes and basil.

Prepare the dressing: In a jar with a lid, add olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, honey and fig jam. Cover and shake well to combine. Season to taste with salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes.

To assemble: Drizzle half of the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Add the cheese, toasted pine nuts, and the remainder of the dressing. Top with crispy prosciutto and chopped mint leaves and serve.

Strawberry, Mint and Hazelnut Salad

Serves 4.

Note: This cool, refreshing salad makes a nice side to barbecued chicken, pork chops or steak — and only takes 10 minutes to make. From "Salads Are More Than Leaves," by Elena Silcock (Hamlyn, 2022).

For the dressing:

• 4 tbsp. olive oil

• 2 to 4 tbsp. fresh lemon juice (1 to 2 lemons), or to taste

• Salt and pepper

For the salad:

• 3 1/2 oz. hazelnuts, plus more for topping

• 1 1/4 lb. strawberries

• 1 small bunch mint (about 1 oz.)

• 1 small bunch basil (about 1 oz.)

• 7 oz. mâche lettuce or watercress

• 3/4 c. pitted black olives

• 3 1/2 oz. pecorino or Parmesan cheese

• Salt and pepper


To prepare the dressing: Put the oil and lemon juice in a large bowl, season generously with salt and pepper and whisk until combined. Set aside. (Dressing may be prepared in advance; store refrigerated in a covered jar for up to a week.)

To prepare the salad: Roast the hazelnuts by placing them in a dry skillet over medium heat and toast, occasionally shaking pan, until nuts are fragrant and begin to darken slightly, 3 to 5 minutes.

Hull the strawberries, then halve and add to the dressing. Pull the herb leaves from the mint and basil and add to the bowl along with the greens. Then add the olives, crushing them to break them up as you go. Use a peeler to shave the cheese directly into the bowl. Roughly crush or halve the hazelnuts and add most of them to the bowl.

Season well with salt and pepper, then toss everything well. Transfer to bowls or a platter, top with the remaining hazelnuts and finish with a crack of black pepper.


Cast Iron Peach-Blueberry Cobbler

Serves 12.

Note: "We love making this dessert in a big ol' cast-iron skillet. It suits the down-home home cooking that the cobbler represents," writes Matt Abdoo and Shane McBride in the "Pig Beach BBQ Cookbook." Even in the winter, frozen peaches and blueberries will turn this recipe into a delicious end to a meal. When making the crumble, be sure the butter is very cold.

For the crumble:

• 1 c. all-purpose flour

• 1 c. apple-cinnamon-flavor instant oatmeal (3 packets)

• 1 c. packed light brown sugar

• 3/4 c. chopped pecans

• 1 tsp. baking powder

• 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

• 1 c. (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, grated (see Note)

For the filling:

• 3 lb. (about 8 c.) skin-on peaches, pitted and cut into 1/2-in.-thick wedges

• 1/2 c. packed light brown sugar

• 1/4 c. all-purpose flour

• 1 tbsp. cornstarch

• 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

• 1 tsp. ground ginger

• 1/2 tsp. ground allspice

• 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

• 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

• 6 tbsp. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

• 1 pint blueberries


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

To prepare the crumble: Combine the flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, pecans, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add the grated butter and, using your hands, work the mixture into a coarse crumble. Set aside.

To make the filling: Place the peaches in a large bowl. Add the brown sugar, flour, cornstarch, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and salt and toss to blend well. Sprinkle with the lemon juice, followed by the melted butter, and toss again to coat the peaches. Fold in the blueberries.

Pour the filling into a large, well seasoned cast-iron skillet. Spoon the crumble over the fruit filling in an even layer. Bake for 40 minutes or until the fruit is bubbling and cooked through and the crumble is golden brown. Serve bubbling hot, straight from the pan.

Mango Dessert Taco

Serves 6 to 8.

Note: "Because these taste like summer with the mango and the ice cream, you should definitely try grilling the tortillas on your barbecue instead of cooking them in a pan," writes Sam Zien in "Sam the Cooking Guy: Between the Buns" (Countryman Press, 2022). Fresh-picked berries would work well, too.

• 1/4 c. sugar

• 2 tsp. ground cinnamon

• Flour tortillas

• Salted butter, melted

• About 1 1/2 c. high-quality vanilla ice cream

• 2 fresh mangoes, peeled and diced

• Hot (spicy) honey

• 1/2 lemon

• Powdered sugar


Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.

Brush both sides of the tortilla lightly with butter and sprinkle well with the cinnamon-​sugar.

Cook in a nonstick pan over medium heat until slightly crispy and browned on both sides, about 1 minute per side, then transfer to a serving plate.

Add ice cream to each tortilla and top with mango.

Drizzle with honey, a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of powdered sugar. Serve.