Labor Day BBQ: 5 New Twists on Your Favorite Cookout Recipes
Summer may be nearly over, but you still have one last chance to fire up the grill before fall arrives. This Labor Day weekend, make your backyard party truly special by putting a new twist on your favorite cookout recipes, from salsa to sliders. For inspiration for your end-of-season blowout, we turned to chef, cookbook author, and United Tastes of America host Jeffrey Saad, who shared some tips on how to host the perfect Labor Day BBQ.
To really impress your guests, choose quality ingredients and take extra care when prepping meals. Skip the ho-hum hot dog in a blah bun and instead make gourmet dogs by slicing the sausages open and grilling them flat, Saad suggested. Use the same technique for the buns, then top with caramelized onions, barbecue sauce, or your other favorite condiments. And don’t overlook basic ingredients. Even a simple, rustic bread can be transformed into an out-of-this-world appetizer, Saad explained, when it’s grilled and topped with white beans, shredded celery and tuna, or fresh tomato and basil.
Keep in mind that the grill isn’t just for meat, either. Don’t be afraid to throw some unconventional ingredients, like cut oranges, lemons, pineapple, or limes on the hottest part of the fire. The cooked lemons can be squeezed over fish, and the juice from the grilled oranges used over ice cream. For cocktails, “garnish your beverages with a grilled lime wedge for a great smoky flavor and a beautiful look,” Saad said.
For more ideas on how to make your Labor Day festivities a success, check out these five new twists on classic cookout recipes from chef Saad and Bush’s Best Beans.
1. Black Bean and Mango Salsa
Keep hungry guests happy while your grill up the main course with this black bean and mango salsa. It’s a fresh, heartier alternative to tomato-based salsas and a filling option for your vegetarian guests (though meat-eaters will love it too). This recipe from Bush’s Beans takes 20 minutes to prep and serves 4, though it’s easy to double if you’re feeding a crowd.
- 1 (15.8-ounce) black beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 cups diced mango
- 1 cup diced sweet red bell pepper
- 6 green onions, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves
- ¼ cup fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 seeded jalapeno pepper, minced
- Salt to taste
Directions: Combine all ingredients in bowl. Toss and serve with tortilla chips.
2. Citrus Pork Chops
Looking for a slightly more grown-up dish for your Labor Day BBQ? This citrus pork chop recipe developed by Chef Saad is a more refined alternative to burgers and brats. A homemade spice rub seasons the meat to perfection, while an orange-lime sauce gives the chops a fresh, bright flavor. Serves 4.
- 4 bone-in pork chops, about 1-inch thick
- Fresh chopped cilantro for garnish, optional
- 1 (21½-ounce) can Bush’s Sweet Mesquite Grillin’ Beans
- 2 tablespoons chili powder (or ancho chili powder)*
- ½ teaspooon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ cup fresh orange juice
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Directions: To make the rub, mix together chili powder, pepper, allspice, and cumin in a small bowl.
Using paper towel, dry off chops. Rub spice mixture evenly on both sides of chops and season with salt.
Set clean, well-oiled grill to medium heat. When grill is hot, using tongs, place chops on grill and cook 3 minutes or until dark grill marks appear. While chops cook, combine orange and lime juice in small bowl using whisk or spoon. Set aside. Using tongs, flip chops and cook 3 minutes or until chops are pink in center and internal temperature is at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
With basting brush, coat one side of chops with sauce and cook 45 seconds. Flip chops using tongs. Coat second side of chops with sauce and cook 45 seconds. Set remaining sauce aside.Using tongs, remove chops from grill and place on platter. Let rest for 10 minutes.
Drizzle chops with remaining sauce and garnish with cilantro, as desired. Serve with the beans.
3. Mini Skirt Steak Sliders
Rather than ground beef sliders, whip up a batch of these skirt steak sliders at your end-of-summer cookout. These bite-size burgers created by Chef Saad are topped with Monterey Jack cheese and baked beans. Best of all, this is a quick and easy recipe. It takes just 5 minutes to prepare and 10 minutes to cook, so you can get back to the party faster. Serves eight.
- 1 (16-ounce) can Bush’s Brown Sugar Hickory Beans
- 1 (8-ounce) skirt steak (or other steak of choice)
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- 8 mini slider buns
- 2 slices Monterey Jack cheese
Directions: Turn grill or grill pan to high. (You can also making this recipe using a sauté pan). Pat steak dry with paper towel. Season with salt, pepper, and cumin. Grill steak for 3 minutes per side for medium rare or longer until desired doneness. Let steak rest 5 minutes.
Heat the beans.
Lay bottom of buns on plate. Cut steak into 1-ounce pieces and lay one on each bun. Lay ¼ slice of cheese on each piece of steak. Spoon beans on top of cheese so they are waterfalling off of the burger. Cover with top half of bun. Transfer sliders to a plate and serve with remaining baked beans.
4. Asian BBQ Skewers
A honey and soy sauce marinade gives these chicken skewers with mushrooms and green beans an Asian flavor (especially when they’re served with baked beans seasoned with a bit of ginger). To save time during your Labor Day BBQ, marinate the meat and veggies the night before. The instructions below are for grilled skewers, but you can also prepare this dish in a sauté pan or grill pan, with or without skewers. This original recipe by Chef Saad serves 6 to 8.
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 10 green beans, halved
- 20 brown mushrooms
- 1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped, for garnish
- 2 (15-ounce) cans Bush’s Asian BBQ Beans
For the marinade
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ cup honey
- ½ cup soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
Directions: Cut each chicken thigh in half lengthwise. Set aside.
In large bowl, mix cinnamon, honey, soy sauce, and red pepper. Stir. Add chicken, green beans, and mushrooms to the bowl and coat evenly in marinade. Marinate at least 15 minutes or overnight.
Alternate one piece of chicken, 2 mushrooms, and 4 green beans on each skewer. (If using wooden skewers, soak skewers in water for at least 1 hour to prevent burning.)
Turn grill to high and cook skewers for 4 to 5 minutes on each side or until internal temperature of chicken reaches 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Serve with the Asian BBQ beans and garnish with cilantro.
5. Baked Bean and Cheese Baked Hot Dogs
No grill? No problem. You can make these baked bean and cheese hot dogs even if a cookout isn’t in the cards this year. Kids especially will love this simple entrée, which they can also help prepare. And since the recipe from Bush’s Beans serves 16, it’s a good go-to if you want to feed a lot of people without spending the entire afternoon cooking up custom burger orders.
- 1 (28-ounce) can Bush’s Brown Sugar Hickory Baked Beans
- 16 hot dog buns, split
- 16 hot dogs
- ¼ cup yellow mustard
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 cup white onions, chopped
Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two 9-by-14-inch baking pans with foil and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
Spread a thin layer of mustard inside of each hot dog bun. Add a hot dog to each bun and top with about 3 tablespoons of baked beans. Arrange hot dogs in baking pans (8 hot dogs in each pan). Top dogs with an even layer of cheese and onions. Cover each pan with foil and place in the oven.
Bake hot dogs for 30 minutes, until cheese is melted and hot dogs are heated through. Allow hot dogs to stand for 5 minutes to cool slightly before serving. To serve, carefully remove hot dogs from pan using a spatula. Serve with plenty of napkins.
Follow Megan on Twitter @MeganE_CS