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A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.
Doug is a hardcore barbeque enthusiast and connoisseur. While he spends most of his time on editing and research, he sometimes moonlights as a product tester for particularly interesting things he comes across.
Grilling is a cherished 4th of July tradition. Some believe that barbecuing meat originated in the Caribbean, but it really took off in the South of the United States due to the abundance of pigs and the need to feed large amounts of people. Barbecuing doesn’t require expensive cuts of meat, so it was affordable for everyone at the comfort of your backyard.
Today, most associate the 4th of July with a big gathering of family and friends, parades, and grilled food. As you plan for this year’s celebration, here are some 4th of July grilling ideas to get you started.
1. Pulled pork
Pulled pork is typically served on a bun with barbecue sauce and coleslaw and a side of steak fries. For a healthier option, serve it with red onions and quinoa on a taco.
Use pork shoulder for the best results in a smoker with hickory wood chips. The high-fat content and rich marbling mean it won’t dry out during low, slow cooking. It takes about two hours to cook a pound of meat, so err on the side of caution when timing your 4th of July meal; if you are planning to eat it in the afternoon, ensure you start preparing your meal early in the morning.
2. Pork Chops
One of the cheaper cuts of pork, chops are versatile and easy to grill. Make a marinade with olive oil, brown sugar or honey, cumin, and pepper. Sprinkle both sides of the pork chop with salt and pepper before marinating for an hour; the salt keeps the meat moist. When grilling, keep the grill covered so the moisture doesn’t escape.
Serve the pork chops with homemade barbecue sauce. Or forgo the marinade and brush the pork chops with barbecue sauce while grilling for a lip-smacking aroma and tasty entree. Pork chops pair perfectly with mac ‘n’ cheese or creamy potato salad and cornbread.
3. Pork Tenderloin
Tenderloin (not to be confused with pork loin) is the thin, tender cut found along the spine of the hog. It’s extremely lean and cooks quickly. While preparing the meat, make sure you trim the fat and sinew.
Apply a dry rub of sugar, salt, paprika, and garlic powder and let it rest for about an hour. While waiting, create a double heat zone on the grill, making one side of the grill hotter than the other.
To grill the meat, place the tenderloin on the grill’s hottest side and flip it occasionally until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 140°F. Once all four sides are seared, move the meat to low heat, and let each side cook for 4 minutes. Then, let it rest for 10 minutes and slice it into thick pieces. Dish it up with Hasselback potatoes and cucumber and radish salad.
4. Turkey Burger
If you prefer not to have pork, poultry is a delicious alternative. Like pulled pork, ground turkey needs to have enough fat to avoid drying out; aim for 90-92% lean meat and 8-10% fat.
Add mayonnaise, grated onion and garlic, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper to give flavor and moisture to the meat. Mix everything well and portion it into equal-sized patties. Let the turkey burgers sit in the freezer for at least 20 minutes until they are firm.
Make sure you oil the grates because turkey tends to stick to the grill. Grill each turkey patty for 3-5 minutes on each side until they are done. Use a food thermometer to ensure the internal temperature is 165°F. Serve on a whole wheat bun with a low-fat slaw made with cabbage, carrot, green onion, Greek yogurt, lemon juice, and a touch of honey. This is a perfect to easy and quick meal to pack when you go to beach.
5. Grilled Chicken Breast
Grilled chicken breasts are healthy and easy to make. The chicken needs to be pounded to an even ½” thickness with a tenderizer or meat mallet. Mix olive oil, thyme, oregano, lemon zest, salt, and pepper, and let the chicken marinate for about 4 hours. Chicken breast is lean, so it dries out easily, but the oil, acids, and sugar in the marinade help it retain moisture.
Grill each side of the breast for 2-3 minutes each side, for about 6 minutes total, until it reaches 165°F. Saffron rice and a Greek salad are perfect sides for grilled marinated chicken breast. You can also stuff the chicken breast in a pita pocket, topped with tzatziki and a spoonful or two of Greek or Israeli salad.
6. Grilled Chicken Wings With Buffalo Sauce
If you prefer a crispy exterior to your meat, grilled chicken wings are a great choice.
For the buffalo sauce, heat and whisk butter, hot sauce, vinegar, and honey over low heat until combined.
It takes about 15-20 minutes, flipping every 5 minutes, for the wings to reach a safe 165°F internal temperature and achieve a perfectly crispy texture. Put the cooked wings into a bowl and toss with the buffalo sauce. Serve with ranch or blue cheese dressing and sticks of celery or cucumber.
7. Maple-Glazed Salmon
For grilled salmon, choose fillets that have the skin attached as it holds the fish together. Opt for wild-caught salmon over farmed, as it has a lower fat percentage, giving you a more tender, flaky result.
Cure the salmon by placing it in a container with maple syrup, brown sugar, orange zest, and salt for 8-12 hours. After it has cured, take it out of the mixture and let it sit for 8 hours in the fridge.
Let it smoke on the grill for around 4 hours, but brush a maple glaze made of reduced maple syrup and orange juice over the salmon every hour. Salmon can be served hot or cold. Some great side dishes include baked sweet potato and watermelon salad.
8. Fish Fillet
Choose a firm-fleshed white fish such as snapper or Mahi Mahi, and slice into fillets. Keep the skin on to avoid the fish sticking to the grill. Season the fish with salt and pepper and place them on the grill for 7-10 minutes skin side down without turning. Keep the lid closed, so the fish does not dry out. Add some lemon juice or lemon slices before serving. A side of rice pilaf, grilled asparagus, and a crusty baguette round out the meal.
Other recipes you may want to try:
Put a Twist on American Classics This 4th of July
Independence Day is a time for celebration like any holidays, and there is no better way to mark the occasion than grilling outdoors or when you go on a trip with family and friends. For healthier, delicious alternatives to traditional 4th of July grilling ideas, try putting a twist on crowd-pleasing favorites like burgers and wings. From juicy chicken breast to succulent smoked salmon, there is sure to be something for everyone.
Whichever recipe you choose, ensure you are using the right grill with premium quality wood chips to provide the best smoky flavor and juicy, tender results.