The Cookout, Upgraded

Create a menu that’s just as simple to execute but offers a more refined take on dining al fresco for your next cookout.

Barbecue season is upon us, and while anyone can do a standard cookout, you’re the type to go the extra mile to pull off something as fabulous as it is unexpected. Create a menu that’s just as simple to execute but offers a more refined take on dining al fresco. With these inspirations—options like smoky, spiced chicken paired with a sparkling wine to a nice refreshing Lambrusco alongside your Rib eye—your outdoor fetes will always be exquisite.

The main star of your grilling party is usually the meat, so give it due attention. If you prefer burgers, head to the local butcher and pick out some grass-fed beef, which will offer a much richer and gamier flavor. If they don’t have grass-fed, have them custom-grind a piece of meat instead of opting for the already ground stuff. Brisket, short ribs and chuck are perfect because of their fat levels and rich, beefy flavor.

Steak- lovers, go for dry-aged steaks—this meat is kept in temperature- and humidity-controlled storage, resulting in extra tenderness and a uniquely rich flavor. Many butchers can custom cut steaks for your preferred thickness; request at least an inch-thick steak in order to create a nicely charred crust while still being able to pull off a nice medium-rare in the center. For grainier cuts like skirt and flank steak that take well to marinating, storing them in a marinade of your choosing the Perfect Marinade setting in our Perfect Temp Drawer will allow your meat to marinate while keeping it at a precise 37 degrees.

To add some variety to your menu, include at least two types of meat. Give chicken an update with a dry rub; completely cover in a mixture of spices to create a delicious crust. Or substitute in duck breast, which works wonderfully with smoky spices like paprika and cumin. For a seafood option, grill up some oysters for a quick and easy appetizer topped with hot sauce, herbed butter, or chimichurri. (Buy bigger oysters as opposed to smaller ones, so they won’t dry out on the grill.) Storing oysters is important in maintaining their taste and texture. Before grilling, store your shucked oysters in the Perfect Temp Drawer, at the ideal temperature of 34 degrees. For live oysters, be sure to store them anywhere between 35-40 degrees.


You can also introduce other ingredients onto the barbecue. Take your favorite dish and update it with charred vegetables to enjoy alongside your main dishes. Toss vegetables like zucchini, eggplant, and scallions on to the grill, creating a light and summery ratatouille salad, or add some grilled bread into your favorite mixture for panzanella. All grilled vegetables can benefit from a little lemon zest grated over them, which will lighten everything up. For a sweet ending, grill up stone fruits such as peaches, plums, and nectarines.

And when it comes to your beverage options, the intense, full flavors of barbecue fare allow for a number of delicious pairings. Take inspiration from the cookout in your drinks selection by charring up some fruit for a batch of sangria or toast some limes or other citrus to create a smoky addition to an aperitif.

There are also several wine varieties that pair perfectly with a summer barbecue. For the main meal, crisp, mineral-driven white wines like South African sauvignon blancs or Sicilian whites pair perfectly with smoky and spicy barbecued chicken. If you’re splurging on serious steaks, you want a wine to match that bold flavor. Look for an earthy red, such as a Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec; the tannins in the wine will become softened by the marbled fats in the steak. And a sparkling Lambrusco is also a nice choice for nearly any grilled meat, as the effervescent red wine offers refreshing and light flavor. And with the right under-counter wine cooler, you’ll be at the ready to serve your wines at just the right temperature, no matter which wine you serve.