Tips for a Successful Summer Barbecue

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Fourth of July weekend is just around the corner and for a lot of people that means firing up the barbecue. We've gathered local food writers and chefs to share their tips and recipes for grilling everything from home style meats to vegetarian fare. We'll also open up the phone lines to hear from you -- what stumps you when it comes to grilling? Or, if you happen to be a master of the barbecue, share your secrets.

Recipes from Our Guests

Grilled Cheddar-Jalapeno Eggs in Peppers

From Amanda Gold at the San Francisco Chronicle

Serves 3-4

Hollowed out bell peppers act as the crust in these grilled "quiches" - perfect served alongside a salad for lunch or dinner, or as part of a brunch spread. Cheddar and jalapeno complement the pepper shell nicely, but feel free to play with your own mix-ins.

  • 2 large red bell peppers
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup whole milk or cream
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 tablespoons minced jalapeno peppers
  • -- Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste



Amanda Gold, food writer, San Francisco Chronicle

Margo True, food editor, Sunset Magazine and author of "The One Block Feast"

Chris Cosentino, head chef and owner, Cockscomb


Instructions: Preheat a well-greased grill or grill pan to medium-low. Cut the bell peppers in half lengthwise, making sure that the halves will lay as flat as possible on a grill with the cut sides face up. Using a spoon or sharp paring knife, hollow out the insides, removing the seeds and membrane. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk or cream, cheese, jalapeno and salt and pepper to taste. Pour the egg mixture into the pepper shells, leaving at least 1/4- to 1/2-inch of room at the top. Gently place the filled peppers onto the grill or grill pan, and close the top of the grill or cover the pan. Cook until the egg mixture is set and slightly puffy, about 25 minutes. Serve warm.

Per serving: 145 calories, 11 g protein, 7 g carbohydrates, 8 g fat (3 g saturated), 321 mg cholesterol, 104 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.


Grilled Potatoes With Green Goddess Dressing

From Amanda Gold at the San Francisco Chronicle

Serves 6-8

This is a great make-ahead recipe - the dressing can sit in the fridge for 4 or 5 days, and the potatoes need to be par-cooked the day before you're ready to grill, so all that's left the day of is to season the potatoes and grill them for 8-10 minutes.


The dressing:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons Champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 anchovies
  • 2 green onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives
  • 1/4 cup packed tarragon leaves
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed parsley leaves
  • -- Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste


The potatoes:

  • 3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes (about 5 large)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste


For the dressing: Puree the mayonnaise, vinegar, lemon juice, anchovies, green onions and herbs in a food processor fitted with a metal blade or in a blender, until it is mostly smooth and green in color with flecks of herbs throughout. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and set aside or refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the potatoes: The day before serving, place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water by 1-2 inches. Season the water with a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a slow boil over medium heat, then lower to a simmer and cook until potatoes can be pierced with a knife but still hold their shape, about 45-50 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes. Remove from heat, drain and rinse with cold water. Let cool slightly, then peel and slice potatoes into 1/2-inch- thick slices. Place on a baking sheet in one flat layer and refrigerate overnight.

About 30 minutes before cooking, preheat a grill until it reads about 425° on a thermometer. Spray the grate with non-stick cooking spray, and set over the heat. Meanwhile, mix the garlic with the olive oil, and let steep for at least 20 minutes. Remove the potatoes from the fridge, brush with the garlic oil and season generously with salt and pepper on both sides.

Place on the grill and cook for about 4-5 minutes, until the bottom edges turn golden and crisp. Flip carefully and cook another 3-4 minutes. Serve immediately with the dressing on the side for dipping.

Per serving: 347 calories, 2 g protein, 19 g carbohydrate, 29 g fat (5 g saturated), 21 mg cholesterol, 193 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.


Grilled Chicken With Spicy Corn on the Cob and Grilled Lettuces

Recipe by Russell Moore, for Sunset Magazine, June 2015

Serves 4

3 hours

Russell Moore, chef and owner at Camino restaurant in Oakland, CA, gave us this technique for grilling chicken breast -- and it's the juiciest version we've ever had, protected from overcooking by the bones and skin. "Don't cook it too fast," he adds. "You don't want it burnt outside and raw inside." We also like his clever way of producing an entire dinner over one fire, grilling everything in sequence. At Camino, he uses cherry and almond wood, but for the home griller, he suggests a mix of mesquite hardwood charcoal and either fruitwood or hardwood chunks?and lighting more charcoal partway through cooking.

  • 4 skin-on, bone-in chicken breast halves with drumettes*
  • About 1 tsp. each fine sea salt and pepper
  • 3 or 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup fresh oregano leaves, divided
  • About 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 to 5 dried small hot red chiles, such as arbol
  • 3 or 4 dried mild, fruity chiles, such as guajillo or ancho
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 4 ears corn in husks
  • 4 heads Little Gem lettuce or hearts of romaine


1. Remove chicken from refrigerator 2 hours before grilling; pat dry. Season all over with 1 tsp. each salt and pepper.

2. With a mortar and pestle, pound garlic to a smooth puree. Add 1/2 cup oregano and pound?to a coarse paste. Drizzle in just enough oil to make a thick paste, about 1 tbsp. (Or, mince garlic, then mash with the flat side of a chef ?s knife. Mince oregano and blend with mashed garlic and oil.) Rub paste all over chicken pieces (anytime after seasoning step).

3. Ignite a heaping chimney of mesquite hardwood charcoal on firegrate of a charcoal grill. When fully lit but not quite glowing, about 15 minutes, spread about 1 in. thick over most of firegrate, but sloping up toward one side; the high part will be your hot area. Add about a half-chimney of unlit fruitwood chunks evenly to charcoal. Set cooking grate in place. When flames have burned down to low flickers, 5 to 8 minutes, you are ready to cook.

4. Meanwhile, remove stems but not seeds from chiles. In a clean coffee grinder, grind chiles to a coarse powder. Finely chop remaining 1/2 cup oregano and mix in a bowl with chiles. Mash in butter, plus pepper and salt to taste.

5. Grill corn in husks over hot part of fire, turning often, until blackened all over, 10 to 12 minutes; set aside. Light another chimney of charcoal in a heatproof area and let burn until glowing.

6. When grill temperature is down to medium (about 400°), scrub cooking grate with a grill brush, then wipe grate with a clean, dry rag to remove soot. Arrange chicken over cooler part of fire, skin side down and with thickest part nearest hot area. Set a couple of plates on chicken to flatten and help it crisp. Grill, uncovered, until well browned underneath, 10 to 12 minutes.

7. Meanwhile, prep lettuces: Quarter each head lengthwise through core. Brush with remaining 1 tbsp. oil and season lightly with salt.

8. Husk corn and remove any silk by rubbing ears with a kitchen towel. Rub sparingly all over with chile butter (about 1 tsp. per ear; dripping butter will cause flare-ups).

9. When chicken is browned, remove plates and turn pieces over. Through hinged flap of cooking grate, add several more coals from second chimney to replenish fire (keep heat at medium). Cook chicken, covered, until an instant-read thermometer inserted through thickest part reads 155°, 15 to 20 minutes more. Transfer to a cutting board.

10. Add corn to grill and cook over medium-high heat (450°; you may need to add a few more coals or wood chunks), covered and turning often, until charred in spots, 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cut into thirds, and rub with more chile butter while still hot. Put in a serving bowl.

11. Grill lettuces on both cut sides over medium-high heat until grill marks appear, about 10 minutes total. Arrange on a platter.

12. Carve breastbone and ribs from each piece of chicken (leave drumette attached). Set chicken on top of lettuces and serve with corn and remaining chile butter on the side.

*Order from your butcher, or follow this method for carving the breasts from 2 whole chickens:

1. Cut the first two joints off each chicken wing, leaving only the drumettes.

2. Cut the leg quarters off, leaving as much skin intact as possible over the breast.

3. Use kitchen shears to cut out the backbone and neck, following the chicken?s natural fat line.

4. Score down the center of the breastbone with the point of your knife, then cut in half through the bone.

5. After grilling, slice away the breastbone and ribs.

MAKE AHEAD Up to 1 day, season chicken; chill.

PER SERVING 670 Cal., 54% (364 Cal.) from fat; 40 g protein; 41 g fat (18 g sat.); 41 g carbo (6.4 g fiber); 1,102 mg sodium; 189 mg chol.

Grilled Calamari, Watermelon and Tomato Salad

Recipe by Chris Cosentino for Sunset Magazine

Serves 4 as a main dish

1 1/4 hours

Chris Cosentino, chef and owner of San Francisco's Cockscomb restaurant, is known for adventurous dishes like this one, a meet-up of mild grilled calamari (squid), fresh produce, and exciting seasonings. He grills the calamari over almond wood plus regular charcoal briquets; for the home cook, he recommends easy-to- find mesquite hardwood charcoal. To make the dish as fiery as Cosentino likes it, use 2 tbsp. black pepper and 2 tsp. Aleppo pepper, and don?t seed the chile.

  • 1 small seedless watermelon
  • 1 lb. heirloom tomatoes in assorted colors
  • 1/4 lb. mixed cherry and teardrop tomatoes in assorted colors
  • Zest of 2 limes plus 1/4 cup juice
  • 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 tbsp. Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce, such as Red Boat
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tbsp. coarsely ground black pepper plus 1/4 tsp. finely ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 tsp. Aleppo pepper*, divided
  • 1 lb. whole calamari tubes and tentacles, preferably fresh
  • 1 tsp. flake sea salt, such as Jacobsen
  • 1?4 cup each torn fresh Thai basil* or regular basil leaves; small, loosely packed cilantro sprigs; and torn fresh mint leaves
  • 1 serrano chile, halved lengthwise, seeded, and sliced paper thin


1. Cut melon in half, cut off peel, and cut fruit into 11/2-in. squares, removing any seeds, to make 1 qt. Put in a large bowl. Cut heirloom tomatoes into wedges and thick slices. Cut cherry and teardrop tomatoes in half and add all tomatoes to melon. Set aside.

2. Set lime zest aside. In a bowl, combine lime juice, 2 tbsp. oil, the fish sauce, coarsely ground black pepper, and 1/2 to 1 tsp. Aleppo pepper; set dressing aside. Clean calamari*. Rinse well; pat dry.

3. In a small bowl, gently toss tubes and tentacles with lime zest, remaining 1 tbsp. oil, the finely ground black pepper, remaining 1/2 to 1 tsp. Aleppo pepper, and the salt. Set aside.

4. Ignite a very full chimney of mesquite hardwood charcoal on firegrate of a charcoal grill. Dump onto firegrate and add half again as much fresh hardwood charcoal; spread level. Set cooking grate in place. Heat 5 minutes with grill uncovered.

5. Meanwhile, put herbs and chile in a small bowl and set aside. Drizzle tomato mixture with dressing and combine gently; set aside.

6. Working quickly and using long tongs, grill calamari tubes, turning once, until grill marks appear and calamari is opaque, 2 to 3 minutes total. Transfer to a clean bowl. With tongs, drop tentacles onto grate in several clumps. Grill just to firm up, 15 to 20 seconds; then spread out and cook, turning once, until centers are opaque, 3 to 4 minutes total. Add to bowl with tubes. Gently toss calamari, herbs, and chile with tomato mixture. Arrange on a large platter.

*Find fruity Aleppo pepper at well-stocked grocery stores and Find Thai basil at Asian markets and farmers' markets. To clean calamari, cut off pointy tips. Slide a thin knife into each tube and scrape out squishy bits, as well as the clear, quill-shaped backbone.


PER SERVING 279 Cal., 39% (108 Cal.) from fat; 21 g protein; 12 g fat (2 g sat.); 27 g carbo (3.6 g fiber); 1,150 mg sodium; 264 mg chol.