Vacations draw to a close, schools resume, and the days grow shorter and shorter (try as we might to ignore it). Even those lazy, unhurried sunsets spent with friends around an outdoor feast are numbered. To some, the approach of Labor Day signifies a farewell to summer. But we like to see it as another opportunity to fire up the grill and gather friends. Wherever you fall, Labor Day calls for a cookout. With the right planning and rubs, sauces, vittles, and sweets, you can seamlessly pull together a memorable (and delicious) grilling event.
Step One: The Prep
First things first, get your meats in order. You may go for a solid chunk, like pork shoulder, ribs, or brisket, to feed the masses, or settle for individual cuts, like bratwursts, burgers, or chicken pieces. You need to factor in time for marinating or slow roasting, too. Whatever you choose, the Battery Barbecue Gift Box contains a holy trinity of meaty dressings to accompany cuts from start to finish. Season the pieces first with the Blackjack Barbecue Dry Rub, and keep the Blackjack Barbecue Sauce handy while they finish on the grill. Wait to put out the Peach Hot Sauce until it’s time to serve.
Guests will start arriving and deserve to be greeted with a cold drink (you included). Smoky, flame-kissed meats call for bourbon, and old fashioneds are ice-heavy enough to stay cool in the August heat. The drink’s citrus notes make it summery enough for Labor Day, and we like to enhance them (and complement the barbecue) with Woodster Smoked Orange Bitters.
Keep appetizers light and simple. A crunchy nut mix or zippy pimento cheese and crackers will suffice. The trio collection of Hubs Peanuts keeps snacking exciting with a flavor profile that swings from sweet to salty to spicy. And while we’re all for making your own pimento cheese from scratch, you can easily buy ones that are just as good, plus, they come in fancy flavors.
As the grill, smoker, or—if you must—oven cooks away, take a minute to enjoy the company and the day. Unlike sauteed meats, grilling affords the opportunity to be a bit hands-off.
Cut the heat when it’s time, and be sure to let the meat rest—unless it’s pulled pork, in which case, start pulling! Put out any side dishes (crunchy salads, pickled or grilled vegetables, biscuits), and allow the feasting to commence.
After a heavy meal, a big dessert feels like overkill. If you feel compelled to provide a sweet treat, ice cream provides a cold, refreshing compromise. People can help themselves to as much or as little as they wish, and an additional drizzle of caramel sauce elevates the treat to party-perfect.
- by Erin Byers Murray