Masthead

Clash of the Cookout Titans

We give classic cookout dishes—burgers, grilled chicken, potato salad, coleslaw, and corn on the cob—two different delicious takes and pit them head-to-head. Decide the winners, and assemble your greatest picnic-table spread of all time.


By Tim Cebula
Photos by Jennifer Causey Recipes by Adam Hickman
5 min
Above Image | All-American Grilled Burger

GRILLED BURGERS VS SMASHED SLIDERS

The all-American classic is the no-frills star of cookouts from sea to shining sea: flame-kissed juicy beef with old-school fixings (hello, iceberg!) and pickle-flecked special sauce. Smashed sliders are the plucky upstarts, with beef pressed on a ripping-hot pan for patties with crunchy, caramelized crust and incredible flavor. Plus, cheese!

All-American Grilled Burger

Active | 20 min Total | 20 min Serves | 4 (serving size: 1 burger)

  • ¼ cup finely chopped iceberg lettuce
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted ketchup
  • 3 Tbsp. finely chopped reduced-sodium dill pickle (about 1½ spears)
  • 1 Tbsp. grainy mustard
  • 1 tsp. hot sauce
  • 1 lb. 90% lean ground sirloin
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • Cooking spray
  • 4 iceberg lettuce leaves
  • 4 (1.8-oz.) sesame seed hamburger buns, lightly toasted
  • 4 (¼-in.-thick) heirloom tomato slices
  • 4 thin white onion rings
  1. Preheat grill to medium-high (about 450°F). Combine first 5 ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. Gently shape ground sirloin into 4 (4-inch-wide) patties. Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper. Coat grill grate with cooking spray. Place patties on grate; grill 4 minutes on each side or to desired degree of doneness.
  3. Place 1 lettuce leaf on bottom half of each bun. Top each with about 2½ tablespoons sauce, 1 patty, 1 tomato slice, and 1 onion ring. Cover with top halves of buns.

CALORIES 381; FAT 13.8g (sat 4.9g, mono 5.2g, poly 1.3g); PROTEIN 29g; CARB 34g; FIBER 2g; SUGARS 7g (est. added sugars 2g); CHOL 74mg; IRON 4mg; SODIUM 685mg; CALC 115mg

Smashed Double Cheeseburger Sliders

Active | 20 min Total | 20 min Serves | 4 (serving size: 2 sliders)

  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted ketchup
  • 1 Tbsp. canola mayonnaise
  • ¾ tsp. black pepper, divided
  • ¾ tsp. sugar
  • ¾ tsp. kosher salt
  • 12 oz. 93% lean ground sirloin
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 oz. shredded cheddar cheese (about ½ cup)
  • 8 whole-wheat slider buns, toasted
  • 8 thin plum tomato slices
  • 16 thin, small red onion slices
  • 8 small romaine lettuce slices
  1. Combine ketchup, mayonnaise, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in a small bowl.
  2. Place sugar, salt, remaining ½ teaspoon pepper, beef, and garlic in a bowl; gently combine. Divide into 16 (¾-ounce) balls; lightly coat with cooking spray.
  3. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add 4 beef balls to pan; use a large offset spatula to press each portion into a 2-inch-wide patty. Cook until well browned, about 1 minute. Turn patties; top each with 1½ teaspoons cheese. Cover pan; cook 30 seconds or until cheese melts. Remove patties from pan; arrange in stacks of 2. Repeat procedure with remaining beef balls and cheese.
  4. Top each bottom bun with 1½ teaspoons ketchup mix, 2 patties, 1 tomato slice, 2 onion slices, and 1 lettuce leaf. Cover with bun tops.

CALORIES 284; FAT 13g (sat 4.5g, mono 4.2g, poly 2.2g); PROTEIN 24g; CARB 19g; FIBER 1g; SUGARS 4g (est. added sugars 3g); CHOL 61mg; IRON 2mg; SODIUM 631mg; CALC 135mg

CORN: SMOKED VS GRILL-STEAMED

Smoke 'em if you got 'em: A low and slow fire releases the fragrance of applewood to burnish the corn with bronze highlights and a mellow-sweet smoky flavor. Or use the husks like a natural steamer to lock in all the sweetness and keep the kernels tender and juicy, and then give the golden ears a dusting of fruity Aleppo pepper and citrusy cilantro.

Applewood-Smoked Corn on the Cob

We love the warm, slightly sweet smoky flavor applewood gives the corn. Hickory chips might overpower here, but cherry chips would also work.

Active | 15 min Total | 45 min Serves | 4 (serving size: 1 ear)

  • 1 cup applewood chips
  • 4 large ears fresh corn with husks
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  1. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect heat. If using a charcoal grill, carefully push hot coals to one side of grill, and close grill lid. Bring temperature to 275°F to 300°F. If using a gas grill, turn all burners to high, and close grill lid. Bring internal temperature to 275°F to 300°F; turn off one side of gas grill.
  2. Wrap applewood chips in an aluminum foil packet, and use a skewer to poke 10 holes through foil.
  3. Pull husks back from corn, keeping husks intact; remove and discard silks. Tie husks together with kitchen twine or a long strip of husk to form a handle for each ear of corn.
  4. Place foil packet with wood chips over coals or lit burner; close lid, and heat until smoke starts to fill grill. Place corn on grate over unlit side of grill. Cover and cook 30 minutes or until corn is tender and kernels are lightly browned, maintaining temperature between 275°F and 300°F. Remove corn from grill. Stir together butter, salt, and pepper; evenly brush over corn.

CALORIES 139; FAT 7.2g (sat 4g, mono 1.9g, poly 0.7g); PROTEIN 3g; CARB 19g; FIBER 2g; SUGARS 6g (est. added sugars 0g); CHOL 15mg; IRON 1mg; SODIUM 311mg; CALC 5mg

Grill-Steamed Corn with Cilantro and Chile Flakes

Aleppo is a fruity Middle Eastern pepper with moderate heat. Sub ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, if desired.

Active | 30 min Total | 50 min Serves | 4 (serving size: 1 ear)

  • 4 large ears fresh corn with husks
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • ¾ tsp. Aleppo chile powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 4 lime wedges
  1. Preheat grill to medium-high (about 450°F). Place corn on grill grate; grill, uncovered, 15 minutes or until husks are charred and corn is tender. Remove corn from grill; let stand 10 minutes. Pull husks back; discard silks. Brush corn with oil. Sprinkle with cilantro, chile powder, and salt. Serve with lime wedges.

CALORIES 151; FAT 8.2g (sat 1.3g, mono 5.4g, poly 1.3g); PROTEIN 3g; CARB 20g; FIBER 2g; SUGARS 7g (est. added sugars 0g); CHOL 0mg; IRON 1mg; SODIUM 333mg; CALC 5mg

POTATO SALAD: TANGY VS CREAMY

Nothing brings a starchy potato salad to life like tangy vinaigrette—zesty mustard and white wine vinegar deliver a one-two punch to the palate. But everyone loves the cool comfort of a creamy mayo-based potato salad, especially when a little yogurt livens up the dressing and roasted red pepper adds a touch of sweetness and velvety texture.

Yukon Gold Potato Salad

A middle ground between waxy red potatoes and starchy russets, buttery Yukon Golds are great in potato salad.

Active | 29 min Total | 53 min Serves | 4 (serving size: about 1 cup)

  • 2 large red bell peppers
  • 1¼ lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into ¾-in. cubes
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onions
  • ¼ cup canola mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 Tbsp. plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/8 tsp. table salt
  1. Preheat broiler with oven rack in top position. Cut peppers in half; discard seeds and stems. Place bell peppers, cut side down, on an aluminum foil–lined baking sheet. Broil 10 minutes or until well charred. Cover pan tightly with foil; let stand 10 minutes. Uncover peppers; remove and discard skins. Chop peppers; place in a medium bowl.
  2. Place potatoes in a medium saucepan. Cover with water by 3 inches; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook 5 minutes or until al dente. Add whole eggs; cook 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Drain potatoes; plunge eggs into ice water. Let eggs stand 10 minutes.
  3. Add green onions and remaining ingredients to bell peppers; stir to combine. Peel cooked eggs; chop. Add potatoes to bell pepper mixture; toss to coat. Add eggs to potato mixture; stir gently to combine.

CALORIES 244; FAT 9g (sat 1.7g, mono 4.2g, poly 2.4g); PROTEIN 10g; CARB 30g; FIBER 6g; SUGARS 6g (est. added sugars 3g); CHOL 187mg; IRON 2mg; SODIUM 324mg; CALC 53mg

Fingerling Potato Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

Little fingerling potatoes are fantastic in potato salads, in part because their skin-to-flesh ratio is much smaller than big potatoes, so there's more dynamic textural difference in every bite.

Active | 10 min Total | 30 min Serves | 4 (serving size: about 1 cup)

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. grainy mustard
  • ¾ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1¼ lb. multicolored fingerling potatoes, halved
  • ½ cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh chives
  1. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Place potatoes in a medium saucepan. Cover with water by 3 inches; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Drain well. Add hot potatoes to dressing; toss gently to coat. Add onion and chives; toss.

CALORIES 231; FAT 13.5g (sat 1.9g, mono 9.9g, poly 1.4g); PROTEIN 2g; CARB 26g; FIBER 4g; SUGARS 3g (est. added sugars 0g); CHOL 0mg; IRON 1mg; SODIUM 301mg; CALC 8mg

CHICKEN: BEER CAN VS SPATCHCOCK

The can is gimmicky, but it really works: Liquid in the can moistens the bird from inside as it grills, guaranteeing juicy meat that falls off the bone. Has anything so hilarious-looking ever tasted so delicious? Brick chicken is stiff competition in the cookout stunt category: Weight-pressed split chickens cook fast and evenly, with crackling-crisp skin.

Tangy Beer-Can Chicken

The can method keeps the bird moist while it grills because liquid in the can forms steam inside the cavity. Any canned beverage will work, since it won't really impart any noticeable flavor to the chicken. We like the bright, tangy flavor of good old-fashioned yellow mustard here.

Active | 1 hr Total | 2 hrs 45 min Serves | 6 (serving size: about 4 oz. chicken and 1 Tbsp. sauce)

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 (5-lb.) whole chicken
  • 1 (12-oz.) can beer or soft drink
  • ¼ cup yellow mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • ¼ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  1. Preheat a gas grill to medium (about 400°F) on one side, or push hot coals to one side of a charcoal grill.
  2. Combine first 3 ingredients in a small bowl. Starting at the neck cavity, loosen and lift chicken skin from breasts and legs with fingers. Rub oil mixture under loosened skin. Open beer can; pour out ¾ cup beer, reserving for another use. Place chicken upright onto can, fitting can into cavity. Pull legs forward to form a tripod, so chicken stands upright. Place chicken upright on grill grate over unheated side. Cover and grill 1 hour and 30 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in thigh registers 165°F, rotating chicken once.
  3. Combine mustard, honey, vinegar, and tomato paste in a small bowl.
  4. Place chicken and can on a cutting board; let stand 15 minutes. Remove and discard skin and can. Cut chicken into pieces; place on a platter. Drizzle with sauce, and sprinkle with parsley.

CALORIES 248; FAT 9.5g (sat 1.8g, mono 4.9g, poly 1.4g); PROTEIN 32g; CARB 7g; FIBER 1g; SUGARS 6g (est. added sugars 5g); CHOL 119mg; IRON 1mg; SODIUM 519mg; CALC 20mg

Herb-Rubbed Chicken Under a Brick

Brick-pressed chicken cooks quickly and evenly, a great boon to a barbecue host. The key is to spatchcock—or butterfly—the bird, and then press it down flat on the grill with a foil-wrapped brick or cast-iron skillet.

Active | 30 min Total | 1 hr 15 min Serves | 6 (serving size: about 4 oz. chicken)

  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 (5-lb.) whole chicken
  • Cooking spray
  • 4 lemon wedges
  1. Preheat a gas grill to medium (about 400°F) on one side, or push hot coals to one side of a charcoal grill. Combine first 7 ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. Place chicken, breast side down, on a cutting board. Using poultry shears, cut along both sides of backbone; remove backbone. (Discard backbone, or reserve for stock.) Turn chicken breast side up; open the underside of chicken like a book. Using the heel of your hand, press firmly against breastbone until it cracks. Tuck wing tips under. Loosen and lift skin from chicken with fingers; spread herb mixture under skin.
  3. Coat grill grate with cooking spray. Place chicken on grate, skin side down, over hot side of grill. Place a cast-iron skillet or aluminum foil–wrapped brick on chicken to flatten. Grill chicken 8 minutes or until well browned. Turn chicken over, and move to unheated side of grill. Place skillet or brick on chicken. Cover, and grill 35 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in thickest part of breast registers 165°F. Remove from grill; let stand 10 minutes. Remove and discard skin; cut chicken into pieces. Serve with lemon wedges.

CALORIES 241; FAT 11.5g (sat 2.1g, mono 6.4g, poly 1.6g); PROTEIN 32g; CARB 1g; FIBER 0g; SUGARS 0g; CHOL 119mg; IRON 1mg; SODIUM 494mg; CALC 18mg

COLESLAW: MAYO VS SMOKY SPICE

Classic slaw can cool you down, a creamy yet crisp respite from summer temps and grill-charred meats. This one amps up the black pepper and uses rough-chopped cabbage for a fresh look and mouthfeel. Or let your slaw bring the heat with a touch of chipotle chile in adobo, infusing the bright citrus and bitter radicchio with charred jalapeño smokiness.

Creamy Black Pepper Coleslaw

Cutting the cabbage coarsely gives the dish a different look from shredded-cabbage slaws. A full teaspoon of black pepper lends pleasant warm heat without overpowering. Make the dish up to a day ahead if you like—the veggies will stay crisp and the flavors will meld as the slaw chills.

Active | 15 min Total | 15 min Serves | 4 (serving size: ¾ cup)

  • ¼ cup canola mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. water
  • 2 tsp. grainy mustard
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 cups chopped green cabbage
  • 1 cup matchstick-cut carrot
  • ½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  1. Combine first 7 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add cabbage, carrot, and parsley; toss to coat.

CALORIES 77; FAT 4.1g (sat 0g, mono 2.4g, poly 1.5g); PROTEIN 2g; CARB 8g; FIBER 3g; SUGARS 3g (est. added sugars 1g); CHOL 0mg; IRON 1mg; SODIUM 315mg; CALC 40mg

Smoky-Spiced Slaw

A little chipotle pepper in the dressing lends smoky heat to the dish. A touch of sugar and tangy lime juice balance the pleasant bitterness of radicchio. You can make this slaw up to a day ahead. The radicchio will soften a little as it chills, but the broccoli and cabbage stay crunchy.

Active | 15 min Total | 15 min Serves | 4 (serving size: ¾ cup)

  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • ½ tsp. sugar
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 3 cups sliced red cabbage
  • 1 cup thinly sliced radicchio
  • 1 cup broccoli slaw
  1. Combine first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add cabbage, radicchio, and broccoli slaw; toss to coat.

CALORIES 91; FAT 6.9g (sat 1g, mono 4.9g, poly 0.7g); PROTEIN 2g; CARB 7g; FIBER 2g; SUGARS 3g (est. added sugars 1g); CHOL 0mg; IRON 1mg; SODIUM 193mg; CALC 42mg


Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Styling: Ginny Branch Stelling.