July 4th

6 Nontraditional Recipes That Deserve a Place On Your July 4th Party Menu (Plus a Giveaway!)

Burgers and hot dogs are great, but your grill is capable of so much more.

Published June 28, 2017.

We love Independence Day in the test kitchen. (We are America’s Test Kitchen, after all.) And though we love all the historical significance and pretty bunting and colorful fireworks associated with our nation’s birthday, our favorite part of July 4th is, of course, the food.

Most people (rightly so) think about burgers and hot dogs when they think about the Fourth of July, but we’re looking to get a little nontraditional with our menu suggestions this summer. We still want to break out our grills, but instead of timeworn basics, we’ll be grilling dishes like paella and beef tenderloin instead. We think you should mix things up, too! Here’s a list of some less traditional—but just as delicious—July 4th grilling options (with a salad and a dessert thrown in there, too).

Grilled Vegetable Kebabs

OK, so vegetable kebabs aren’t so far out of the ordinary. But when it comes to grilled kebabs, vegetables are often an afterthought—used as a filler on meat-heavy skewers. Believe us: these vegetables are anything but filler (and, as a bonus, they’re paleo-friendly). [Get the Recipe for Free]

Paella on the Grill

This is a bit of a departure from sausages with peppers and onions (which are of course still incredible in their own right). Grilling paella—which is actually traditional in its home of Valencia—lends the dish subtle smoke and a particularly caramelized crust and makes it a great dish for summer entertaining. In place of a traditional paella pan, we cooked ours in a large, sturdy roasting pan that maximized the amount of socarrat, the prized caramelized rice crust that forms on the bottom of the pan. [Get the Recipe]

Grilled Shrimp and Vegetable Kebabs

More kebabs? Yes, more kebabs! Shrimp and vegetable kebabs are notoriously difficult to cook because the shrimp inevitably overcook in the time it takes most vegetables to pass from raw to their crisp-tender ideal—and so you end up serving either rubbery shrimp or undercooked vegetables. This recipe works by pairing slower-cooking jumbo shrimp with quick-cooking vegetables: mushrooms, bell peppers, and scallions. We precook the peppers and mushrooms in the microwave before skewering them to give them a head start, and we nestle the mushrooms into the curves of the shrimp on the skewer to better insulate the shrimp and extend their cooking time. These are not your average kebabs. [Get the Recipe]

Grill-Roasted Beef Tenderloin

Alright, alright—here’s one to satisfy your red-meat cravings. You mostly see recipes for roasted beef tenderloin, but grilling is a great way to add flavor that enhances but doesn’t overwhelm beef tenderloin’s delicate beefiness. Paired with a tasty chermoula—a north African marinade traditionally used on fish, but which goes great with other meats, too—and this tenderloin is your Fourth of July party showstopper. [Get the Recipe]

Broccoli Salad

We suppose we should give you a green option. Most broccoli salad recipes rely on a mayonnaise-based dressing that overwhelms the flavor of the broccoli. For this version—which also happens to be paleo-friendly—we decided to skip the mayo entirely and instead find a simple substitute that would allow the broccoli to shine. We landed on creamy, mild-flavored avocado as the base for our dressing, and punched up its flavor with fresh orange zest and juice, tangy vinegar, and aromatic garlic. And a little extra-virgin olive oil ensured that the dressing came out smooth. [Get the Recipe for Free]

Ultranutty Pecan Bars

Pecan-based desserts smack more of autumn, but these rich bars are too good to relegate them to a single season. Most pecan bars take the lead from pecan pie and are more about a thick, custardy filling than the pecans, but we wanted a bar cookie that made the nuts the main focus. For the filling, we increased the amount of pecans to a full pound and tossed them in a thick mixture of brown sugar, corn syrup, and melted butter for an easy dump-and-stir filling that spread itself evenly in the oven. You’ll be happy to snack on these while looking up at all the pretty colors filling the sky. [Get the Recipe]

Master of the Grill

With recipes and techniques arranged by skill level—from The Basics to The Easy Upgrades to The Serious Projects—cooks of all stripes can dive in and choose their outdoor cooking adventure.  
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What are you planning to cook this Fourth of July? Let us know in the comments! Comment below by July 3rd at 11:59 p.m. (ET) for your chance to win a free copy of our grilling bible, Master of the Grill! The book will go to the commenter whose Fourth of July menu we'd most like to sample. Happy menu planning, and good luck! 

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