Pete's Favorite July 4th Grilling Tips + Recipes

The 4th of July is a time for celebration, fireworks, and, of course, the classic barbecue. Although celebrating July 4 is an opportunity to enjoy well-practiced traditions it is possible to ensure that your festive spread is not only delicious but also nourishing. While it might seem challenging to balance indulgence with healthy, real food, it's entirely possible to create a memorable and flavorful celebration that leaves everyone feeling great.

Now that summer is finally here, July 4th is the perfect opportunity to throw your own backyard barbecue. Sadly, many lack in the barbecue skills department. Cooking well over fire takes some skill, but mastering those techniques will give you a special seat of honour from those you are cooking for. Armed with a few of Chef Pete’s tips, techniques and favorite recipes you will become your own ‘Master of the Flame ‘and throw a July 4th barbecue party that will be remembered long after the fire has burned out. 

Creating The Perfect July 4th Barbecue 

Your Barbecue

It may sound basic but there are two crucial things to consider if you want to barbecue great food. The first thing is, charcoal is best. There is nothing wrong with a gas barbecues, but it will fail to produce any extra smoky flavour. From a flavor perspective, you might as well be cooking in the oven. The second thing you need is a lid. It locks in flavour, keeps the temperature constant and can be used as an extra technique.

Your Fuel

So often, charcoal is bought in a rush from a gas station car park as soon as the sun starts shining and the weather starts warming up. Being prepared can make a huge difference, because the charcoal you use changes the way your food tastes. Lump wood charcoal (it literally looks like burnt tree) will give the best flavour. It’s unadulterated and natural.

If you are a little more experienced you may experiment with adding wood chips to your charcoal. Hickory and oak are great with fish and pork, while cherry and apple wood add a sweetness to most meats. Just soak half what you’ll use in water to make it last, then add it all once lit.

Your Tools

The one barbecue tool you simply must have is a decent pair of tongs – they give you the most control, and reduce the chances of dropping anything between the grills. You have most probably lost a sausage down a grill or flipped a burger over the edge at least once and tongs will help prevent that! You can also get yourself some more creative tools and gadgets like a heavy-duty oven glove, a really good flipper and maybe even a fish or vegetable grill to hold in the smaller, more delicate foods.

Timing & Temperature

Barbecuing takes patience and concentration, in that order. Flame-grilled is a very misleading term - you need to wait for the flames to die down. You want the coals white hot, which actually means grey and glowing. That’s when you will get the hottest and most even heat.

Following on from that, don’t forget that what you have created is basically a pre-historic oven. This means you need to control the heat the same as you would when using an oven. The best way to test the heat is with your hand. Hold your hand about 5 inches above the grill and see how long you can hold it there comfortably without pain or severe discomfort.

  • 6 seconds = low heat
  • 4 seconds = medium heat
  • 2 seconds = really high heat
  • 0 seconds = way too hot

You also need to control the temperature across the grill. The easiest technique to getting this right is the half and half method: put all the coals to one side, so you have a really hot side and one with no direct heat.

Season Simply

When you well-raised and pastured animal proteins you want to show them off. Rub them with a naturally occurring fat (see your options here) and sprinkle generously with coarse ground sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. As you get more experienced, or for a different flavor you may consider marinating, but for now, this simple seasoning will serve you, and your guests, the best. The true flavor of most prime cuts of steak, pastured pork and chicken, or freshly caught fish shine the basic salt and pepper seasoning. Use fancy spice mixes and rubs when cooking tougher and less flavorful cuts. Some people like to season their proteins long before they cook it, but seasoning just before is probably the most popular option. Chef Pete prefers seasoning his a little earlier.

For those who are inclined, a simple rub for meat, chicken or pork is easy to make:

In a small mason jar combine the following ingredients and mix thoroughly

  • 2 Tbsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper or ancho chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp high quality sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp. onion powder
  • ½ Tbsp. garlic salt

Season with this mixture instead of the salt and pepper.

Experiment With Marinades

While seasoning is quick and convenient, marinating can provide deeper flavor and improved texture for tougher cuts. Marinades often include a mix of acidic, salty, and aromatic components melding together to create complex flavor profiles 

For the best results, allow ample marinating time—typically at least 30 minutes to several hours, depending on the protein or vegetable—before firing up the grill. This concept applies even more so to barbecues, to make sure the flavours aren’t overridden and hidden by the addition of the smoke. 

Pro Tip: Save some marinade when you make, and brush your meat or fish with the marinade every 10 minutes as it cooks. That way it will add moisture, trap the smoke flavour and caramelise gently as it goes.

The Food

Burgers - Homemade burgers are better. Even if you make them from nothing but salt and pepper and good-quality meat, they will beat anything you can buy in any grocery store. Buy ground meat with plenty of fat, or get your butcher to give you some minced flank or chuck. This will give you juicy, flavourful burgers whether you like them pink in the middle or cooked right through.

Try Chef Pete’s Burgers With Avocado Salsa

Grill the perfect steaklearn how here

Grill some chicken – try Chef Pete’s Smoked BBQ Cider Can Chicken 

Try Some Fish - Fish and smoke are such great friends (think smoked salmon!). You could try a trout or side of salmon, throw some oak chips in and cook like the caveman you always knew you were. If you’re feeling more creative, slice a whole fish open and stuff with lemon, dill and pepper.

Vegetables - Fire does wondrous things to vegetables if you get the technique right. What you are looking for is some charring along the bars – it looks amazing, and tastes even better. You can simply slice your vegetables thinly, then grill right away – no oil, no seasoning. Once cooked you can add the flavour in some quality olive oil and a bit of vinegar.

You can cook the vegetables for the Roasted Butternut Squash and Wild Mushrooms, Fennel and Cherry Tomato Broil with Grilled Skirt Steak on the barbecue for extra flavor!

 Or enjoy Lime, Garlic Wood Grilled Chicken Thighs with sautéed peppers, roasted butternut squash and a nectarine avocado salsa with butter lettuce wraps

Some Extra Sides

Sides should never be an afterthought! They will make up a large part of what you eat when choosing to enjoy real food!

Make this Sweet Potato Bacon Salad 

Grab some of Pete’s Real Food Bacon (the best you’ll ever have) here >>>>>>

Or try some Kale, Chicken and Strawberry Salad

And finally…..

Dessert - A decadent Real Food dessert does not need much time and effort. In fact, you can have a sweet treat with a handful of ingredients and some flavorful smoke and heat from your grill. Summer fruits are delicious grilled over medium heat for a few minutes on each side until grill marks appear and the fruit is tender.

Enjoy as is or add some Slap Your Mom Banana Ice Cream for the perfect end to a great meal. 

You can also order some of our real food sweet treats, dessert done for you, here>>>>>>

For more cooking tips and tricks, seasonal inspiration and mouth-watering recipes, perfect for any occasion, get a copy of Chef Pete’s book, Paleo By Season and learn more of Chef Pete’s tips and ideas to cook like a pro! 

Buy yours here>>>>

This 4th of July, get grilling, explore the pleasure of cooking with fire and enjoy your holiday weekend!

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