Turn up the heat, flavor with summer barbecue

July 2, 2014 

Whether it’s a Fourth of July poolside party or backyard barbecue, summertime is the perfect season for outdoor entertaining.

While the mercury is rising, turn up the heat and flavor with my tried-and-true recipes.

Today I’ll share with you my recipe for Sweet Tea-Brined BBQ Pork Butt (cooked low and slow) made better by being smoked (not cooked in the oven), and made great by being smoked in a Big Green Egg. Here, the secret is not in the sauce. The secret is in the brine and the rub.

You need great sides that are worthy companions of my melt-in-your-mouth smoked pork butt. Give any (or all) of my three recipes a try for your Fourth of July party.

My BBQ Baked Bean Medley is a must-have sidekick, being made with five different beans, each contributing a different flavor and texture to the overall composition.

Add a heaping amount of sweet onions and smoked sausage to the beans for flavor impact, and we have a real winner.

Apple Cole Slaw is perfectly sweet and tart as Granny Smith apples pair with basic cole slaw mix, then get dressed in an intense apple vinaigrette.

If you want something a bit different, but still a dish traditional enough to encourage all of your guests to enjoy a serving, go ahead and try my recipe for Summer Corn & Potato Salad.

If you’re the one hosting the Fourth of July backyard bash, figure out how much food and drink you’ll need for the number of people you have invited.

Always have ready a platter of appetizers for when your guests arrive. Whether it’s simply chips and salsa, or grilled chicken wings and maybe some grilled veggie kabobs, some nibbles should always be offered if alcohol is being served.

If you’re serving alcohol, here’s a good rule of thumb: estimate one drink per guest for every hour the party is going. Have a good mix of ice cold beverages, including non-alcohol offerings as well. Diet sodas and flavored waters will be welcomed by those watching their calories.

One of my favorites is simply water with lots of ice and slices of lemon, lime and orange. Another great calorie-free beverage is pitchers of ice and water with slices of cucumber and sprigs of fresh mint -- so refreshing.

Plan your menu, but keep it simple. There’s no need to do all the cooking yourself. If you’re having more than a few guests, ask each one to bring a dish. Pot luck is always so much fun -- and so much less work on the hosts!

Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the meat to ensure it’s cooked thoroughly. Meats will continue to cook several degrees higher even after removed from the grill.

Chicken, pork and burgers are ready at 165 degrees, so remove from the grill at 160 degrees and cover loosely with foil.

Finer cuts of beef and pork can be cooked to desired degree of doneness. Fish and shellfish cook unbelievably fast on a grill, so watch out -- don’t overcook it.

Remember, safety first! If you are using an outdoor grill, keep children and pets away from it and always keep a bucket of water handy.

Have a safe and happy Fourth of July and a great summer y’all!



1 (8-10 pound) bone-in pork butt (actually, it’s the shoulder)


8 family-size OR 2 gallon-size tea bags

8 cups boiling water

2 cups sugar

1 cup kosher salt

2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

8 cups combined ice and ice water


1/4 cup Kosher salt

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup paprika

2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons onion powder

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

Serves eight to 12.

Brine: Brew the tea bags in boiling water for at least 10 minutes. Remove tea bags and discard. Add sugar, salt and pepper. Stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Add ice and water. Check the temperature of the brine. It MUST be 40 degrees or colder. (Add a bit more ice or refrigerate the brine if necessary.)

Place the pork butt in a 2-gallon container. Add the cold brine. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 24 hours before cooking. Remove pork butt, discarding the brine. Using paper towels, pat the pork butt dry.

Rub: Combine all ingredients in a zip-top food storage bag. Shake to blend. Thoroughly coat the pork butt with the rub.

Cooking: Place rub-coated pork butt in the center of the oven, or in a smoker, set at 250 degrees for at least 10 hours, or until a meat thermometer registers at least 180 degrees.

For the best and most tender and fall-off-the-bone pork butt, continue to cook until 210 degrees. Remove the bone and either pull the pork or slice it. Serve with your favorite sauces.


2 (15-ounce) cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained

1 (15-ounce) can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 (15-ounce) can light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 (15-ounce) can navy beans, rinsed and drained

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained

3 cups diced onion

1 pound smoked sausage, thinly sliced

1 1/2 cups tomato-based barbecue sauce

Serves a small crowd.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Combine all ingredients and place in a Dutch oven. Cover with lid and bake in the center of the oven for at least four hours.


1 (12-ounce) can frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed

3/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 pounds cole slaw mix

3 large Granny Smith apples, cut into small dice

Celery salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

Serves a small crowd.

Combine apple juice and vinegar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and reduce liquid to 1 cup. Cool to room temperature. Whisk in olive oil.

Combine cole slaw mix and diced apples. Pour dressing over salad. Stir to coat. Season to taste with celery salt and pepper.


1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

3-ounce piece Parmesan cheese

12 fresh basil leaves

2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic

4 ears fresh corn, shucked

6 small new potatoes, cut into1/4-inch slices

1/2 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Serves six to eight.

Pour the olive oil into a medium mixing bowl. Thinly slice the Parmesan cheese and then break into pieces. Add to the olive oil.

Stack six of the basil leaves together. Tightly roll the basil lengthwise into a cigar shape. Using kitchen shears snip the basil into thin ribbons into the bowl of olive oil and cheese. Repeat with remaining basil leaves. Add the garlic to the mix. Stir briefly to blend. Set aside.

Cook corn in a large pot of salted boiling water for 7-8 minutes. Using tongs, remove corn from the pot. Set aside to cool.

In same pot of boiling water, cook sliced new potatoes for 5-6 minutes only, just until firm tender, stirring several times while cooking. Drain potatoes into a colander and flush with cold tap water for several minutes until cool. Drain potatoes well. Add to the olive oil mixture.

When corn is cool enough to handle, cut corn from the cob and add corn to the mixture. Add cut grape tomatoes. Toss gently, but thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic food wrap and store in the refrigerator for at least four hours or up to four days before serving.

Note: To take this delicious salad to the entrée level, add grilled shrimp or grilled chicken. To remain a vegetarian dish, add grilled asparagus.

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