The primal simplicity of summertime grilling is all well and good — man. fire. meat. *grunt*. — but we doubt even the most paleo cro-mag could resist a scoop of relish, a good pickle, a bit of spice, had his mastodon come with the proper sides. There’s no shame in glamming up your grill game. We don’t mean tofu burgers or — god forbid — *small plates*. Meat’s still king, and we wouldn’t dare challenge the throne, but the emperor deserves classy clothes. Let’s evolve. Let’s pay proper attention to the accoutrements: the sauces and spices, snacks and sides, the small details that’ll turn your barbecue into one worth civilizing for. *grunt* — er, we mean, *cheers*.
Elvio’s Chimichurri Sauce // Elvio’s Chimichurri // Los Angeles, CA
Barbecue is as American as, well, barbecue — but that doesn’t mean we can’t give it a little foreign flair. Still, of all the meat-plus-flame cuisines around the world, our favorite is also closest in spirit to our own cowboy culture: the Argentine gaucho, riding the pampas with reigns in one hand and jar of chimichurri in the other. Elvio’s grandpa first whipped up this sauce of herbs, spices, and oil for his fellow gauchos. Now made in LA, it hasn’t lost its range-land power. Like a well-stoked grill: rustic, simple, and utterly transformative of everything it touches.
Smokra // Rick’s Picks // New York, NY
You might begrudge your grill’s olfactory power when it beckons uninvited neighbors, but not when that fragrant smoke kisses these pickles. Spanish paprika and snappy southern okra turn run-of-the-mill vinegar sours into rich flavor missles, and with none of the stringy glue. They’re hard to stack on your burger, but that’s fine — we like ’em better straight out of the jar, mixed into a marinade, or dropped into bloodies (just make sure to add some brine to the tomato juice).
Soul Dust // Southern Soul BBQ // St. Simons Island, GA
Every state’s barbecue has its secret touch, from Kansas City’s sweet sauces to Texas’s slow-cooked brisket. Most, unfortunately, stay that way: tight-lipped pitmasters keep their tricks close to the vest. Not here. This gas-station-turned-grill is a mecca for Georgia’s famous dry-rubbed ‘cue, and lucky for you, happy to share. Their Soul Dust makes a perfect marinade, a lip-tingling replacement for the salt on your cocktail glass, or, if you’re crazy, both. Soak shrimp in olive oil and Soul Dust for twenty minutes and grill; then rim a glass with more Dust, fill with your favorite bloody mary, and garnish with shrimp.
Hickory Smoked Cheddar Popcorn // Quinn // Boulder, CO
Impossible to stop eating, and impossible not to regret finishing the bag when you toss its greasy, translucent, glue-fumed skin in the trash, most microwave popcorn is delicious — and disgusting. Quinn’s is just damn tasty. Organic corn mixed with Kentucky cheddar and double-smoked paprika in an all-natural compostable bag: all good, no grief. Perfect as-is, or a jazzed-up stand-in for stale croutons in your salad (we like it on grilled romaine drizzled with lemon-spiked dijon).
Q Mac & Cheese // Edison Grainery // Oakland, CA
You know the guy — maybe you’ve been one: in a bind for what to bring, he shows up to the block party with that infamous foil-covered casserole of slapped-together mac and cheese, a silver-topped dish of defeat. Noodles like inner tubes, cheese like tree bark, stale gut-filling ballast. Mix up this box of creamy cheddar and gluten-free quinoa pasta, though, and you know you’ll leave with an empty pan, and happy neighbors.
Hot Imperial Chorizo // Pata Negra // Gloversville, NY
Named after Spain’s famous acorn-fattened black-hoofed pigs, Pata Negra brings the best of Andalusia to the foothills of the Adirondacks: high-grade hams, authentic Iberian *pimentón*, and a languorous five weeks’ aging (if the Spanish know anything, it’s the glory of a good nap). Snack on slices as a tapa while the grill heats up, and if there’s any left over (we doubt it), mix it into side salads or mac and cheese.