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Our Food Writer's 5 Favorite Backyard BBQ Recipes

These delectable dishes add sizzle to summer entertaining.

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Photographs by Mary Lagier (Food Stylist: Kendra Aronson; Prop Stylists: Mary Lagier and Kendra Aronson)
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During the summer, I love afternoons when family and friends gather for a poolside cookout. Nothing beats the smell of marinated meat and veggies sizzling on the grill while we sip spiked (or virgin) lemonade to celebrate the season of backyard barbecuing. Here are some of my favorite grill recipes that add a spicy and tangy taste to summer.

Mom's BBQ Chicken Thighs

Mary Lagier/Food Stylist: Kendra Aronson Pro

Chicken thighs are perfect for grilling because they always come out super moist and flavorful. Allow the meat to marinate for several hours in this sweet and tangy rub recipe for ultimate tenderness.

Serves 4-6

7 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons ground cumin

1-2 tablespoons cayenne pepper (depending on how spicy you like it)

1 tablespoon onion powder

1/4 cup lime juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

5 tablespoons honey

3 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped

Salt to taste

10 skinless chicken thighs

Mix everything but the chicken in a bowl until blended. Add chicken and coat thoroughly. Let the chicken marinate for 2-3 hours in the refrigerator. Heat grill to 350-375. Remove chicken from bowl, place on grill and brush on marinade. Cover with a lid and cook for 6 minutes. Turn chicken, baste again with marinade, and cook another 6 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165F.

Teriyaki Vegetable Kabobs

Mary Lagier/Food Stylist: Kendra Aronson Pro

These kabobs will please the vegetarian in your family and can also be used as a side dish to complement any meal you serve your guests. While this recipe serves 6-8, you can adjust the amounts of vegetables to feed a smaller or larger crowd. You can also save any leftover marinade in the fridge. The general rule of thumb is 2 1/2 pounds of veggies per 6 people.

Recommended raw vegetables:

Red and green bell peppers

Yellow Squash


Red onion


Cherry tomatoes

Teriyaki Sauce:

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Pinch of salt

Red pepper flakes to taste

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 cup water

Soak wooden skewers in warm water for 10-20 minutes. Chop the vegetables into bite-size pieces, place in a large bowl, and set aside. In a saucepan, combine the first 7 ingredients and cook over medium heat until blended. While it's cooking, whisk cornstarch and water in a small bowl until dissolved. Add it to the saucepan and whisk constantly until it thickens and is smooth. Remove from stove and let cool to room temperature. *You can add more water if you prefer a thinner sauce. Add half of the teriyaki sauce to the bowl of veggies. Stir until veggies are coated. Marinate for 30 minutes. Thread vegetables on skewers, keeping the pieces close together since they will shrink once they are on the grill. Use the remaining teriyaki sauce to baste kababs while they cook on the grill over medium heat. Cook each side for 5-6 minutes until veggies are slightly browned and tender.

Grilled Salmon Steaks

Mary Lagier/Food Stylist: Kendra Aronson Pro

The secret to delicious salmon is to buy a good quality filet and to not overcook the fish. Grilling is a great way to keep the salmon perfectly pink and tender. The seasoning makes a nice crust on the fish and keeps it moist while it cooks.

Serves 4-6

2 pounds fresh salmon, room temp

1 tablespoon lemon pepper

1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning (no salt)

1 tablespoon garlic powder

3-4 cloves garlic minced

2 seasoning packets Sazon Goya Con Azafran

2 tablespoons olive oil

Place salmon in a bowl, then sprinkle spices and seasonings over the fish. Add olive oil and massage into the salmon with the seasonings. Set aside 1 hour to marinate. Make sure grill racks are clean and lightly oiled with cooking spray (or wipe grates with a little olive oil). Set grill heat to medium. Place fillets on the grill once it is hot (if there is still skin on the salmon lay the fish skin side up on the grill). Cook for 3 minutes on one side, flip, and cook another 3 minutes on the other side. If the fish sticks a little, give it one more minute. Medium-to-well doneness on the salmon should be 125F to 145F.

Barbequed Tofu

Mary Lagier/Food Stylist: Kendra Aronson Pro

This protein-packed recipe is nutritious as well as delicious.

Serves 4

13-15 ounces extra firm tofu (drained and pressed)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 cup vegan BBQ sauce (homemade or store-bought)

Drain tofu and press for 15-30 minutes in a tofu press to squeeze out extra water. Warm grill to medium-high heat. Slice tofu into 4 steaks, set them on a baking sheet, and drizzle olive oil over all. Sprinkle with seasonings and rub into the olive oil on both sides of the steaks. Place tofu on the grill and cook for 3-5 minutes, then flip and cook an additional 3-5 minutes. Brush tofu with half of the BBQ sauce, cook for 2 minutes, then flip, glaze the other side with the remaining sauce, and cook for another 2 minutes. Serve hot for the most flavor.

Dad's Best Burgers

Mary Lagier/Food Stylist: Kendra Aronson Pro

I love a good, juicy burger when it's grilled just right. Many recipes call for adding bleu cheese, ranch seasoning or onion soup mix to the meat, but I also like to add caramelized onions or sauteed mushrooms on top of my burgers to make them extra special.

Makes 6 patties

2 pounds ground beef or ground turkey (refrigerated)

2 tablespoons smoked paprika

2 tablespoons minced onion

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

Hamburger buns, butter and sliced cheddar or American cheese (optional)

Mix cold, raw meat with all seasonings and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl. Do not overmix; 30-45 seconds at the most. Shape into 6 patties roughly an inch thick at the edges and an inch larger around than the bun size. Return the patties to the refrigerator until you are ready to use them. Make sure the grill grates are clean, then heat the grill to 450 degrees. Add patties and flip frequently to ensure even cooking — but DON'T press down on the meat with the spatula (see cook times below for grilling). Lightly butter all buns (tops and bottoms), and place them at the back part of the grill out of direct heat one minute before burgers are done (buns should turn a golden color). If you're using cheese, top each burger with a slice one minute before the meat finishes cooking.

Cook times:

Rare: 4 minutes total, 125F

Medium Rare: 5 minutes total, 135F

Medium: 6 -7 minutes total, 145F

Well-Done: 8-9 minutes, 160F

What's YOUR favorite thing to grill in the summer? Let us know in the comments below.

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