Memorial Day is a holiday that elicits thoughts of beach BBQs, picnics, and fun-filled family gatherings.
Let’s just take a moment to really give some thought to what Memorial Day is all about.
It’s a day to reflect, thank, and celebrate our (American) heroes of war and military service, the men and women who, through personal sacrifice, lost their lives to protect our country.
Memorial Day is the day that we honor all who have done this, and appreciate the freedom they have gifted all Americans.
And now, back to the fun of celebrating! Most people love good old hot dogs and burgers, yet some step it up by offering steaks, shrimp, and all of the uppity-do foods, too. It’s all wonderful, but it occurs to me that not everyone wants to spend a week’s paycheck on what should be a fun family or neighborhood celebration.
Here are a few all-American ideas and tips that will elevate hot dogs and burgers to both entertaining and memorable proportions without breaking the bank.
How about a condiment bar? Everyone loves to make their own special combo.
Easy Sparkling Watermelon Cocktails, Foolproof Grilled Corn with Herbed Compound Butter, and fun Party Hat Popcorn Cones for all? A few decorative picks, the right tablecloth, and some all-American themed dinnerware and cups, and you’re good to go.
A quick lesson in party planning – If people ask if they can bring anything the answer is always, “Yes, I would love it if you brought a dessert.” This way dessert is covered, and if the guests arrive a bit late, you won’t have any worries.
Plan B: Wash up a big basket of fresh summer berries and put them in the refrigerator (this is okay, since you’re going to be eating them right away! Check out our post on getting the most out of fresh berries here, for more tips).
Sparkling Watermelon Cocktails – Get the Recipe Now
Of course, if you happen to know that Aunt Susie makes a mean potato salad and always comes early… well, you know what to do.
Make yummy drinks for the kids
Easy Peasy… Lemonade or Hansen’s Natural Soda garnished with a red licorice stick, or a very cool straw! Don’t forget to provide lots of chilled bottled water for all.
Party Hat Popcorn Cones
- 2-3 cups popcorn (popped per person)
- Store bought popcorn flavor shakers, according to your tastes
Children’s themed party hats are perfect for scooping and serving popcorn.
Just scoop and hand out popcorn cones to your guests. Be sure to point out the flavoring shakers. Enjoy!
Tips for Grilled Hot Dogs and Burgers
Offer variety, but keep it simple. Try some regular dogs and maybe some turkey or natural dogs. Put some beef patties on the grill, but consider turkey or veggie burgers too. Adjust your menu according to your guest list, as you see fit.
Easy Grilled Dog Tips
- If you are grilling for a crowd, you might want to use picks to mark different varieties.
- Always start with a clean grill.
- Heat the grill to medium-high heat before adding any food.
- Turn your dogs as they start to get brown grill marks, until you’ve turned them all the way around. They will give a pleasant snap when you bite into them and nobody will make any remarks about blackened dogs. You know what we mean here.
Here’s another tip, especially if you want a Southern twist for your occasion: throw some shrimp on the barbie and go for a po’ boy-style hot dog! Follow the link to explore the recipe.
Burger Grilling Tips
- Don’t stab, squish or nudge your burgers. You don’t need to. They are already dead.
- When forming patties, pack lightly. This will help your burgers to stay juicy. Use your thumb and make a nice firm imprint right in the middle of the patty. This will keep your burger from ballooning in the middle and it will cook more evenly.
- Grill with an open lid to avoid drying out your meat.
- Flip one time and one time only.
Display a hot dog and hamburger condiment bar for your guests (Best tip: be creative!).
On that note, if you’re looking for some whacky new hot dog inspiration, check out our post that covers some of the best and most unique hot dog ideas out there – give them a try!
Use small containers and bowls to hold the condiments, set them up on bricks at various elevations, and remember to add color, maybe even balloons to make it fun! Don’t forget the ketchup, mustard, mayo (set in ice water), relish, onions, and pickle slices. Sounds a lot like what they offer at the ballpark, right? But as we all know, these are the basics.
Now let’s talk about adding Sriracha sauce, spicy brown mustard, shredded lettuce, baby spinach, sliced cucumbers, chili (red or black bean – yum!), cheese (grated cheddar or Swiss, crumbled feta) chopped tomatoes, chopped green onions, avocado, sour cream, and don’t forget freshly crisped bacon crumbles. Oh, yes!
Foolproof Grilled Corn
Peel husks back from each ear of corn (as many as desired, usually one per guest), keeping them attached to the ear at the base. Discard silks. Replace the husks over each ear of corn and place in cold water for at least 10 minutes. Drain.
Lightly oil grill grates. Grill should be at medium-high to high heat. Arrange the ears on the grill. Cover and cook, turning occasionally until husks are lightly charred and corn is tender, about 15-20 minutes.
Remove ears from the grill. Pull back husks and butter each ear with herbed compound butter. Our homemade version includes garlic and assorted fresh herbs, fresh from the garden. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and/or smoked paprika if desired and serve.
Fresh and Simple Herbed Compound Butter: Get the Recipe Now
Feel free to use your favorite combination of herbs, anything that is fresh from the farmers markets, or pulled from your own backyard supply. We love a fun mix of basil, dill, thyme, parsley, and more.
Do you enjoy hosting a barbecue for family and friends to celebrate the holiday? Tell us about your own traditions in the comments.
About Marla Tetsuka
As a professional chef, author of multiple cookbooks, and graduate of the esteemed Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Marla brings a professional touch to the community that we call Foodal.