Memorial Day is synonymous with eating outside. And if you call this event a barbecue, know that there are people online who deem it very important to tell you that this is, in fact, a cookout. Just a word of warning there.
All holiday food is good because everyone knows that the calories consumed don’t count. There’s usually plenty of options vying up for precious plate real estate so it’s important to make wise choices. Not all cookout items are created equal. Here, through bites, is a ranking.
#17 Your Neighbor’s Home Brew
Look, there’s nothing better than kicking back with a beer or nine out in the hot sun, but there’s always the one person who decides that it’s important to bring their damn hobby to the backyard and insist you try their home brew. Lord knows how long this thing’s been sitting in his bath tub or if they’ve even tried it. The first sip is usually good for approximately 4.3 seconds until the nastiness creeps in. Avoid at all cost.
#16 Green Bean Casserole
Who ever thought this was a good idea? Few items can follow through on tasting as awful as they look, but GBC delivers exactly what it promises. I’ve personally thrown perfectly good meat in the dog’s bowl because this soupy mess dared to make accidental contact.
People advocate for this fruit’s freshness and juiciness. They don’t realize it’s mostly water — hence the name — and there are precious few enjoyable bites before the flavor is sapped. Watermelon is the candy machine gumball of the dessert world.
Someone put this on the list. I’d never heard of it. Seems very bourgeois. Probably pretty decent though. (Editor’s Note: Tri-Tip is a cut of steak that’s triangular in shape and delicious in taste. Cooked well on a grill, it’s caramelized on the outside and soft and pink in the middle.)
This may be a controversial opinion, but a true family cookout is one in which all the dishes can be consumed with plastic cutlery. I am not sure steak qualifies.
#12 Vegetable Shish Kebab
The best part about the veggie-only kebab is the feeling of self-satisfaction that comes with it. That illusion of believing one healthy item can offset the immense damage you’re doing elsewhere on the smorgasbord is a nice little lie and no one gets hurt. Important point here: avoid little grape tomatoes at all costs. Those suckers can explode and the juices have been known to burn faces.
#11 Shish Kebab with Meat
Here’s an Andy Rooney complaint about shish kebabs: is there anything more maddening than when a delicious piece of beef or a delightfully tender green pepper plummets to the dirt due to operator error? Sure, a sane person could glide the food off the stick, but then where’s the fun?
#10 Corn on the Cob, Steamed
An essential item made better with copious amounts of butter and salt, plus those little tongs also shaped like corn on the cob. Few things make a person feel like a more powerful beast than snapping one of them in half like Bo Jackson after a strikeout.
#9 BBQ Chicken
Any sensible person has by now discovered that there’s no reason to make full, intact chicken on the grill and that the shredded variety made in a Crock Pot or slow cooker is far superior. Right?
#8 Macaroni Salad
One day the cold foods will form a union and fight for their rights. It’s just so damn hard for them to get their due when placed next to their piping-hot colleagues. Macaroni salad’s quality is directly proportional to the amount of spice included.
#7 Grilled Corn on the Cob
Get a nice little char on that bad boy and you’re in Flavor Country. No reason not to go full Mexican style while you’re at it.
The blissful feeling of having excess burger juice dripping down one’s chin is unparalleled. It is extremely important to splurge for the higher quality meat, though. Low-grade beef cannot be saved even with copious amounts of cheese.
#5 Hot Dog
Would be genuinely interested to know how many people prefer hot dogs to hamburgers. Has to be a slight rarity. Hot dogs get a bad rap but they have the built-in advantage of facilitating a Coney Island eating contest fantasy.
#4 Potato Salad
The more mustard, the better. Potato salad is an incredible item because every type of spud brings a different vibe to the party. Truly one of the most underrated foods out there.
#3 Pulled pork
Here’s the thing about PP: it’s never top of mind but no person is disappointed to see it represented at the table. Extra special when it’s smothered in Sweet Baby Ray’s.
#2 Actual Beer
Not to glorify drinking or anything, but it is very good. No one denies this!
It’s entirely possible that this is a Midwestern thing, but bratwurst is the apex of cookout food. Better than a hot dog, tastier than a hamburger, fun to eat and incredible with spicy mustard and onions. The brat has it all.