How to Stock Your Pantry for a Summer of Grilled Meals
Summertime is upon us, and the onset of bright, sunny days and warm summer nights means one thing: taking your cooking outdoors. Not only does barbequing outside keep the heat out of the kitchen, but also grilling your meats and vegetables results in lighter, often healthier dishes as the fats tend to fall away from the meat as it cooks.
From must-have condiments like barbeque sauce and sel gris to freezer-friendly cuts of meat and freshly husked ears of sweet corn, here are 15 grilling essentials that you should keep stock of in your pantry all summer long.
Condiments, Sauces, and Spices
While there's nothing quite like the coarse texture and clean flavor from a pinch of kosher salt, if you want to take your summer grilling to the next level, consider elevating your salt game. From smoky seasoned salts and the delicate fleur de sel to mineral-rich Himalayan pink salt and plain old table salt, explore the endless salt varieties present in the spice aisle during your next grocery shopping trip.
- Sea salt comes unrefined (more mineral-rich) or refined and is made by evaporating seawater. Unrefined versions such as sel gris add complex flavors to not just fish like this Grilled Sea Bass, but other meats as well.
- Seasoned salt like this spice-enhanced recipe is made by mixing dried herbs, paprika, onion, and garlic powders to table salt. It can be used to flavorful sides like roasted potatoes when you're sautéing onions or even as a rub for your meats. Seasoned salt made in Hawaii may sometimes incorporate flakes of lava or clay, so expect a black or pink color.
2. Ground Coffee
Coffee doesn't just have to be relegated to your morning cup of joe. Add it to your summer grilling routine for red meats, and you'll be feasting on sumptuous steaks and deep, earthy cuts of meat, chicken legs included. A teaspoon or more of ground coffee powder makes for an excellent meat rub like in this Steak Coffee Rub or this Coffee-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Espresso-Honey Glace.
3. Brown Sugar
Brining helps to not just tenderize tough cuts of meat by dissolving the protein in muscle, but it also allows the meat to retain moisture during the grilling process. Adding in a sweetener like honey or molasses can also further enhance your marinade. However, if you don't have any of those in your pantry, brown sugar will do just fine. In addition to reducing the overall saltiness of a bine — seen in this soy-based marinade for Grilled Salmon — brown sugar improves the browning and caramelization process like in this recipe for Grilled Lamb with Brown Sugar Glaze.
4. Barbeque Sauce
Though making your own barbeque sauce at home is not difficult, having a store-bought bottle on hand in your pantry will save you time and energy. This tangy condiment can be used to marinade cuts of meat like pork shoulder that are best slow-cooked, or can be used as the finishing touch on perfectly cooked ribs or fall-off-the-bone brisket. And that's not all. Barbeque sauce can even be used for its sweetness in several grilled sides like these Perfect BBQ Baked Beans.
5. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a versatile pantry essential for your summer grilling recipes that include sides and salads. Made by fermenting apple cider with yeast, apple cider vinegar or ACV has a mild flavor and tang that does well as the acid component of most meat marinades. Use it when you're making Grilled Chicken Adobo or for a delicious plate of Oklahoma Brisket.
Yogurt may not seem like a summer grilling pantry essential for some, but this underrated marinade ingredient is a grilling game-changer. Marinating with yogurt is common in recipes from India and the Levant region, resulting in tender slices of meat and seafood. Try it yourself with this Shish Tawook Grilled Chicken or Grilled "Tandoori" Lamb.
Related: 5 Ways to Use Yogurt in Your Cooking
Keeping your fridge and pantries stocked with summer vegetables that can be easily tossed with olive oil and thrown on the grill will elevate your summer weeknight grilling game. While most vegetables do well on the grill, the following are standouts that need to be added to your upcoming grocery shopping list:
7. Corn on the Cob
Nothing screams summertime more than freshly husked corn lining the produce aisle. Grilling corn — if using husked corn, there's no need to soak before adding to the grill — results in juicy ears of smoked and charred corn on the cob. Unhusked corn can be wrapped in aluminum foil, seasoned with butter, salt, and pepper and grilled until tender, approximately 30 minutes.
Asparagus doesn't require much preparation work and cooks to perfection in under 10 minutes, making it one of the easiest vegetables to grill. Sprinkle some salt and pepper before tossing in olive oil and laying the stalks across the grill. For a twist, try this Grilled Lemon Parmesan Asparagus.
While you can't go wrong with a pantry supply of baking potatoes — grilled old-fashioned style with butter or with an added twist with rosemary and garlic — for a change, consider adding some sweet potatoes to your weekly grocery shopping list. Sweet Potato Wedges, when grilled, will result in a caramelized and uniquely smoky flavor that just cannot be achieved by roasting in the oven.
If you're wondering what high-protein meat substitute you can add to your pantry this summer, the answer is mushrooms. Choose from white button and crimini mushrooms to wild chanterelles and portobellos for a hearty, flavorful grilled side or entree. Try these Japanese-Style Grilled Mushrooms or this filling Grilled Portobello and Mozzarella recipe.
11. Bell Peppers
Grilled red and yellow peppers offer a mild sweetness that pairs perfectly as a topping for grilled steak or chicken. Peppers can be roasted whole over the grill — the skin will blister and peel easily, resulting in peppers that practically melt in your mouth. They can also be sliced — along with zucchini and onions — and grilled as vegetable skewers.
Meats and Seafood
Since most meats do well on the grill, choosing what to grill up this summer is entirely up to you. For healthier weeknight dinners, opt for lower-calorie options like fresh fish and shrimp. Succulent cuts of meat like thick steaks and ribs are best to throw on the grill when you want something richer. And, of course, summertime staples like hot dogs and burgers are not to be missed.
12. Chicken Wings
From smoky Grilled Buffalo Wings to Sweet Spicy Wings with a Louisiana-style hot sauce marinade, you really can't go wrong with keeping your freezer stocked with frozen chicken wings all summer long. If you're short on time, consider buying pre-cut wings when you're out grocery shopping. Fresh wings can always be purchased ahead of time and frozen until ready to be used.
For a light weeknight meal this summer, consider grilling up some seafood. It's important to keep in mind that fish and shrimp cook much quicker than red meat and chicken, so if you're cooking up a mixed feast, wait until the end to grill them. Grilling fish like salmon and trout with its skin on will prevent the fish from falling apart. And, if your filet is skinned, consider steaming it in aluminum foil or in a fish basket. Find out how to grill seafood for the very best results, including the best seafood for grilling.
14. Burgers and Hot Dogs
Think of the quintessential summertime scenario, and scenes of backyard parties complete with barbeques grilling burgers, and hot dogs are guaranteed. Juicy hamburger patties can be made at home using ground beef and frozen in advance, but if you're short on time, store-bought patties are perfectly fine. There are also plenty of plant-based options like the Beyond Meat burger — made here with a Greek flair — or Homemade Black Bean Veggie Burgers and vegetarian hot dogs that are not just high-protein but extremely filling and delicious as well!
Related: How to Grill the Best Burgers
15. Ribs, Steaks, Tenderloins and More
Pork tenderloin is a boneless cut of muscle that runs along the backbone above the ribs. Because of its leanness, it's considered to be one of the most tender cuts of pork that can be grilled. According to the USDA, pork tenderloin is virtually free of fat and rich in vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, niacin, and zinc. Because it's so lean, using a marinade is ideal for keeping it from drying out while grilling. Find out more about the differences between pork loin and pork tenderloin.
Ribs are some of the best cuts of pork and red meat, especially beef, for summer grilling. If you're short on time, precooking pieces of meat in the oven before you add them to the grill for the final char and smokiness is always an option. Galbi is a popular Korean dish of barbecqed beef short ribs with a rich soy-based marinade.
Related: BBQ & Grilled Beef Recipes
Steaks come in several shapes, sizes, and cuts at the grocery store — which is a good thing because that means there's a steak out there for every budget. Higher quality pieces like ribeye or top loin don't require much in the way of marinades or seasonings. They're also lean and tender, making them perfect for high-heat cooking on the grill. Cheaper cuts like the hanger steak fare better on the grill after being marinaded, while leaner cuts like the tri-tip — which is also known as the Santa Maria steak — only require a dry rub seasoning like in this Santa Maria Grilled Tri-Tip Beef recipe before being basted and grilled over high heat.