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4 Backyard Recipes for the Fourth

For an unusual Fourth, here are four backyard cooking winners.

4 Backyard Recipes for the Fourth
From burgers to brisket, here are some great backyard recipes to make this Independence Day. (Lynn Burkhead photo)

There’s little doubt that the Independence Day celebration across America this weekend will look a little bit different than it has in other years.

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, there won’t be many big parades or large traditional gatherings that many look forward to every Fourth of July. Concerts will be limited; gatherings of family and friends will be smaller—if they are held at all—and we’ll all be cognizant of the need to work on our social distancing skills.


Even as the sun sinks low to the horizon this Saturday evening, perhaps the signature event of Uncle Sam’s birthday—the annual fireworks show in the community that you live in—is up in the air. Some have cancelled, some may cancel with increasing infection rates, and a few will continue.

Before the fireworks show—either in person or on the television set—the one thing that will remain a constant this year as Uncle Sam celebrates birthday number 244 is simple…the food!


Coronavirus or not, nothing says July 4th like time spent outside around a grill cooking up a variety of meats ranging from burgers to ribs to brisket and beyond. No matter what you like to eat on the Fourth, we’ve got a few recipes that will make your meal memorable no matter what the latest news headlines say.

So, without further delay, here’s four winning recipes for the Fourth!

Ribs

ribs
Seasoned ribs on the grill. (Lynn Burkhead photo)

Ribs are always a great way to eat well on Independence Day, no matter what kind of ribs you buy from your local grocer or butcher shop. Whether they are St. Louis, Baby Back, or Spareribs, it’s hard to go wrong when some smoke is rolling, and a slab of pork ribs is reaching for low and slow cooking perfection.

While ribs are great on a barrel smoker or a Traeger-style pellet smoker—I love both and have a hard time choosing--one of the more popular recipes we’ve ever shared here involves an oven.

If that sounds like sacrilege to your barbecue senses, hold on—this recipe is from none other than bass fishing’s G.O.A.T. (greatest of all-time), straight from Kevin Van Dam’s deck in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

KVD shared this recipe with us several years ago and it’s been a popular one ever since.

ribs
KVD's Citrus Soda Ribs (Jeff Phillips photo)

Here’s what the four time Bassmaster Classic champ and Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour star says about ribs: “They come out very tasty and fall-off-the-bone tender,” said VanDam. “It’s not a very time consuming recipe; you don’t have to watch them and cook them for hours on end. They turn out super good and I’ve never had anyone I’ve shared this recipe with say otherwise.”

If KVD’s Citrus Soda Ribs are something you’d like to try, grab a bottle of soda and a slab or ribs and start cooking!

Brisket

brisket
Sliced beef brisket. (Lynn Burkhead photo)

Nick Parsons is one of those guys that is so talented, it’s almost not fair. He’s a whiz with anything computer or IT related, which is the way he made his living for a number of years.

But Parsons is also an expert barbecue pitmaster with nearly two decades of cooking experience behind him. A veteran on the barbecue competition trail, he founded the Tulsa Barbecue School in 2017 to teach backyard chef wannabes—that’d be me—the ins and outs of live-fire patio cooking. If you’re around the Tulsa area someday, trust me, this is a school day you’ll want to sign up for!

Nick’s specialty is brisket, particularly when the smoke is rolling from an offset barrel smoker and the ingredients are for a central Texas style meat smoking session. If good old fashioned Texas-style barbecue is on the menu for this weekend, give Parson’s brisket recipe a try ... you won’t be disappointed!

brisket
Central Texas Style Smoked Brisket (Nick Parsons photo)

If you’ve got an increasingly popular pellet smoker like the state-of-the art cookers rolled out by Traeger, you can achieve equally great eating results by grabbing a bag of pellets—I like oak or hickory for brisket—and letting the smoke roll in a new fashioned way.


While Parson’s recipe above will work with a few modifications, I found one on the Traeger app that is hard to beat: Traeger BBQ Brisket

By the way, if you need a little help in choosing the best brisket at the store for this weekend’s cooking session, Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley has some great advice on how to choose the best beef brisket for your holiday cooking session: How to Choose the Best Beef Brisket

brisket
Cooking a tender and smoky beef brisket comes from knowing how to choose the best type of beef based on grade, fat and more. (Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley photo)

Burgers

My longtime pal Dave Price, Jr.—who flew fighter jets in the U.S. Air Force for many years (thanks for your service Junior!)—loves to hunt wild game all over North America and beyond.

I met Price, who is a tireless worker for the Dallas Safari Club, on a spring bear hunt a number of years ago and he’s become like a brother to me. He’s pretty handy with a Hoyt bow or an Orvis fly rod in his hand, two reasons that we’ve been such great friends down through the years.

But he’s equally handy around a red-hot grill glowing with some mesquite wood coals, particularly when burgers are sizzling away. Learning how to cook from his late father as well as hanging around hunting town eateries like Mac and Ernie's in Tarpley, Texas and the Alamo Springs General Store near Fredericksburg, Texas, Price has mastered the art of burgers on the grill.

burgers
Burger patties on the grill. (Lynn Burkhead photo)

No matter how you like your burger this weekend—traditional beef or something wild like whitetail, axis deer, or even elk—Price gives some great tips on cooking burgers just right when you’re surrounded by a few hungry onlookers holding empty plates.

“When I cook burgers out, I'm using ground chuck with an 80/20 or a 70/30 mixture of beef to fat," said Price. "That ratio gives the meat great flavor and there's enough fat to hold the beef patties together while they're being mixed and molded.”

And if the meat is from the wild side of things?

“Personally, I always mix in ground pork butt to arrive at the 80/20 or 70/30 ratio of meat-to-fat that I mentioned earlier.”

Another style of burger cooking to keep in mind for the Fourth—or any other weekend cookout, for that matter—is Major League Fishing angler Shaw Grigsby’s Buck Burgers recipe.

“I use the beer-can method to make a pocket in the patty," said Grigsby, a winner of nine B.A.S.S. events and now a veteran angler on MLF’s Bass Pro Tour. "Wrap them with a strip of bacon. Then fill the pocket with whatever you want."

Grigsby, who has 15 Bassmaster Classic appearances and career earnings of more than $2 million on his resume, says his favorite pocket filler is Gorgonzola cheese and chopped jalapeño peppers.

"Cook the burgers on the grill over low indirect heat for approximately one hour until the meat reaches your desired level of doneness,” said Grigsby, with his characteristic good natured laugh.

"I love that you can customize these burgers for each person,” he added. “Once you make one of these burgers this way, you'll never cook a regular burger again!"

square burger
Ultimate Square Venison Burger (Photo courtesy of GameandFishMag.com)

Want one other possibility for cooking burgers this Fourth of July? Then consider North American Whitetail editor and TV host Gordon Whittington’s recipe that he and TV sidekick Stan Potts shared: Ultimate Square Venison Burger Recipe

Using ground venison, guacamole, and a pungent special sauce straight out of Gordon’s Georgia kitchen, this recipe is scrumptiously good and just might be the hit of your Fourth of July cookout!

Ducks and Doves

July means that summer is reaching its midpoint and that fall hunting seasons are just around the corner.

That fact often spurs Major League Fishing’s Andy Morgan to look into his freezer, pulling out packages of wild meat to create some space for the coming autumn adventures that he’ll enjoy outdoors.

One package of meat that gets a little extra tender loving care from Morgan are those marked “dove.”

“For dove, that recipe is an easy one to choose,” said Morgan, a one-time Bass Pro Tour winner and a three-time FLW Angler of the Year on the circuit he formerly competed on. “I like to cook the dove whole on a hot grill.”

While his method of cooking is probably familiar to most, the key in Morgan’s mind is what happens before the doves hit the red-hot grill when the meat gets soaked in a good marinade.

whole doves
Andy Morgan prefers to grill his doves whole. (Shutterstock photo)

“For doves, I do prefer a little hotter stuff,” said Morgan, a pro-staff member for Realtree Fishing and Exmark mowers, “I’ll use some Allegro, some Italian dressing, and maybe some Frank’s Hot Sauce since I like for my marinades to have a little kick. I’ll mix it all together in a bowl, roll the doves in it good, and marinate them for a couple of hours in the refrigerator.”

After that, it’s time to let the birds sizzle for a few minutes on a hot grill—you won’t be disappointed with the result!

If ducks are what you have in your freezer this weekend, never despair, have I got a recipe for you. In fact, it’s known around my house as the “Best Duck Recipe…Ever!”

I wish I could take credit for this recipe, but it comes from Charles and Jody Allen's Alaska Expedition Company's Driftwood Lodge on the Tsiu River east of Cordova, Alaska.

With plenty of coastal waterfowl hunting possibilities out of their lodge, the recipe came from the lodge’s then-chef Achim Thiemermann, known affectionately to many as Chef Keem.

To prepare his “Best Duck Recipe … Ever!”, all you’ll need are a few simple ingredients, a hot fire and a skillet of some sort.


How good is Chef Keem’s duck recipe? The answer comes from the lodge newsletter I was emailed shortly after a silver salmon fly fishing adventure I enjoyed there:

“We serve duck at the lodge as an appetizer, and the recipe for our duck is the most requested recipe of any dish we serve. Forget the stuffing, oranges, apples, marmalade, etc.”

I can add a hearty “Amen!” to that statement. In fact, this method of preparing duck is so good that I’ll practically promise that if duck is on the menu this Fourth of July weekend, you’ll forget about every other duck recipe you’ve ever tried.

Even if 2020 is one year that most Americans would just as soon forget. Pandemic or not, enjoy your Fourth of July holiday weekend and fire up the grill or smoker. It’s time to party with some great food…even if we can’t party otherwise.

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