It’s not even June but if you fire up the grill most evenings during summer, there’s a chance that burgers, dogs, chicken, and steak will lose their luster at a certain point. There are so many things in this big world worth grilling, and just because you won’t find them in an average grocery store or butcher shop, doesn’t mean they can’t be had.
There are also more mischievous motivations. If you’re anything like my dad, seeing the uneasy look on peoples faces when they’re told the thing on their plate is something they’ve never eaten—and probably never thought they’d eat—is your version of winning a James Beard award.
We’ve already given you a crash course on grilling romaine lettuce, but what about some unexpected meats (and a few vegetarian proteins) to drop over the charcoal this summer. Here are a few ideas guaranteed to generate “ooohs” and “aaahs” and perhaps even the occasional “umm…?” at your next summer BBQ.
Rabbit is healthy and lean, has a mild flavor, and more protein than beef or chicken. Because of its tame flavor profile rabbit would do well with a brine or marinade—really anything that works for grilled chicken would be a win with a rabbit, too. Or cut to the chase with these already seasoned rabbit sausages, mixed with chicken, pork, bacon, and white wine.Buy Now
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Beef cheek is a relatively tough cut of meat so just slapping it down on the grill isn’t the greatest plan. Instead, treat beef cheek more like brisket and slow smoke it, then finish it on the grill for those photogenic grill marks, and a tasty char on the outside.Buy Now
Down on the bayou and in swampy Gulf states, if there ain’t alligator at the barbecue, it ain’t no barbecue. Alligator has a fairly mild taste, often compared to chicken, but this flavor-packed sausage is smoked and mixed with ground pork and Cajun spices so there’s nothing mild about it. Buy Now
Venison is ubiquitous in some parts of the country but less popular on the coasts and in cities. With a full flavor, similar to beef but leaner, venison makes a good candidate for burgers.Buy Now
Bread cheese is in the halloumi family. A mild, firm cow’s milk cheese that holds up when cooked, meaning it won’t melt down into the charcoals. A fun and different option for vegetarians who might be over the veggie burger vibes by the time July 4th rolls around. Or grill it and top with fresh fruit and maple syrup for a quick BBQ dessert.Buy Now
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Sure, we’ve all done baby back or spare ribs but consider wild boar for your next summer shindig. Boar meat is quite similar to pork, but a bit darker, with a more robust and intense flavor. It’s also leaner but you should treat these ribs like you would any rack of normal pork ribs.Buy Now
Meat substitutes get more and more meat-like with each passing summer. Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods’ meat are two that are leading the charge and while Impossible meats are still mostly only available at restaurants, you can find Beyond Burgers and Beyond Sausages in specialty stores nationwide. These burgers are fully plant-based but your guests might never know it.Buy Now
I likely don’t have to explain to you what meatballs are but cooking them on the grill instead of a frying pan is a good idea for a summer BBQ. The fire, adds a smoky char and sexy grill marks, too. Call on a favorite recipe but make sure you’re using a semi-firm ball that won’t fall apart on the grates.
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