UNITED STATES—The Fourth of July for many people is considered the official kickoff to grilling season. However, I beg to differ, I think Memorial Day is the actual kick-off, but when July comes around people really begin to grill and have that cookout. I am a fan of the cookout, but at the same time, I am not. With a cookout, you have to deal with the elements of the weather and me personally I do not love the heat. I hate heat and humidity so when temperatures get beyond 80 degrees that is a killer for me.

However, I do love to grill. The thought of placing hot dogs and burgers on the grill, I absolutely love it. Not to mention steak, chicken breast, chicken wings, ribs, bone-in pork chops and salmon, oh, the taste is one of a kind people. There is nothing like grilling food because you don’t have to turn on the stove or oven in the home and the smell of charcoal or the grill is one of a kind people. Yes, I only grill with charcoal, no gas grill because you really cannot get that grill sensation in my opinion. Also I just don’t love the idea of having to work with and store propane tanks.

Grilling is indeed an art and the more you do it, the better things become. You do not become perfect overnight. You learn from trial and error how temperature works, like utilizing your grill as an oven, but also understand the hot spots, the warm spots and the cool spots. I learned the first time I grilled many years back you never place chicken breasts on a smoking hot grill. Why? It will lead to that chicken almost cooking to a crisp. I learned that all too well. The chicken was absolutely done, but it was dry as ever.

Hot dogs I don’t care if they get charred and burnt. I love a charred hot dog with mustard, oh, it is absolutely heaven people. The same for s’mores people which has become a staple in my family, but with a lot more variety than in the past. Why? Hell, why not throw in strawberries, other seasonal fruits with chocolate and marshmallows people.

However, beyond the proteins, we have to talk about the sides that come with grilling. I must confess as a kid I HATED, and I mean HATED potato salad. However, as an adult I am now a massive fan. Like if I’m grilling or going to a cookout, I must have potato salad on the plate. However, I’m not a fan of mustard or German potato salad. I like a red skin potato salad with fresh dill and small bits of real bacon. I don’t know what it is about dill, but it takes potato salad to a new level.

Coleslaw is a must as well, I know what you’re thinking if you have coleslaw do you need potato salad? The answer is yes, they’re not the same people, one is more of a starch/carb; the other is more veggie driven. Corn on the cob, is a staple for the summer, must have some fresh fruit like watermelon on the rind people or a fresh fruit salad where you DO NOT MIX THE FRUIT TOGETHER! Why? It becomes watery if you do. Baked beans, with ground beef or turkey is a staple at our family grilling sessions and we baked those baked beans people with brown sugar and mustard because it gives you a texture unlike any other.

Then we have the side that is not really a grilling or BBQ side if you ask me, but so many people tend to have it, that’s macaroni and cheese. Everyone does something different with their mac ‘n cheese, and I don’t knock anyone; the thing is it must be cheesy. Some do a cheese sauce, some do not, some cook/bake longer, some use an egg and milk mixture; everyone has an approach to how they cook people.

I think the best thing about firing up the grill, the Fourth of July holiday or a cookout is that you get to spend time with my family and friends. It not so much the socializing aspect, it is about recalling memorable times from the past. Any celebration is about spending time with the ones that you love, and the food is just the icing on the cake people.

Written By Jason Jones