We're less than a week away from celebrating our nation's independence by getting hammered on Natty Lights and suffering 2nd degree fire escape burns. It's also the heart of grilling season, where we all impose ourselves upon lucky friends with backyards and patios with just enough space for comically small grills. If you're shacking up with a charcoal-endowed friend or fending for yourself in a city park, why not avoid the rote burger-and-dog grill fest and opt for something with a little more oomph?

JOHNNYMAC'S FOOLPROOF CHICKEN WINGS At every grilling function in the summer months, a request is put in for John Maceda's ridiculously tasty and marginally-more-healthy grilled chicken wings. They're spicy, moist and ridiculously messy (read: really fun) to eat.

  • One package of whole chicken wings, with drumsticks and wing part attached
  • One small bottle Frank's Red Hot
  • Half stick of butter
  • One squirt ketchup
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper

Get your grill to a medium/medium high heat. Salt and pepper the wings and drizzle with a few teaspoons of the Frank's Red Hot. Grill until cooked through and slightly charred, about 30-35 minutes.

Melt the butter and combine in a large bowl with the rest of the bottle of Frank's Red Hot, the ketchup and the garlic powder. Toss the wings the coat and serve immediately.

Beautiful salmon pre-grilling (Nell Casey/Gothamist)

SIMPLE GRILLED SALMON Salmon has the benefit of being lighter and healthier than something like steak but equally as hearty and filling. It is swimsuit season, after all.

  • 4 − 6 ounce Salmon Filets (one per person)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Optional: Herbs (dill, tarragon), citrus (lemon, lime), compound butter

Prepare the grill at a medium heat. Season filets with salt and pepper on both sides. Grill skin side down for 4-5 minutes; flip and grill alternate sides for another 4 minutes or until cooked through. I dig salmon a little on the rare side, though others might prefer it charred.

Chop up herbs, citrus zest/juice or make a compound butter as a sauce. Or just eat the salmon unadulterated straight from the grill. Yes, it will be that good.


MEXICAN-STYLE ROASTED CORN (from Saveur) Those deliciously adorned ears of corn you might find being sold on the street in Spanish Harlem or at the Red Hook Vendors is just as simple to make in the back yard. It's not health (mayo! cheese!) but it's damn good.

  • 4 large ears corn, with husks still attached
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 cups crumbled cotija cheese
  • 4 tbsp. minced fresh cilantro
  • 4 tsp. ancho chile powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 lime, cut into four wedges

Working with one ear of corn at a time, peel back the husks to expose the kernels, leaving husks attached at the base; remove the silk threads and tie husks together with kitchen twine around base of cob to form a handle. Repeat with remaining ears. Transfer corn to a large bowl or pot of water and let soak for 30 minutes. 

Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill over medium-high heat. Transfer corn to grill; cook, turning occasionally, until charred and cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove corn from grill and brush with mayonnaise. Place cheese on a plate and roll each ear of corn in cheese to coat. Sprinkle corn evenly with some of the cilantro, chile powder, and salt and pepper, pressing the corn so that seasonings and cheese will adhere to the mayonnaise. Serve with lime wedges.

GRILLED PIZZA Though it takes a tiny bit more prep work to make the dough, you can truly let your imagination run wild and top your grilled pizza with variety of cheese, meats, veggies or any ingredients you have stashed in your fridge. Just make sure you grill both sides of the dough before adding any toppings!

We dig Smitten Kitchen's simple dough recipe that you can easily make the morning of the big BBQ.

CHARRED FRUIT SALAD This can either be a dessert with mint and whipped cream or a savory side salad to accompany another dish, depending on what direction you take. The natural sweetness of the fruit gets drawn out in contrast to the nice charred bits.

  • Pineapple, Peaches, Strawberries (whatever is ripe), sliced
  • Herbs: Savory (basil, tarragon) or Sweet (mint)
  • Orange Zest
  • Dairy: Savory (crumbled feta, crumbled goat cheese) or Sweet (whipped cream, mascarpone cheese)
  • Optional: Balsamic Drizzle for Savory or Sweet. Try this easy Yumsugar recipe

Heat the grill to medium/low and spray the grill with a little bit of non-stick cooking spray. Grill fruit sections on each side until you get nice grill marks.

Meanwhile, make your balsamic reduction, whip the cream and chop your herbs.

When the fruit is grilled, assemble on a plate, scatter with herbs, zest, drizzle on the glaze and serve with a dollop of whipped cream/cheese.