20 Delicious Ways to Dominate Labor Day

Our best grilling, cocktail, and dessert recipes—plus grilling tips and tricks—to make your holiday the ultimate success.

  • LDC
  • The New Englandah Burgah. We were intrigued not only by the name of this burger, but by the juxtaposition of savory and sweet. The burger themselves have a faint sweetness from the maple syrup, and this is enhanced by the grilled apples; the salty crunch of the bacon and the tang of cheddar provide the perfect counterpoints.
  • Sugar Steak with Bourbon. Chopped up flank steak is affordable, flavorful, and quick-cooking. This guy gets bonus points for being marinated in bourbon and brown sugar.
  • Grilled Oysters with a Sriracha Lime Butter. It’s time to graduate from the ubiquitous shrimp cocktail. These grilled oysters are topped with a tangy compound butter that plumps the oysters as they grill, preventing them from drying out under direct heat.
  • Grilling Trick: Grill Some Lemons. Grill lemons (or other citrus) peel side down on the top rack—briefly!—to add some great flavor. (Photo:
  • Roberto Santibañez' Classic Guacamole. Guacamole is a crowd favorite, especially on Labor Day. Our version plays off the buttery texture of avocados, and is decidedly on the chunky side. Think of it as an avocado salad with an herb dressing and spare yourself the energy you would have spent on smashing and mashing.
  • Nacho Cheese Sauce. All the gooey goodness (and electric coloring) of stadium nacho cheese without the bizarro ingredients list and plastic smell. Hint: It hinges on turmeric for color and buttermilk for tang.
  • Barbecue Championship Ribs. The ribs that are prepared for the big cook-offs around the country are quite different than what you would normally cook at home or eat in a restaurant. Over years of competitive cooking, the barbecue pros have learned that making your ribs a little bit too tender and a little bit too sweet can get you a good score when they are judged. This fantastic rib recipe from Slow Fire: The Beginner’s Guide to Barbecue will win over judges, your friends, and basically anyone who loves great barbecue. Slow Fire)
  • Yum Dogs. A hot dog on a higher plane, this puppy is first swathed in bacon, then nested on a bed of tangy, spicy bean sprout slaw. The acid in the slaw cuts through the salt and the fattiness of the hot dog, and a sriracha-laced mayo stands in for more quotidien condiments.
  • Herb and White Wine Granita. Herbs? Wine? Granita? Just think of a not-too-sweet slushie and then add the woodsy aroma of rosemary. There’s no classier way to cool down on Labor Day.
  • Jerk Chicken Kebabs. The jerk marinade calls on citrus to temper and enhance the bite of the sometimes-unruly habanero pepper. A little sweet, a little hot, and totally addictive.
  • Barbecuing Trick: Use Two Skewers For Kebabs Instead of One. When barbecuing meat and veggies, use two skewers per kebab to prevent individual pieces from rotating as you flip them on the grill. (And don't forget to soak the skewers in water for 30 minutes beforehand, to keep them from burning). (Photo: BuffFeed)
  • Classic Southern Buttermilk Fried Chicken. This fried chicken recipes, which comes from James Briscione of Just Married and Cooking, gets its incredible flavor from a spice rub and a buttermilk brine. Because Briscione is a trained chef, his recipe is as specific as you’d hope—it has exact temperatures for your oil and exact timing for the frying.
  • Fudgy Brownies. These thin, fudgy brownies from Molly O’Neill’s New York Cookbook are, simply put, superior to all others. thekitchn.com)
  • Dieselboy's Destroyer Dogs. These aren't your regular ol' hot dogs. They're covered with cheese sauce, Coca-cola onion jam, bacon bits, and potato sticks. The buns are brushed with a little butter or bacon fat then toasted on the grill.
  • Fish Tacos on the Grill. Fresh seafood and grilling: now that’s what Labor Day’s all about. And when you combine the two, well you can’t get much more seasonal than that. It’s simple, it’s fresh, and it’s easy to throw together in 20 minutes. We think there’s no better place for fresh white fish than nestled in a warm tortilla with sweet onion, grilled pepper, creamy avocado, and salsa.
  • Tuscan Grilled Zucchini and Summer Squash. The porous squash soaks up the lemon, garlic, herbs, and chili in the marinade, and after a quick char on the barbecue, it's positively bursting with flavor.
  • Grilling Trick: Know When the Coals are Ready to Start Cooking. Here are some simple visual cues to look out for—if you have a wood fire, when the coals are red hot (with no smoke) you are ready to go. If you have a charcoal fire, the coals should be grey and ashy. (Photo:
  • Potato Salad. An all-American side dish, potato salad has seen plenty of incarnations with additions and substitutions to customize the recipe and attract every palate. But here, simplicity rules when sweet pickle relish and chopped hard boiled eggs team up with good old mayonnaise to create a sauce that's not cloying or overpowering. chezus.com)
  • Lamb Burgers with Cilantro Yogurt. These burgers are simple yet spot on. The recipe calls for ground lamb, which makes for a sumptuous burger requiring nothing more than a bit of salt and pepper. The tang of the cilantro yogurt sauce cuts the richness, keeping the lamb from tasting gamey.
  • KFC Korean Fried Chicken Wings. You don’t know the first thing about addictive food until you’ve tried these wings. They’re coated in a spicy ginger soy sauce and fried not once, but twice, giving them a ridiculously crispy skin. You can’t have just one.
  • Old-School Barbecued Chicken. This is the genesis of all barbecued chicken, which is a dish that everybody loves. A quick brine and homemade barbecue sauce will turn ordinary barbecue chicken into something really special. Slow Fire)
  • Grilling Tip: Use a Foil Tent to Prevent Food From Drying Out. For extra flavor and moisture, let meat rest for 10 minutes under a loose foil tent to help keep it warm and moist—that way it can soak up its juices evenly. (Photo:
  • Classic Daquiri. This is the daiquiri unplugged. No frills, just a bracing blend of good white rum, fresh-squeezed lime juice and simple syrup. No fruity masquerade available for poor-quality ingredients, so do it up right.
  • Raspberry Ice Cream Sandwiches. The cookies are amazing on their own—fine-crumbed and a little shaggy with coconut and lemon zest—but they hold together like champs when matched with the vibrant ice cream.

Labor Day is like summer’s going away party, and it’s your duty as an American citizen to end the season with a bang. If you don’t have a menu set for tomorrow’s feast, fear not: We’ve compiled 20 grilling, cocktail, and dessert recipes—plus grilling tips and tricks—to make your Labor Day a success. So fire up the grill, grab a refreshing cocktail, and get to it.

Click through the gallery to see our 20 best grilling, cocktail, and dessert recipes for Labor Day.


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