When it comes to throwing a fantastic 4th of July barbecue, you really can’t beat the buffet. It’s easy to set up, easy to orchestrate, and best of all, you can keep snacking for the rest of the evening. Unfortunately, even with this master strategy for barbecue excellence, it can still be hard to juggle the vast number of different diets and restrictions that people can have – Aunt Marge can’t have dairy, Uncle Pete can’t have wheat, your cousin is experimenting with veganism, and you’re just trying to keep everyone happy until the fireworks start. This year, take the stress out of barbecuing with this super customizable burger bar, and give your guests a 4th of July party they’ll never forget!
Setting Up the Space
The foundation of any good party is to start with a space that feels fun while still maintaining functionality. Always try to establish at least a close estimate of how many guests are planning on attending; once you have that number, plan accordingly! If you’re going to be outside, make sure you have enough seating for all your guests plus a few extra, just in case; try and set aside a clear space for cooking, especially if you’re planning on using the grill a lot. For the buffet area, you’ll want at least two tables: one will be exclusively for building burgers, the other will be for any additional food or drinks you want to make available. Try to pick tables according to how many people you’re feeding (if you need a lot of food, pick longer tables – you get the idea). That being said, do be conscious of your space: if your backyard is going to be completely engulfed in buffet, consider setting up the food inside the house instead, or in an area adjacent to the backyard.
To streamline your buffet, place cups filled with cutlery and napkins on each table, that way your guests need only grab a plate and load up on what they want before returning to their seats. Make sure each food item has its own serving utensil to prevent cross contamination, especially if you know you have someone with food restrictions in attendance; consider labeling food as well, use little cards or masking tape to mark whether or not something is vegan, gluten-free, etc. It’ll make picking and choosing a lot easier for your guests, and it’ll save you the trouble of explaining ingredients.
Achieving Burger Excellence
We all love a succulent, flavorful burger, but how do you achieve that en masse, and what how do you make for the people who want (or need) something else? The ultimate burger starts with the best possible meat available – we recommend our choice 100% Angus ground chuck (this week only $4.99 per pound), the ratio of lean meat to fat makes it perfect for a deliciously juicy burger that’s packed with flavor. If you really want to up the ante, try Snake River Farm’s black grade American Wagyu ground beef; wagyu is known for it’s intense, true beef flavor, making for a burger that slides straight from excellent and into gourmet. Whatever meat you decide to use, keep it in the fridge until you’re actually ready to throw it on the grill and don’t overwork it while making your patties – this will help keep your burgers tender and juicy!
Try and have some beef alternatives as well, even if you don’t have anyone with dietary restrictions in attendance. Turkey burgers make a great, low-calorie alternative to fatty beef, and their mild flavor is great for potentially picky eaters. For those who don’t eat meat or for the health-conscious host, go for a plant-based burger! This can be as simple as throwing some portobello mushrooms on the grill or as complex as a homemade veggie burger, it’s really up to you. If you’d like to try your hand at homemade, include veggies that are packed with meaty flavors – pulse 2 (15 oz.) cans of drained black beans, a cup of brown rice, 1 cup of cashews, 1 cup of shredded carrots, 1 cup of shredded beets, and 1 cup of mushrooms with parsley, chili powder, paprika, cumin, garlic, onion, and a little water. Form the mixture into patties, chill for at least an hour, and throw them on the grill!
To package your burgers, pick buns that are fairly soft and won’t squeeze out all the delicious goodness you’re trying to contain; a good example of this are the Oroweat Hamburger Bun 6 or 8 packs, the texture is soft enough to prevent burger mayhem but still sturdy enough to hold up to the most enthusiastic of barbecue goers (plus they’re only $2.99 this week). If you’re going gourmet, check out some Bakerly Brioche buns – the buttery flavor and supple texture of brioche is the perfect compliment to savory burgers. You can even try a gluten-free bun, if you’re feeling adventurous! Liberty 5 Baking makes a bun so tasty, you won’t even notice that it’s completely gluten-free.
Gilding the Lily (Or in This Case, Burger)
It’s time to get customizable! The best part of any burger experience, aside from the burger itself, are all the tasty delights you get to layer on top of it. Include at least two options of each, and if you’re iffy about letting things sit out and get warm, keep your perishables together in a bucket of ice. Try and focus mostly on items that are easy to obtain or that you might already have on hand, but don’t be afraid to get adventurous – variety is the spice of life!
Cheese is the classic topping for a good burger, and we like as much of it as we can get! Provide at least two kinds of cheese, one with a more pungent flavor like Sharp Cheddar and one that’s a little more subtle, like Monterey Jack. This week, Tillamook sliced cheeses are only $2.99 each; with a range of cheeses to choose from, they’re sure to lift your burger bar to the next level! You can also include dairy-free cheese slices, but they tend to be a little expensive, so make sure they’ll actually be eaten first. For a more creative take, try blue cheese slices from Oliver’s deli or a funky goat cheese like Laura Chenel’s Chevre!
Ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, they’re all pretty tasty but are they exciting? That’s a big NOPE! While you should still make these guys available, they’re just so expected and downright boring; instead, spice up your condiment selection with sauces like Sriracha, ranch dressing, teriyaki sauce, balsamic vinegar and more, the list is potentially endless. We’re particularly fond of easy garlic aioli – combine 1 cup of plain mayonnaise with 3 cloves of freshly crushed garlic, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and a generous helping of salt and black pepper. Allow the aioli to sit in the fridge for at least a half an hour before serving!
Now here is where you can really get creative! There’s the obligatory pickles, lettuce, and tomatoes, but where else can a burger go? Bacon is a great way to add crunch as well as flavor, and a bacon-burger is a fantastic way to win over a crowd. Kimchi takes a normal burger into an entirely different dimension, adding spice as well as all manner of complex fermented flavors. Caramelized onions and mushrooms add sweetness and even more meaty richness, while fresh arugula adds crisp freshness to an otherwise rich meal! Grill up some fresh pineapple slices for a wonderfully sweet bite.
Last but certainly not least, the sides! With all the preparation that goes into putting together a burger bar, it’s important to cut yourself some slack with the side dishes. A great option is having your guest bring the side dishes potluck style; be specific, ask particular guests to bring particular items such as salads, chips, or desserts. This will help to prevent copycats, and it will also prevent situations where you have, say, loads of dessert but no salads, or vice versa. Another option is to get prepared salads, and Oliver’s deli is packed with awesome choices; not only do you spare yourself and your guests the extra work, you also know that your salads were prepared fresh with high quality ingredients, guaranteeing a delicious experience for all! On ad this week, we’re pleased to feature both our Oliver’s Potato Salad as well our Oliver’s Corn Salad. Both are made locally and from the freshest ingredients possible, so you know they’ll be a surefire hit! Finally, grilled veggies make an awesome side dish and prevent you from having to dirty any additional pans. We’re big fans of grilled corn on the cob, summer squashes, bell peppers, onions, and even eggplant!
This 4th of July, celebrate Independence Day in true-blue American fashion – we’ve got everything you need for a superb build-your-own burger bar, and with a great 4th of July deals, your barbecue will outshine the even fireworks!