(Family Features) - Summer is the perfect time to break out of the kitchen and take entertaining outside. Burgers and dogs are quick and tasty, but it's easy - and affordable - to turn a basic cookout into alfresco fun. Here are some things you can do:
Choose the right tools. Charcoal grills have their place on any patio; complement the traditional kettle with a natural gas or propane model. Today's grills feature more surface area, multiple burners, searing chambers, rotisserie functions and outdoor ovens. Some even have accent lighting for controls and to illuminate the food so there is less risk of over- or under-cooking. You don't have to spend a fortune on an outdoor kitchen remodel. There are a range of grill choices and some private-label brands that perform like the best, but for less.
Liven up the menu. If you're tired of serving the same old thing, it's time to try something new. Wake up your taste buds with bold flavors like jalapeño or wasabi. Cook veggies on the grill - you'll be amazed at the added depth of flavor. Or try a whole new main dish like salmon burgers. Salmon is loaded with flavor and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, so you get great taste that's actually good for you.
Set the scene. Dress up the table with a pretty tablecloth and inexpensive table accessories. Reusable melamine plates add color and reduce waste. Set out some candles in jars and a potted plant as a centerpiece, and your backyard is suddenly a bistro.
Find more outdoor entertaining tips, a new grill and accessories, and fresh ingredients for a family picnic or an all-out outdoor soirée by visiting Sam's Club or samsclub.com.
Tips on Grilling Corn
Cooking corn on the BBQ adds a delightful smoky flavor to one of summer's great treats. There are basically two methods of cooking corn on the grill; either the husk is left on to protect the corn, or the cob is stripped and wrapped in heavy-duty foil. Some flavoring agents (like herbs and flavored butters or oils) are typically applied to the corn before the wrapping is sealed around it. In both approaches, grill the corn over medium heat for 12 to 18 minutes, turning several times.
To cook corn in the husk, peel husks back (leaving attached at the stem); strip off the silk; apply a light rub of butter, salt and pepper; then pull the husk back up over the cob and tie with kitchen twine to close. Soak in cool water 15 to 20 minutes before putting on the grill.
To prepare using the foil method, clean each ear of silk and husk; spread with softened butter flavored with something zippy like lime juice and ground cumin or chili powder; and wrap each ear in heavy-duty foil, well sealed at both ends.
Grilled corn is great alongside any grilled supper, or you can slice the kernels off the cob and add them to your favorite fruit or tomato salsa for a unique side dish.