We give classic cookout dishes—burgers, grilled chicken, potato salad, coleslaw, and corn on the cob—two different delicious takes and pit them head-to-head, decide the winners, and assemble your greatest picnic-table spread of all time.
GRILLED BURGERS *VS* SMASHED BURGERS
The all-American classic (left) is the no-frills star of cookouts from sea to shrining sea: flame-kissed juicy beef with old-school fixings (hello, iceberg!) and pickle-flecked special sauce. Smashed sliders are the plucky upstarts, with beef pressed ona ripping-hot pan for patties with crunchy, caramelized crust and incredible flavor. Plus, cheese!
SMOKED *VS* GRILL-STEAMED CORN
Smoke 'em if you got 'em: A low and slow fire releases the fragrance of applewood to burnish the corn with bronze highlights and a mellow-sweet smoky flavor. Or use the husks like a natural steamer to lock in all the sweetness and keep the kernels tender and juicy (right), and then give the golden ears a dusting of fruity Aleppo pepper and citrusy cilantro.
TANGY *VS* CREAMY POTATO SALAD
Nothing brings a starchy potato salad to life like tangy vinaigrette (left)—zesty mustard and white wine vinegar deliver a one-two punch to the palate. But everyone loves the cool comfort of a creamy mayo-based potato salad, especially when a little yogurt livens up the dressing and roasted red pepper adds a touch of sweetness and velvety texture.
BEER CAN *VS* SPATCHCOCK CHICKEN
The can is gimmicky, but it really works: Liquid in the can moistens the bird from inside as it grills, guaranteeing juicy meat that falls off the bone. Has anything so hilarious-looking ever tasted so delicious? Brick chicken (right) is still competition in the cookout stunt category: Weight-pressed split chickens cook fast and evenly, with crackling-crisp skin.
MAYO *VS* SMOKY SPICE SLAW
Classic slaw can cool you down, a creamy yet crisp respite from summer temps and grill-charred meats. This one (left) amps up the black pepper and uses rough-chopped cabbage for a fresh look and mouthfeel. Or let your slaw bring the heat with a touch of chipotle in adobo, infusing the bright citrus and bitter radicchio with charred jalapeno smokiness.