Quick Summer Recipes for a Fantastic 4th of July Menu

BBQ Chicken with squash and corn skewers

This post includes menu details, a recipe for Granny’s BBQ chicken, a step-by-step plan for making the menu come together and tips for a stress-free party. It’s a full toolkit for a great 4th of July event. Enjoy!

One of my favorite things about the 4th of July is it almost demands a fun and casual approach to entertaining. Picnics, adventures to watch fireworks, boating, and back yard BBQs are just a few of the ways we get together to celebrate the great freedoms our country affords us. And while I’m not one to shy away from spending the day in the kitchen to prepare for a party, on fun holidays like the 4th I want a menu that’s relatively fast and easy so I can spend time in the pool, on the lake, or simply hanging out on my porch.

In honor of the great casual summer party, I’ve put together this fun tasty menu that features chicken bathed in my grandmother’s signature BBQ sauce. This sauce is very different from a typical BBQ sauce because it is butter-based instead of tomato-based so it creates a tangy and surprisingly light sauce for the chicken. I grew up with this sauce love to serve it to friends in celebration of the many great cookouts my family hosted when I was growing up. I’ve paired her chicken with a fun bacon-wrapped corn on the cob recipe from the Dean brothers and an easy grilled squash recipe from Cooking Light, both of which take advantage of abundant summer produce that are full of flavor and inexpensive. To round out the meal I suggest the pound cake recipe I posted earlier in the week. It’s easy and made with ingredients you probably already have around the house, and when you top it with seasonal fruit like peaches or berries, it’s bursting with flavor.

This collection of quick summer recipes will help you put together a full dinner for eight in just a little more than a couple of hours (plus a little time the night before to make a cake), including the time you need to set the table and pour the wine. If you can rustle up some help in the kitchen or turn to your guests for some side dish assistance, you can get preparation for this meal down to a little more than an hour.

The Menu (serves eight)

Main Course

Granny’s BBQ Chicken

Indian-Spiced Grilled Baby Squash
double the recipe

Bacon-Wrapped Corn on the Cob
double the recipe


Pound Cake with sliced summer fruit

To Drink

Crisp white wine such as Crios Torrontes or Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc

Recipe: Granny’s BBQ Chicken


  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Serves: 8
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes


  • 2 lemons
  • ½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • ½ c. white wine
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 8 chicken leg quarters
  • Salt and pepper


  • Juice the lemons and add the juice and rinds to a medium saucepan. Add the butter, wine, honey, paprika, cayenne, and salt to the pan.
  • Bring the sauce ingredients to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 5 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Test for seasoning and add more salt or honey as needed. Turn off the heat and let the sauce stand until ready to use.
  • Preheat the grill or BBQ for indirect grilling.
  • Season the leg quarters on all sides with salt and pepper.
  • Place the leg quarters top side down on the hot part of the grill to create grill marks and crisp the skin. Don’t move or turn them for 7-8 minutes.
  • Flip the leg quarters to the other side and move to the cool side of the grill or BBQ.
  • Cook over indirect heat for 20 minutes. Baste with the sauce and continue cooking for 15 more minutes, or until the internal temperature of the leg reaches 160 degrees. Baste the chicken every 5 minutes or so.
  • Remove the legs from the grill and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Keys to Success

  • Choose a white wine with little or no oak for the sauce. A big, buttery Chardonnay won’t bring the right level of acidity to the sauce. Opt instead for a torrontes, sauvignon blanc, or similar crisp wine instead.
  • The butter and honey in the sauce makes it susceptible to burning, so don’t baste the chicken too soon or it will burn. Keep an eye out for flare-ups and squash them accordingly with bit of water from a spray bottle.
  • This sauce is so easy to make I typically prepare it while I’m doing other things in the kitchen. If you’d like, you can make it 4-5 hours in advance, cover the pan, and leave it to sit on the top of your stove on a cold burner until you’re ready to use it.
  • My grandmother’s original recipe called for sherry instead of white wine. If you substitute sherry for the wine you can leave out all or most of the honey because the sherry will bring a bit of sweetness to the party that’s necessary to balance the acidity of the lemons.

The Plan

I create all of my preparation plans in Excel because I find it easy to work with and to modify as I go. I’ll admit it’s a little over the top for most, but if you’d like to see the detailed spreadsheet I used to get to this plan, you’re welcome to download a copy in Excel or PDF format. The plan has “clean as you go” time built in, so you should have plenty of time to rinse dishes and put them in the washer. You should also have plenty of time to put away ingredients and dump the trash so you aren’t faced with a messy kitchen just before guests arrive.

The night before

  • Make the pound cake and prepare the fruit
  • Chill wine (or soft drinks or other cold beverages)
  • Set out the serving dishes

2 hours, 30 minutes before dinner

  • Make the BBQ sauce

2 hours before dinner

  • Prepare the squash skewers
  • Shuck the corn and wrap it in bacon

1 hour and 20 minutes before dinner

  • Heat the grill or BBQ
  • Wash, salt, and pepper the chicken
  • Put the chicken on the grill to sear

1 hour before dinner

  • Move the chicken to indirect heat to finish cooking
  • Set the table and pre-pour water or tea if serving

30 minutes before dinner

  • Baste the chicken with the BBQ sauce
  • Cook the corn
  • Cook the squash

15 minutes before dinner

  • Move the chicken to a serving platter to rest
  • Remove the bacon and husks from the corn then butter it
  • Plate the remaining food and serve

30 minutes after dinner is served

  • Clear the table (ask for help)
  • Make coffee
  • Slice the cake and plate the fruit

45 minutes after dinner is served

  • Dessert is served

Tips for a Stress-Free Party

This is a casual summer party

  • Most of the food on the menu is meant to be eaten with the utensils God gave us – our hands. This does mean things will get a little messy, so plan to offer your guests damp towels or wipes after dinner and be sure you have plenty of extra napkins on the table.
  • I like chicken thigh-leg combination cuts for a BBQ because they are roughly the same size and shape so they cook evenly. If you have guests that only eat white meat you can include bone-in breasts as well, or butterfly a couple of whole chickens. If there are kiddos in the crowd, consider using a few chicken legs because they have built-in handles. The chicken legs will cook more quickly than other cuts, so start them about 10 minutes later than the larger pieces.
  • If you want to significantly reduce the prep time for this dinner you can either buy sides instead of making them or ask guests to bring their favorite summer sides. When you take the side preparation out of the equation you can have this dinner on the table in about 90 minutes. Make the BBQ sauce while the grill heats and follow the plan as written from the 1 hour and 20 minutes before dinner mark.

And, as a parting note, I’ll leave you with my “stock” (aka best) advice for making any gathering stress-free for you and great for your guests:

  • When you set the table and set out the serving dishes, be sure to also set out dessert dishes and forks, as well as coffee mugs. This will make the transition from the main dinner to dessert much easier.
  • Run and empty the dishwasher before you start preparing the food so you can load your prep dishes into it as you go. Your kitchen will be neater when guests arrive and it will be easier to ask them to help you with any last minute preparation.
  • Ask guests to arrive 15-30 minutes before you plan to serve dinner. By this point in the process most of your heavy prep work will be done and you’ll largely be stirring and checking on the status of cooking dishes. You’ll be able to welcome guests easily and leave some wiggle room for anyone who might be running late.
  • You won’t want to abandon your guests while you finish dinner, so consider setting out some olives, cheese, and bread near the kitchen so you can chat with them while you finish cooking. You may want to serve a different wine, or possibly some bubbles, with your pre-dinner nibbles to get everyone in the party spirit.
  • If you plan to serve water or tea with your dinner, instead of or in addition to wine, pre-pour the drinks and stash the glasses in the fridge. You can set them out just before dinner is served.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Friends can carry dishes to the dining room, pour wine, or even rinse a dish or two.

1 Comment

  1. Hello, I’m an Austin food blogger and just found your site. I really like your recipes and I completely connect with your organizational skills – thanks for putting all the extra tips. Great post!


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