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As I write, I'm sitting in the passenger seat of a rental car on route 10 between Austin and El Paso, my best friend speeding behind the wheel, and the dogs peering out the back window at the dry grass and pecan trees that cover the Texas Hill Country.
At my feet are two styrofoam take-out containers overstuffed with leftover brisket, ribs, pulled pork, and potato salad. (It's not easy polishing off a tray with "one of everything please" only 45 minutes after a migas taco breakfast.) The lids of the containers don't like to stay shut and they flop open, wafting the smells of smoke, beef fat, and black pepper through the car with every bump in the road.
Normally I rack my brain week after week to come up with a good theme for the Serious Entertaining menu of the week. This time, there's only one thing on my mind: barbecue.
Lucky for me, our grilling guru Josh Bousel has a slew of well-tested recipes on the site already adapted for the home cook. Here's what you should be serving this weekend. I mean it.
The Main Course: Barbecue
I'm in Texas, and in Texas, Barbecue Brisket is king. When done perfectly, the meat should hold together just well enough to slice cleanly, but melt into a wash of smoky beef fat on your tongue, the peppery, salty bark providing all the seasoning you need—no sauce necessary here!
If pork is more your thing, check out these Competition-Style Ribs that produce picture-perfect results and have just the slightest hint of pull. Even better is our Pulled Pork, which comes out moist, juicy, and ready to be picked and stuffed into a bun.
There are some pitmasters in Texas who will get downright offended if you ask them for sauce, but in your home, you're the pitmaster, so you can do whatever the heck you like. You could do worse than cooking up a batch of our sweet and tangy Basic Barbecue Sauce.
A good hamburger bun or potato roll is an excellent choice for a starchy accompaniment to your meat, but if you want to go the extra mile, bake up a loaf or The Simplest White Bread Ever to serve simply sliced on the side.
To top off your sandwich, you'll want some thin sliced sweet onions, some pickled jalapeño rings, and thick slices of our Garlic Pickles.
The side dishes are often an afterthought at barbecue joints (Need some vegetables with your beef? Ok, try the smoked turkey!), but a good vinegary potato salad or cole slaw can help cut the fatty meat, priming your mouth to fully enjoy the next bite. Our Creamy Potato Salad made with fingerling potatoes is a mayo-free salad with a bright, acidic flavor profile and a deeply potato-y flavor due to the use of lightly mashed potatoes in the creamy dressing.
Our Creamy Cole Slaw is similarly ultra-bright, made cabbage that gets quickly cured in a salt and sugar blend before being dressed in a mustard and vinegar-packed dressing.
Drinks and Dessert
Nothing washes down barbecue like cold beer, but sun tea comes in a close second. Here's a secret: for the very best sun tea, forget about the sun your tea will come out just fine (even better actually!) without it.
Finally, a ooey, gooey Chess Pie makes for a fine post-brisket dessert before nap time.
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.