The Fourth of July is sort of like the Thanksgiving of Summer—which is to say that it’s a holiday centered around a lot of great food shared with friends and family. Whereas the oven does the bulk of the cooking during Thanksgiving, for Independence Day it’s all about the grill (OK, and the deep fryer and the smoker). To help you plan the ultimate Fourth of July menu, we’ve gathered some of our favorite recipes featuring grilled, barbecued, and smoked wild game, as well as recipes for whole grilled fish and deep-fried fillets. So go ahead and fire up the grill, then sit back and enjoy the fireworks.
Venison Corn Dogs
Bring carnival cuisine to your Independence Day party with this crowd-pleasing recipe for wild-game corn dogs. We like to use venison or elk sausage here, but your favorite wild-game links—whether they are filled with hog, waterfowl, or upland meat—will work just fine.
A grilled whole fish is always a showstopper, and it’s not at all as hard to prepare as it looks. This recipe, from chef and angler Ford Fry, is perfect for saltwater species like snapper, grouper, or striped bass, but there’s no reason why a three-pound largemouth bass couldn’t be subbed in with fantastic results.
If you ask us, the Mount Rushmore of Fourth of July grub includes the following: watermelon, corn on the cob, burgers, and ribs. And these ribs—which get smoked for 2 to 4 hours before they’re slathered with your favorite barbecue sauce—are some of the best we’ve ever had.
The perfect venison burger starts with cold, coarse ground meat—about a quarter pound’s worth—formed into a loose patty. Don’t overwork the meat or press it too thin, or it’ll dry out. To prevent your patty from blowing up into a ball as it cooks, push your thumb about halfway into its middle. Grill the burger over a very hot fire. This’ll give you a better crust, which is where the rich flavor resides. If you want a little smoke, throw a handful of wood chips in with the coals. Cook the burger for 3 minutes, then flip once—and only once. Grill it for another 3 minutes to get a moist, medium-rare finish. Also: American cheese only, please. This is Independence Day, after all.
Beer Can Pheasant
Shoving a beer can up a chicken’s rear end is a summertime rite of passage for serious grillers. This recipe adapts the hops-roasting technique with something a little wilder—a ringneck pheasant. Since most beer cans are too wide for the small cavity of a pheasant, you’ll need a can with a slimmer profile. Energy-drink cans, such as Red Bull, fit perfectly. Rinse the can inside and out, then refill it with a cream stout, which adds a mellow aroma via the steamed flavor infusion and tempers the kick of the spicy rub.
Two midwestern staples—walleye and pretzels—come together here in this fast dish that’s perfectly tailored for a lazy summer evening. Mustard keeps the crushed pretzels on the fish, ensuring a crispy crust. Enjoy with a gold glass of lemonade, or your favorite pilsner.
For this recipe, from award-winning chef Charlie Palmer, who’s also a serious hunter, utensils are optional. It’s much easier, and more fun, to eat these by hand. A tomahawk chop is simply a bone-in backstrap steak. If you don’t have any in your freezer, boneless steaks or chops will do fine. They just won’t look as awesome.
If you don’t have dove meat in the freezer from last season, you can swap in breast meat from a wild turkey or a pheasant; venison will also do the trick here. And not to play favorites, but this is one of the best Wild Chef recipes we’ve ever published.
Steak and potatoes are an All-American Meal—and especially so when the meat is a fresh chunk of whitetail venison. (Though feel free to use mule deer, elk, moose, or even antelope.) These poppers come together quickly, cook fast, and fly off the serving plate even faster.